Are You Colorblind or Color Aware?

I rarely think back to my time in high school, but recently I remembered a conversation I had with a classmate. Or at least I remember the end of our conversation.

I don’t know what we were discussing or what I said, but my friend glared at me. “You forget. I’m not like you… I’m Mexican!” She was right. I forgot. Or to be more precise, it didn’t matter to me so I no longer considered it.

As the initial shock of her rebuff wore off, my surprise gave way to pride. I was colorblind when it came to the tone of her skin. I treated her as an individual, not as a stereotyped member of a different race. I no longer noticed the hint of her accent or the physical characteristics that revealed her ethnic origin. I only saw a friend, someone I liked, who liked me, and was fun to be around.

Discuss and celebrate our differences. Click To Tweet

However, my smug self-satisfaction didn’t last long. My next reaction was distress. By failing to remember our differences, I assumed we were the same. I disrespected her by not acknowledging her culture, her traditions, and her family history. To be blunt, I viewed her as white—just like me.

For matters of race, being colorblind isn’t enough. We need to be color-aware, too. How to balance these opposing goals, though, is an ongoing struggle. Sometimes I manage okay, but other times I don’t do either as well as I would like.

That’s where dialogue comes in, being able to discuss and celebrate our differences. That’s when I need a friend who is brave enough and cares enough to gently say, “You forget; I’m not like you.”

Do you like this post? Want to read more? Check out Peter’s book, Woodpecker Wars: Discovering the Spirituality of Every Day Life, available wherever books are sold.

Peter DeHaan writes about biblical spirituality, often with a postmodern slant. He seeks a fresh approach to faith and following God through the lens of scripture, without the baggage of made-up traditions and meaningless practices. Read more in his books, blog, and weekly email updates.

2 Comments

  • Sara VanLaan Posted October 22, 2013 1:07 pm

    I was recently explaining to a young 7 year old .black skinned friend what happens when you die as my father this summer. Upon hearing that your flawed body is made perfect in heaven – he exclaimed excitedly, “So I’m going to have white skin in heaven?” To which I was honored to remind him that God picked out his eyes, hair and skin color just right for him. I’m hoping those words of affirmation of God’s masterpiece resonate for years to come.

    • Peter DeHaan Posted October 22, 2013 1:10 pm

      Well said, Sara! May I answer as wisely if ever I’m in a similar situation.

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