Often when I talk to people about race they say, “When I look at you I don’t see color.” My response to them is always the same. Aloud I say, “That is your loss, my color is beautiful.” To myself, I say, “You are either unobservant or a liar.”
Noticing a person’s color is not a problem, behaving badly because of that color is a problem.
I am many things. But, first and foremost, I am black. Before anything else, I was destined to be black because both my parents are black. Next, I am a woman because of biology and my chromosomes. Everything after that is a matter of choice. I chose to be a Christian, a wife, a mother, an attorney, a writer, and an amazing person. But it all starts with black.
When you look at me in the photo above, of course, you notice my black suit jacket, the orange print on my silk blouse and the crazy orange beaded earrings. At the same time, you notice my beautiful brown skin. The kind of skin some people sit in the sun for hours trying to achieve. When you look at me and notice that confident smile, you cannot help but notice the pretty brown cheeks that surround it. When you see those glasses making me look all super smart and sexy, you cannot help but notice the big old brown forehead above it all! If you look at me, you notice the color of my skin just like you notice the color of my clothes and glasses. Stop lying, admit it, you notice it.
If you want me to respect your opinions on race, stop denying you notice mine.
Like many people living in America who have traveled and attended college, I have friends of various ages, races, religions, and sexual orientations. Believe it or not, I even have a friend who is a Republican and a Cowboys fan. (Yuck!!!) I notice those differences. When I went to a blogging event with my white friend, I noticed she was white, just like I noticed she walked fast and liked to jaywalk. Another time I went to the library with my friend from India, I noticed she had brown skin, darker than mine, just like I noticed she liked romance stories. When I was at dinner with my lesbian friend, I noticed she got the phone number of the waitress at the next table just like I noticed she cut her food up into the smallest pieces ever.
I noticed all the differences, between myself and my friends. How could I not, I mean there were so many. But the lesson to be learned is that the differences between us didn’t change our friendship. The differences didn’t make us less likely to be friends. The differences didn’t keep us from having a good time. Similarly, when you look at me, it is okay to notice I am black. I mean, after all, how could you not notice all this gorgeous brown skin I take such great care to keep smooth, soft and healthy. Noticing my color does not make you a racist. Noticing my color does not make you a bad person. It makes you observant. It makes you a human being. It makes you someone I can respect. If you are looking at me and do not see the color of my skin, I wonder what else about me you do not notice.
Do you miss the fact that I am a cheerleader who will work to help others achieve their dreams? Do you miss the fact that I have a strong sense of empathy and want to see others happy? Do you miss that I will give up all I have to make my husband and children happy? Do you miss the fact that I am a master knitter? Do you miss the fact that I like to read so much, I never leave the house without something to read? While you are busy missing or not noticing my color, what else are you missing?
I am a black woman, and my pretty brown skin is a part of who I am. It is not all I am, but it is a part of who I am. So, the question for you this serene day is, are you hurting or helping when you don’t notice all of who I show to the world?