Color Blind

The 20s are all about pulling out all the stops and taking it there. They're about standing up, speaking out, and making sure your voice is heard. When you've researched, studied, and prepared properly to engage in real conversation, that's when you're ready to bring it. Then you combine your personal experiences, and what you've witnessed or endured and you present your undeniable, irrefutable, unstoppable truths for the world to see. But wouldn't we all be better off color blind? Oh hell to the no, black and white is were started beforehand, we all know equality is a gray areas (all 50 shades of it - Armie Hammer for Christian Grey; I had to get my pop culture reference in here).


*Here marks the third and final leg of my journey to spilling the beans, letting the cat out of the bag, and getting so real it's like HD (excuse the terrible pun). Get ready for me to kick some more metaphorical ass, take names, and mark them on the figurative wall of shame. It all ends here ... color blindness, aka a cop out for avoidance - let's unpack that. Here we go.

Let's start by dispelling some classic rumors surrounding affirmative action. Beneficiaries of affirmative action (so minorities, women, veterans, the handicapped etc.) are, I repeat, are indeed qualified for the positions they apply for. Next, to all the white people out there who call reverse racism or blame a minority for not getting a job or into a college (I'm looking at you little miss bitter aka Abigail Fisher), check your damn privilege - you are and will continue to be (at least for the foreseeable future) the benefactor of opportunities not afforded to others. Affirmative action "levels the playing field" so to speak. I'll give you my best example. If you're an African-American female living in a bad neighborhood and attending a poor high school, and you're applying to college - you're going to be more than lacking. Your white girl counterpart in suburbia, who has had access (key word there) to more opportunities, that is her SAT (which BTW doesn't test college aptitude, but rather resources and therefore privilege) scores will most likely be higher (because she can afford & find a tutor), her list of extracurriculars will be more broad (cheerleading, figure skating, fencing and a mission trip to Africa for good measure), and not to mention guidance counselors, household stability (study spaces, supportive parents, etc.) is going to dominate. When your applications are compared you there's really no comparison except that your hardship, that's the lack of all those resources, plus your experiences with being a minority (apprehension, stereotyping, outright discrimination) can be brought into play to explain your lack of application extras (affirmative action). In this way, race is included to help clarify application disparities. To those who argue that middle/upper class minorities will unnecessarily benefit and that affirmative action should be based on socioeconomic status or be "color blind" - that's implying that money  away does with minority status aka "whitens" (news flash, it doesn't). That ignores the fact that identical applicants, fully qualified and all, with the difference being race are not equally considered. The non-white applicant is dealt with an innate mistrust, amongst other discriminatory practices (in some cases) - (I should really cite my sources, but you feel free to google studies). Bringing this back around, affirmative action does not punish white people (and it's not reparations for slavery and the institutionalized oppression of the past 200 years; if it was it wouldn't be anything close to enough) and serves it's purpose as we transition to creating balanced educational experiences for all (neglecting ingrained racism in the world outside *sometimes in, the classroom). However, affirmative action is both a good and a bad thing. Personally, it takes away merit and messes with your self esteem. I know that I got into my college because of my 4.1 GPA and 30 on my ACT amongst my stellar application and epic essay on a true American dream story (as in my immigrant parents starting for the bottom ... literally, and now we're here ... that is the top), but I can never truly know or defend myself when people on my campus say that my race was taken into consideration. I now realize it wouldn't have mattered, my application was definitely more than above average. But affirmative action does make you question whether your race plays a factor in the opportunities you're given and if you're filling some "quota" (there I said it). I mean, I know I do bring a different perspective to everything (Midwest, liberal-conservative, traditional Christian with strong ideals with a culture clash of  a Ghanaian and American upbringing) but is that enough (not on it's own, but in combination with my intelligence and drive yeah it is). Don't get color blind on me, you'll miss the experience.
 
Hope you're still with me, let's get to the experiences part. I'm telling you that this whole concept of a "post-racial America" with the alleged pinnacle being the presidency of Barack Obama is bull freaking crap. To all those who argue that racism is not overt, people aren't being lynched, sent to the backs of busses, or sprayed with hoses and therefore does not exist, are missing this new phenomenon called covert racism. It's sneakier, more dangerous and happens every single day. Here's a quote that explains it, "Whether they're killing us [figuratively] openly or in secret doesn't matter, we're still being murdered." That's not too harsh or blowing microaggressions out of proportion - do not belittle or deny my experience. You don't have to be whipped to feel the pain of racism, a dirty look, complete silence and lack of acknowledgement, achieves the same thing - making you feel like a second-class citizen. My favorite (read that with sarcasm) experiences at school and around the great (cough ... lies - it's not great for me; maybe for everyone else) state of Vermont are where people expose their racism. Going into a store and being followed by an employee, and having that person ask you four times in a 3 minute period if you needed help with anything is not friendly fun. You think I'm going to steal from you store. First of all use your context clues, I wear oxford button downs, cardigans and blazers more expensive that all the items in your quaint (aka basic, minuscule, homely) trinket store and my jeans are so tight I can barely fit my iPhone in the pockets much less your homemade dream-catcher, and thirdly, if I need your help, I'm capable of asking for it like everyone else.
 
Don't even me started, I could go for days (and that's the sad part). When you walk down Church Street (the main town centre in Burlington) and parents hold their kids tighter, pick up their pace, or walk as far away as possible from you when you're nowhere near them (like I'm going to kidnap your child or chase you in broad daylight), tell me people are color blind. When you walk past cafés and all the dining patrons turn to stare at you, like full 180, tell me people are color blind (cause I'll take the food right off your plate). When wait staff give you an attitude, roll their eyes when you ask their opinion on the menu, and are visibly agitated that they had to serve you, and the restaurant owner comes to ask specifically how much you enjoyed your meal, to just your table, please tell me people are color blind. When you go to the grocery store, your order is kind of pricey, and the total stranger behind you asks whether you can afford all those name brand foods, tell me people are color blind. I'm thinking, listen here Ms. Piggy with your mullet, blackhole style missing teeth, and Hello Kitty pajama pants and you're over 40 and you're asking me if I can pay for my food. If I couldn't pay for it would I have taken it off the shelves, of course I can pay for it, but the bigger question is who gave you the right (take notice of this) to grill me on my financial status. To the cashier who asks you if you have any food stamps even though I'm holding my debit card in hand, thanks for that. When you sit on the bus back to campus and every other seat is taken except for the ones adjacent to you (on both sides), and people would rather stand and be tossed around than take a much-need seat. When you sit in class alone with an invisible barrier of empty seats around because no one will sit next to you or when people (implied white people) make a comment when three people of color sit together referring to you as the "black pack." When the word slavery or Africa or ghetto is mentioned and the whole class turns to look at you, or you're asked to speak on any of the things "having to do with the black experience" (because there's only one). When you miss class and your teacher takes special notice because you're too noticeable to miss. When people run their fingers through your hair without asking and even when you said that you'd prefer them not to. When people introduce you as their "black friend" or use you as a marker to figure out where to sit (BTW, we're not friends). When you go places with your fraternity brothers and even though you're all matching in letters, you're asked if you want to pay separately. When people compliment you on your English and ask where you learned it. When people ask you where you're from, and then press on to specify where you're really from like originally when you respond with a place in America. When you go to a party and everyone expects you teach them how to dance, dougie, cat daddy, wop, cupid shuffle, jerk, and most of all ... twerk (I am the #twerkteamgeneral let's be real, but that's not my sole purpose in life). When people ask you if you're first generation college student or if you have any children (Like really, do I look like a baby-father, I'm not even done with puberty). When people wipe their hands on their pants after reluctantly shaking hands with you. Need I go on, you get the picture. The thing is all these experiences are dehumanizing, they make you feel worthless or like a static character in a story whole's sole characteristic is the color of their skin. This isn't stuff to just be brushed aside and shrugged off, whether you know it or not it affects you. Do you wonder when anything happens to you what's wrong with you, what you did, or why people don't like you because of your skin? Have you felt dirty and tried to scrub off your skin because it would make your life easier? Have you ever wished yourself to look different or to be someone else? Have you ever felt uncomfortable almost every single place you go because everyone's looking at you, and no one else resembles or acts like you? Have you ever been frustrated because you don't know the best way to express your culture or be your color? That's the reality of what this all does to you. There's nothing more to you, and you tell me people want to be color blind.
 
This whole idea color blindness is a deflection tactic that seeks to deny the importance of the experiences of minorities. Before I go any further, check yourself on this chart - super important 28 Common Racist Attitudes & Behaviors.  "I don't see color," oh really, you don't see my skin color is different than yours and that means that everyday I'm singled out, paid special attention to be wary of, and patronized. "I have tons of minority friends," whether you do or not (it's always like two acquaintances) doesn't mean you can't be, do or say something racist. We're not some Pokémon that can just be collected for show. "I treat everyone equally," but when you describe me the first trait is the color of my skin (but you don't do it your white friends). Let me tell you that color-blindness will get us nowhere except deny more people of color that their hardships, sorrows, and countless messed up stories aren't real or worth hearing. I'm more than just a color. On campus since I'm in such a high position of student leadership I get emails, almost on a daily basis asking for my opinion (read tokenized minority representative - that is I'm being asked to speak for my group ... again) or to be in a viewbook (whatever I just wanted my picture taken). Even in a dining meeting they asked me if I had any special requests for ethnic food (yup I do though, let me get my fufu, jollof and kenkey on *Ghanaian foods). Either I'm really insightful or I'm just being used as the go to guy for diversity, and I'm pretty sure it's the latter. When tour groups come to campus, the parents of both white and non-white kids will stop me on the way to class to ask about "how I like it here" (I'd like to get to class on time). I am more than just a black guy. I'm more than just a shade. I am more than just a handsome face a headcase of bias incidents.
 smooth like that
I'm saying this now once and for all, if you're not part of the solution you're part of the problem. Even if you're not actively being racist (this is for all the white people because people of color cannot be racist - they don't have the power to do so ... that's besides the point) you're still benefiting (because of your white skin privilege) from the putting down of other races, whether you see it or not, and that makes you racist. There I said it. Don't run away, face it. The fight against racism is not just for minorities and it shouldn't be anyway, we're already against it, we need YOU to step up and do something. That is acknowledge your privilege, own it (don't apologize for it ... none of that white guilt cop-out crap), and give some of it up. Here's an article on specifically what you can do to improve racial equality White Power. Other than joining the social justice battle, you can take notice, speak up and out when ish goes down, believe/listen to your friends when they tell you these stories, be patient, don't separate yourself from your race (there's no good/bad white people) and most of all seek to understand and reconnect the humanity with minorities. This isn't all directed at our power holding society dominators, people of color - act respectively and responsibly, causing scenes, being ignorant and perpetuating stereotypes doesn't further our cause - it sets us back to Jim Crow, hell sometimes even antebellum times. Just because you've been oppressed does not give you the excuse to do nothing or not try to improve your life. Ultimately, you are the keep of your own soul, and are responsible for your success, no matter how much you are overlooked or mistrusted, you are capable of making it in spite of all that. Do your part to support everyone, not just gather together, bash white people (I can't lie, you just need to every once in a while) or cry alone. We cannot or should we ever be color blind. We should celebrate our differences, not let them keep us separate.
 true.#BeautifulBaby #BeautifulEyes
*What do I want? I want to not be weird. To not always stand out and have my skin color be pointed out (I get it, I'm black ... technically brown). I want to more than just a color. I want to be real friends with people and not just their racism-avoidance defense mechanism "black friend." I want a girl to get with me, and not just to piss off her parents or say that she's been with a black guy. I want to be smiled at instead of scowled out. I want to be treated fairly and normally, how everyone else is. I want to be seen and interacted with as whole person, not a shadow of one. I want to be accepted, invited, and welcomed instead of feared, avoided, and excluded. I want to be recognized for my hard work, dedication and passion, and not have my every success attributed to special help. I want to drive and not be pulled over because of racial profiling or the "crime of being black." I want to see real, accurate, and diverse portrayals of my culture in media not skewed statistics. I want to not be the token for show. I want to be considered as an individual and not grouped together, or be separated as an anomaly (no more "whitest black guy" or "oreo" jokes). I want people to know that there is more than one kind of black and that everyone is a different version of it, and they're all perfect the way they are. I want to be bigger than black, no color-blindness necessary. *To all the minorities and people of color, I only know my personal experience as a black man, everyone's is different, but I know still similar, you're not forgotten or overlooked!

- Check out the trailer to this movie - definitely worth watching "Dear White People"

The 20s are all about getting your mind right and going to battle. We all are capable of doing something to change the world, or at least the world around us in our daily lives. It's time to quit being spectators, wake up and smell the dark black coffee. People of color aren't just colored ... they're people, first and foremost who happen to not be white (which in and of itself is a problematic term). Fight the good fight, be prepared for lots of losses, but I know someday we'll win. Each victory over bigotry will be worth it to see kids be proud of their skin, interracial couples kiss publicly, and stories like the ones above to never be told again. Color blind or not we're all human and deserve to be treated as such.
 some of my favorite black women
My blog post question for the day is ... what will you do to fight for racial equality where you are? I'm involved in multiple things on campus to start movements, bring awareness and find solutions to racism on my campus, you'd better believe it.

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