Every time I hear a white person tell me that they “don’t see color”, I know that they’re likely either lying or kidding themselves.
I try very hard to see color every day; and gender and sexual orientation and ethnicity, and every other qualifier of the people who cross my path because those things are important. I need to see theses things so that I can truly see them, so that my understanding will stretch beyond its current capacity.
We’ve been led to believe that the goal of equality is to somehow make these differences disappear, yet in reality it is to be profoundly aware of them and to recognize them as beautiful and valuable and necessary. The virtue is not in ignoring our various distinctions but in celebrating them; not in pretending as though they don’t exist, but in believing that their existence makes us a better version of Humanity as we live together in community.
I used to think that the measurement of my evolution as a proper progressive white guy was the ability to “look past” race, but I’ve come to understand that this too was a reflection of my privileged oblivion, because it assumed that people of color (or any other marginalized group) had as easy I road as I’d had and the luxury of such things. It also assumed that they would somehow not be quite proud of their heritage and not want it fully acknowledged.
For a white person to say that he or she doesn’t see race is to trivialize the experiences of people of color, to render their specific stories unimportant, to imagine that injustice is not a daily experience and that we have nothing to learn in that regard. To seek true diversity is to become a willing student of the lives of other people and this can only happen when we step into the very different space they occupy and listen.
Throughout history, marginalized groups fighting for justice have not been asking to be made invisible or tolerated in anonymity by those with power or advantage, but to be fully seen and fully acknowledged without censoring. In light of this, the very worthy aspiration of loving others as we desire to be loved, is still inferior to loving others as they desire to be loved; in not merely assuming they need what we need, but asking them what love looks like to them—and responding.
Yes, there is much about us that is universal: the desire to be heard and known, the need to be loved and to love, the joy of finding our place and calling, and the need to live into these without restraint. Championing equality is to see every person as fully deserving of such things, and to work so that each can pursue them with as little obstacle as possible from both without and within.
But our distinctions of race, gender, orientation, and place of origin all shape how easy or difficult it has been for us to claim these inherent needs, and they craft the specific lens through which we filter the world. The very specific intersection of our various differences alters how we individually have experienced life, and so we need to bring these all to bear as we build community, each being informed by one another.
The color of someone’s skin, their inclination to love, their gender identity, the culture of their upbringing, and every other facet of their humanity matters because these all work in concert to compose the once-in-history expression of life they manifest. These things are the unique lines of their original stories.
And as a person of faith, these distinctions all reveal the unlimited beauty of One who is the source of each of us, so this rich diversity is the very holy ground where God speaks.
Bigotry doesn’t happen when we notice other people’s differences. It happens when we believe or act as if those differences make another less worthy of love or opportunity or compassion or respect.
See all of them.
That’s the only way you can really love them.
Love people well today.