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Opinion: Dear 'White Allies', Stop Saying That You 'Don't See Color'

If you look me in the eye and tell me you "don’t see color," I can’t process your statement as logical, thoughtful or anything other than nonsensical.
Image: Tomi Lahren
Tomi Lahren talks with Trevor Noah on "The Daily Show."Comedy Central

I’m going to do my best to keep this brief.

We live in a different day. While many wanted to believe that we live in a society beyond racism - which… that’s a whole other think-piece - we now have a president-elect that many view as overtly racist. We have white supremacists cheering him on. We have racial and religious hate crimes happening all over the country, every single day.

We live in a different time. Just eight years ago we couldn’t have known how a Black family moving into 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue would impact our national discourse on race.

Many of us have righteous concerns when we hear rhetoric about “taking our country back.” Who is represented in the “our” there? More importantly, who isn’t? And when you say “back,” when exactly… does that mean?

The time ahead of us could prove more difficult for all marginalized peoples of this country and the world, it may be high time that we revisit effective, thoughtful communication between and about races.

If I may, I’d like to start using the title of Justin Simien’s hit film and new Netflix series to offer an open letter, Dear White People...

Wednesday night Tomi Lahren - a white, female, conservative television host for The Blaze - appeared on The Daily Show with Trevor Noah. It was a bit of a long-anticipated event, considering the two see the world through very different lenses, viewing politics from two opposing sides of the proverbial aisle. And neither shied away from saying so when dissecting Black Lives Matter, the KKK, and Colin Kaepernick's First Amendment rights.

(Full disclosure, I’ve been on Tomi’s show twice in the last couple of months, we’ve… debated what she’s wrong about in the world, and while I disagree with her on everything we've ever discussed, I’ve always been treated well.)

During her appearance on The Daily Show, hosted by a man who literally moved to America from Africa, Tomi used the phrase that white men and women LOVE to offer when discussing race, racism and bias: “I don’t see color.”

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For a little more of a complete context, Lahren said: “I’ve never used racial slurs to address people, I’ve never looked down on someone because of their skin color. To me, true diversity is diversity of thought not diversity of color. I don’t see color. I go after Hillary Clinton and she is as white as they come."

First of all, there’s… there’s a lot digest there. A whole lot. But, in the effort of staying on topic, if I may, Tomi and other white people trying to make this point, please stop saying you “don’t see color.” Please.

When you look me in the face, type at me in your tweet, or otherwise attempt to convey the message that you are post-racial by saying you don’t see color, I can’t process your statement as logical, thoughtful, or anything other nonsensical.

Would you ever try to prove to a woman that you aren’t sexist by saying “I don’t see gender” to her? I would certainly hope not. This is no different.

The idea that you are blind to my existing as a Black man doesn’t say to me that you lack a bias, or that you are somehow woke. It says to me that you ignore my reality and you choose to do it, because (save for legal blindness) there’s no way that you can’t actually see me and my melanin.

Ma’am, do you see color when a Black man sits down next to you and you pull your purse closer to you? It’s proven that you probably do.

Television viewer, do you see color when a Black person is accused of crime on the news and internalize that Black people are inherently criminals? According to research, it’s highly likely.

Suburbanite, do you see color when you drive through a neighborhood (I dare say an “inner city”) comprised of more Black and brown people than white and check the locks on your car’s doors? Mhmm, facts.

My guess is that you were probably able to see color enough to say “I don’t see color” when talking to *me*…because you probably don’t have that conversation with your fellow white male and female counterparts about how you see *them.*

RELATED: Blacks and Whites Don't See Eye to Eye on Racial Progress in America: Pew Study

The next time you want to say to a person of color that you aren’t racist, or that you actively fight against bias, that you see their existence, that you recognize their struggle, it may better behoove you to use a phrase like “I recognize my privilege,” or “I’m doing my best to understand,” or just be honest and say “I need help with how to address this.”

There’s respect for your respect.

There’s recognition for your recognition.

And there’s power in your honesty.

If you don’t see color, that is a MAJOR problem. The sentiment you’re trying to convey is getting lost in translations.

People of color represent beloved backgrounds, storied cultures, and varied experiences. Contrary to popular belief, we aren’t a monolith, because we aren’t grey.

See color. In color.

See us.


A Person of Color

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