JourneyAsheville: Get past the skin color?

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.

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14 thoughts on “JourneyAsheville: Get past the skin color?

  1. brebro

    Also, the people that say, “I don’t care if a person is white, black or purple…” are just liars, because nobody trusts purple people.

  2. bill smith

    I’m like Stephen Colbert; I don’t even see skin color. I only know I’m white because i listen to rap music.

  3. Someone at a trendy self-congratulatory race-consciousness seminar is telling me not to notice race?

    That’s oh-so-Asheville.
    ………………………….

  4. MrBreeze

    Our atomic and DNA make up have no differences in color. Thay might be arranged differently but in the end…we’ll all end up on the worm and beetle buffet!

  5. zen

    It’s all about attaching inferiority to what we notice, not the act of noticing, so i think you may just be picking on words rather than the intent of the speaker.

    I think he might have meant that we need to get past the point of seeing skin color as something to attach judgement to, or something to discriminate against. You can’t hate what you don’t notice.

    Is it just as wrong-headed or just plain stupid to think that we need to get past the point of noticing people who express themselves poorly or differently so that we can write articles to paint someone as ‘out to impress you with their liberalism?’ Especially after you just admitted you were busy trying to impress him with how much you had absorbed in the Diversity Fair.

    I think you and he were saying pretty much the same thing and it may have been that you noticed a difference.

  6. Bruce

    That’s exactly what I meant when talking to Jerry. Thank you for reiterating it for him. We argued semantics for a day.

  7. MMmm….seems like everyone, white or black, that I’ve spoken with about this issue agree it’s NOT about semantics….only among the geek and geek lovers :)

  8. Betty Cloer Wallace

    Zen, I love your statement that “Arguing semantics is a dance without music.”

    I was recently complimented with this statement: “Some of my best friends are hillbillies.”

  9. Bruce

    Well another label attached to people who think differently than Mr. Nelson. I’m sure that some of his best friends are geeks too.

  10. Big Al

    If I notice skin color, I am a racist. If I do not notice it, I am in denial, which is a form of disrespect of a person of color, which is therefore also racist.

    Based on past transgressions, whites may very well deserve the continued indictment by blacks, BUT how can any wound heal if one does not stop picking at the scab? Does black America even want reconciliation, or is it more profitable to keep chastising whites?

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