Being Seen ≠ Being Color Blind

I love colors—all kinds of colors, which is why I can’t wait for little green sprouts to emerge from the ground in spring. Soon earth is bursting in color, awash in green grass, verdant leafy trees, and an abundance of glorious color. Soon after, fall is striking with dazzling displays of changing leaves. It’s glorious.

Then comes winter, and what I see for months is monochromatic white, and shades of brown and gray. Despite the pristine beauty of a new crisp snowfall, winter offers no color to delight the senses or soul.

How bland and boring it would be if I were to see and say I do not notice the colors of all the rich diversity of flora and fauna around me, but yet I recognize its existence and acknowledge its presence and purpose. It isn’t quite the same.

This analogy falls short, but that is what happens when we say we are colorblind to one another’s skin color and race. The reason it doesn’t work is that race does matter, unfortunately, and it does affect us all differently; it impacts job opportunities, housing, income, and more.

We all have an ethnic background. We tend to identify ourselves by our external appearance and culture and race. We all see color. And it matters.

Race is really a construct. We created it. But it impacts us because society uses race as a structural foundation of social power.

The problem isn’t race; it’s racism, it’s a system. And it’s also a viewpoint we hold. It’s both.

Colorblindness doesn’t impact that system.

Ignoring it isn’t a solution. It takes acknowledgment, and work. Saying we don’t see race doesn’t actually change it. Saying I acknowledge the beauty of the diversity of flowers around me doesn’t change the fact that some will grow, some will die, some will flourish, and some will not. They need the right environment to thrive and bloom.

We notice the changing hues of a sunset, the shades of oranges, pinks, and gold. We notice shades of a blue sky and many tints of green on a landscape. The cone cells in our eyes enable us to see the magnificent beauty of color.

We don’t want to live “blind” to the beauty around us, which includes each other. People of color want that beautiful part of them acknowledged, not dismissed.

We can’t pretend that we all look the same—that these external or cultural characteristics do not exist.

How can we move forward to become color-aware? The first step is appreciating our ethnic diversity. We acknowledge that we have differences in skin color.

Next, we celebrate these differences. We celebrate the beauty of all we are, and how we are created and designed. And we acknowledge that it is good and beautiful.

These first two steps lead naturally to the next: working for change in ourselves and in the systems that demean or denigrate our racial and ethnic diversity.

We all long to be seen. But colorblindness is, in effect, invisibility. Deep down, we all long to be seen and appreciated for who we are. Seeing one another fully means seeing each other in our full ethnic, racial, and cultural identities.

By Prasanta Verma

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