Gender & Identity, Life

Your color-blindness could just cost me my life

We were chased down and harassed with Confederate flags. Met at every water stop by white supremacist protesters. Yelled and cursed at to get off a bus on the side of the road by restaurant owners. Walking through a town where even the police called themselves the KKK.

“PAY ATTENTION EVERYONE! There will be people on the road following us, calling you names, trying to provoke you to get a response!”

“Ignore them, stick together, and keep moving!”

This is what we were told to do on our first day preparing for the march ahead. I remember my grandma sending me a message on Facebook telling me, “don’t be no fool, stay low,” and that she loved me.

I couldn’t help but think to myself, what do I have to be afraid of?

I was excited to be a part of the longest march in history. The movement was called the “Journey to Justice” with the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People. It consisted of a march that started in Selma, Alabama and ended in Washington, D.C. I couldn’t help but think that, just maybe, my ancestors were proud of me. I had nothing to be afraid of, and wanted to let the world know that our lives matter.

The police were there to make sure we would be safe and the only thing I was worried about was marching twenty miles a day.

I finally snapped out of it when I found myself standing next to my partner, trying not to look at the angry white supremacists telling us to go away.

On top of that, during the whole trip, we were chased down and harassed with Confederate flags. Met at every water stop by white supremacist protesters. Yelled and cursed at to get off a bus on the side of the road by restaurant owners. Walking through a town where even the police called themselves the KKK.

I hoped and prayed every night for our safety. I looked at my grandma’s message again on Facebook, and thought about what I got myself into.

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As a community activist and organizer, the experience I had a little over a year ago is something I will never forget. I’ve always been passionate about the fight for justice and equity for marginalized voices. However, despite my experience as a person of color in America, it is often ignored in favor of a more “colorblind world.” A world where race and color doesn’t exist, but people only see you as a human being, a part of the human race. Hey we all bleed the same blood, right?

However, even though people would like to believe that ignoring race will help us move forward, it would only take us back.

This is not only a calling out but also a calling in. I noticed in discussions and debates that many who use the colorblind approach have good intentions, but the overall impact does no good. It takes us, as people, to be willing to unlearn the fact that we have been taught not to talk about race, in the guise of attempting to move forward.

Race is not biological, race is a “social construct.”

However, race has been used as a tool  to divide and conquer different groups of people, based on their external differences. Historically in America, race has been used to justify that darker skin color means inferiority to those of European descent.

As a result, history has been full of people in power using those exact differences to create and justify colonization, enslavement, genocide, discrimination, racial wealth disparities, and brutality.

It’s no wonder that so many people want to ignore race, because the construct itself has created so many issues. However, it would be no good to get rid of a construct that is so deeply ingrained in our history and culture.

Colorblindness seeks to ignore race in hope for a better future. However, the issue at hand is the system of racism, not race. The approach also erases someone’s identity, their very essence.

Our diversity and differences should be celebrated, not erased. What is more important is addressing the racist attitudes and ideologies that remain because the construct and historical relevancy of race.

There are too many articles online proclaiming statements like, “I don’t see race”, “Racism isn’t always the answer,” “Black people love to pull the race card,” and the big one, “This is the land of the free, pull yourself up from your own bootstraps.” These are often used as defense mechanisms to ignore and derail conversations about race – which is a dangerous reality. According to The Guardian, 181 Black people have been killed by police this year.

As a Black person, I can’t help but wonder that I could be next. I could be at the right place at the right time, minding my business, and still lose my life. Often a life lost due racial profiling, suspicion, and assumption. I wonder if the media and society would use my past to validate why my death is not an issue.

I keep looking back on those days in Georgia. Community organizers and activists know that the work we do can be dangerous. However, we do it for our community, for love, hope, and justice for tomorrow.

America was never a post-racial society to begin with and we most likely will never get to that point. Therefore, using the approach of being colorblind when it comes to racial issues won’t change a thing. I could lose my life today, or tomorrow, at the hands of someone that did it because they thought I was a “threat.” Then afterwards not have the justice I deserve because someone chose to ignore my experience and why it didn’t matter in the first place.

We can never move forward if we don’t talk about race and the issues minorities face, because of the system the construct has created. Ignoring it only allows for the progression of White supremacy. More people lose their lives every day because of what we choose to ignore and I could be next.