Updated: Aug 13
I'm white. Like WHITE white. I grew up in one of the whitest counties in the state of California. I did #23andme and low and behold: white - Northern European (with a trace of Portuguese and Native American).
But somehow I was lucky enough to have a step-grandfather that was a 1st generation Mexican Immigrant (whom I saw everyday and love greatly). I have always been exposed to other cultures and always befriended the POC that were in my community. I always grew up thinking "I just don't see color."
I was wrong. I saw color. I see color. I just have an attraction (positive bias) to cultural differences rather than revulsion/confusion (negative bias) to cultural difference. Why? I have no idea. I think it's just me, but it also because I have has some amazing interactions with people that are different than I am. I was also raised with the belief that actions are bad/wrong, not people. Maybe that is ultimately why I went into the mental health field - people are not bad - they just do bad things because of *insert reason here*.
So why is it wrong to say "it's not about color?"
Our brains. That's why.
Our brains are programed to categorize things - put things in a group of other like things. This helps us process the world more quickly allow us to make decisions that will keep us safe and alive - this is what people refer to as the "reptilian brain" - our base instinct is to stay alive.
So how do we this? It's much like how we have categorized flowers or dogs. Roses are roses because of distinct physical features. We know that Iris' are not roses because they look different. Chihuahuas are not Great Danes for the same reason. Humans were able to make this distinction way before we had the ability to evaluate their genetic makeup.
Our brains do this with EVERYTHING - including people: Fat, skinny, short, tall, tan, pale, blue eyed, brown eyed, blonde, brunette, etc. This INCUDES the color of a person's skin. This is our brain grouping things together.
Seeing color is NOT the problem - its the meaning that we associate with the group.
There is an INVASIVE social belief that black men are dangerous. I'm going to say the most important part again: SOCIAL BELIEF. This is not inherently true - AT ALL. I know quite a few black men personally that are the kindest, most loving, softest, intriguing men that I have ever known. They are my family. I love them. I would do ANYTHING for them.
Why is this my belief? I think it comes from all the positive interactions that I have has with POC through out my life. We have already determined that our brains categorize and group, but my social belief is that POC are awesome. So that group of people have a positive bias in my brain. I see them and remember (unconsciously) the good times that I have had with people like them (based purely on how they look).
So lets go back to flowers to make this clear. When you see a rose, you know that it is a rose because your brain has grouped flowers that look a certain way into the category "rose." Your unconsciously remember that roses smell awesome, and you have an urge to go and smell this new flower - this is the action of the positive bias that you have towards roses. Now when you see, say, a dandelion - you know that it is a flower, but you also know that it is NOT a rose because they look different - they are in a different category. Now your bias towards the dandelion will depend on your experiences with it. I love dandelions because they are bright yellow and I loved once they turned into "wish flowers" (as my daughter says) and I could breath deep and let those seeds fly off into the sky like a magical fairy dance. Also, their leaves are pretty tasty and good for you. But there are other people that see a dandelion and are filled with a different feeling - they want to get rid of it. It might be "messing up" their lawn, or growing in the cracks of their driveway. I have a positive bias towards dandelions, this other person has a negative bias. It is still the same flower.
Black people and other POC are (crudely) this dandelion. Just doing its best to live and grow and be its best. The person with the negative bias has been trying (unsuccessfully might I add) to kill this "weed," remove it from their lawn because "it doesn't belong there."
So, lets for one minute pretend that I was going to start the hashtag #savethedandelions - I can say with 99% certainty that white people would be all over that. They would start putting protective cages around all the dandelions and post "Do Not Spray" signs everywhere - including places that they shouldn't - because it was for the good of the dandelions.
I stand with you. I will protect you. I will use my white privilege to AMPLIFY YOUR voice. This is not my fight, but I fight with you. This is not my struggle, but I will struggle with you.