“American Colorblindness (or They Cannot See Us, Be Us, or Free Us)”

Written by the Rev. Arthur L. Jones, III.

Here is a fact that cannot be debated or negotiated: one would be hard-pressed to find American citizens more patriotic and optimistic than Black, Indigenous, and people of Color (BIPOC). The twin, historical genocides suffered first by our sisters and brothers of the First Nations (their systematic slaughter along with the theft of their ancestral lands) – and then by our own ancestors stolen from African nations (only to be subjected to the cruelest system of enslavement imaginable) represent America’s original sins. Nevertheless, BIPOCs somehow manage to love a country that has never truly loved us back. We BIPOCs still live in the hope of a distant day when America will finally fulfill the many promises made in the Declaration of Independence: including life, liberty, equality, and the pursuit of happiness. But that day is not today. That glorious day seems further and further away. And American colorblindness is the primary reason why.

Blindness, of course, is an inability to see. Colorblindness is the active weaponization of that lack of vision as the justification for White individuals, groups, systems, institutions, corporations, and nations to deny non-White people justice, equity, dignity, and self-determination.

The presence of colorblindness is all around us. Simply look around.

Educationally, the powers that be in the White majority steadfastly refuse to teach American history from the perspective of truth. They operate under the false assumption that a full accounting of American history – good and bad – would inevitably result in [1] BIPOCs of all ages hating this country; and [2] White children feeling guilt and shame at the realization of their inherent privilege.

Culturally, the fact remains that while so many non-BIPOC people want to be us, they don’t want to see us. The world loves how we dress, how we sing, how we compose music, how we express ourselves via the arts, how we speak our own slang/internal language, how we style our hair, how we compete athletically, how we dance, how we teach, and how we preach. BIPOCs live in every country, speak every language, and distinguish ourselves every day in countless ways. White people know we got soul, and yet we are feared by them. We are imprisoned. We are criticized, fetishized, ostracized, and demonized by the very same people who routinely risk cancer by bathing in UV rays simply to darken their skin in hopes of temporarily looking like us.

Theologically, the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. was as eloquent as he was prophetic when he publicly proclaimed that 11:00am on Sunday was the most racially segregated hour there is in America. Regardless of the city, the state, and/or the faith tradition, the vast majority of churches in America are not diverse, not welcoming, and blissfully unaware of the concerns of BIPOC or our communities.

Physically, if it is ever necessary to have to declare both individually and collectively that Black lives do indeed matter, then it is self-evident that BIPOCs are endangered whenever and wherever those declarations are being made publicly.

Economically, the free labor extorted from BIPOCs for centuries before and after the establishment of the United States was the rocket fuel that made this nation an undeniable superpower. But there can be no serious debate with White Americans about reparations because they demonstrate no legitimate desire for racial reconciliation.

Politically, we BIPOCs are trapped in a perpetual hellscape between one American political party that consistently ghosts and gaslights us (the Republicans) and another American political party that routinely takes our support and votes for granted (the Democrats).

Mentally, it is my own not-so-humble opinion that every American citizen who is BIPOC is probably suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder – and possibly in need of mental health counseling.

Socially, black is beautiful; perhaps now more so than ever before. However, being Black does not feel beautiful at a traffic stop with police officers surrounding your vehicle. Being Black does not feel wonderful when we are being followed up and down every aisle of an upscale retail store. Being Black does not feel powerful if we are enduring micro- and macro-aggressions at our school or workplace simply because of the color of our melanin-enriched skin.

I love God and all of God’s people. I am convinced that racism could and would end today – before the sun went down – if we all touched and agreed that it should. We could willfully choose to make this world a better place together. But they won’t. So we can’t.

The struggle continues for BIPOCs. Thanks to American-made colorblindness, White folks here can’t see us, be us, or free us. Only the good Lord can do that. Until then, all we can do is watch, wait, and pray for that glorious day.

By Rev. Arthur L. Jones, III.

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