Just sitting here at Firestorm processing some shots from the YWCA’s recent Stand Against Racism event and thinking about some of the things that went on this past weekend: There was a lot to shoot. One of the shoots I did was especially interesting, though, and led to a conversation with a friend of mine about race and racism.
The local YWCA and YMI jointly presented a Diversity Fair at the YMI Cultural Center on Market Street on Friday, April 29. It began at 10 a.m. and lasted until 4 p.m. It was worth it.
After a welcome from the YMI’s Interim Director, Dan Brown, Mission Hospital’s Diversity Director Michael Carter spoke before showing a 30-minute clip on race relations in the country.
The other day I got to sharing this with a friend of mine. I told him what Michael Carter had said and what some of the topics of the day were. When I was finished trying to impress my friend with how much I had absorbed, he looked at me and said, “We’ve got to get to the point where we’re past noticing skin color.”
On the surface — the very, very shallow surface — what he said seemed to make sense. But if someone takes a coarse cloth and rubs the polish off his words, it becomes as much of a racist statement as this one — “Some of my best friends are black.”
Only a person who was, at best naïve and at worst just plain wrong-headed and stupid would make such a ridiculous statement. Now, you’re shaking your head and suspecting that I have something other than coffee in my cup. Let me explain.
First, a person who makes that statement is trying to make a point of how liberal and progressive thinking they are. What they’re really doing is pointing out that they’re still pretty stuck in bias and bigotry — just like the person who says, “Some of my best friends are black.”
Second, it’s naïve to think that we’ll ever get to the point of not noticing someone’s skin color. We don’t hesitate to notice someone’s hair color. Or their eye color. Why should we pretend that we’ve gotten so “progressive” that we don’t notice someone’s skin color?
Third, to not notice someone’s skin color is to not notice the unique history and culture from which they come. To not notice someone’s skin color seems to be pretty close to ignoring them — and their value — as a human being.
Sure, it sounds pious, progressive and liberal to say we need to not notice a person’s skin color. But we always have — and always will. It’s what we do about those differences that determine our heart’s attitude. We can run from the differences as my friend suggested, or we can wrap our arms around the uniqueness and celebrate.
After all, what I think about you says a lot more about me than it does about you.