As the media constantly bombard viewers with the growing debate around the subjects of colorblind and critical race theory, I often think about my childhood and what my parents taught us about racism and how to deal with it.
My parents raised five children during the turbulent times of the late 1960s and early 1970s. I always thought that my parents were wise beyond their young years. In order to help us navigate through this world, my parents seemed to adopt a sort of colorblind ideology. Whenever my siblings questioned my parents on racism or prejudice acts, my parents would address the incident or acts from a non-racial perspective. I guess this was their way of coping with the stresses of racism and prejudice in their own lives.
I recall when I was in middle school (5th grade), and my homeroom teacher said some very demeaning and racially offensive things to me. I went home and reported the incident to my parents. My parents sat me down and informed me that it was probable that the teacher was not a racist and that I may have heard the teacher well. They told me that teacher was there to get a paycheck and I was there to learn. It was couched as a business discussion that was lost in translation. Although I trusted my parents and felt that they understood my side of the story, I did not share the same opinion of the conversation.
Much to my surprise, the next day, my parents took the morning off from work and went to my school to address the teacher and principal. I only knew of their presence when I was called to the principal’s office to repeat the conversation with the principal, the teacher, and my parents. I learned a powerful lesson that day…to pretend that we live in a colorblind society is wrong, and we need to recognize and address racial inequities at their sources.
My parents always instilled in us to work harder than the next guy, to be honest, and to treat everyone fair. They wanted all of us to get a good education, graduate from high school, and attend the college of our choice. My parents saw a legal future as the dream for me and the medical profession track as a dream for my other siblings. My siblings obediently followed our parents’ wishes, but I chose the Corporate America track. My parents dreamed of a fair, honest, and just work environment for their children. The same colorblind ideology that was prevalent in the 1960s and 1970s, is being repackaged as one step beyond Jim Crow racism.
As an adult, I believe that social changes do not eliminate racism or racial inequality. There are many people who chose to think that we have made important progress in racial reconciliation. Social changes do not eliminate racism and racial inequality, even if they have made some important progress. The colorblind ideology dismisses and discredits our identity as African Americans living in this country.
What America needs is recognition and reconciliation. It is our refusal to recognize the failures of our past, that prevent us from moving forward in the future. Critical race theory is an academic concept that is more than 40 years old. It is now been dusted off the shelves of time and being re-introduced to our children. The core idea is that race is a social construct and that racism is not merely the product of individual bias or prejudices, but also something embedded in the legal systems and policies. Critical race theory is gaining popularity due in part to White America’s need to erase the sins of the past.
It is reminiscent of the “Justice is Blind” statue that adorns our many courthouses and government agencies. “Lady Justice” as she is called, is holding scales and a sword, and she is blindfolded. Initially, the blindfold was originally a satirical addition, to show that justice is blind to injustice carried out before her, but it has been reinterpreted over time and is now understood to represent impartiality, meaning that justice will be applied without regard to wealth, power, race, or other statuses.
It is only through close examination and recognition, that we can begin the process of reconciliation. It is through reconciliation that we can heal broken relationships and mend deserted hearts. It is only by reconciliation that we can unite the races. Not into one race, but have love, respect, and appreciation for our differences.
There is a season for these reconciliations to take shape. We are clearly not in that season in America. We need to thoroughly exhaust our season of recognition before we reconcile our past. Some of us choose to participate now in that recognition and others do not. Participation is necessary for our survival. We are all hungry for reconciliation in America.
April Griffith Taylor