I realize that most of the people who have said “I Don’t Think of You As Black” to me over the years did not mean to be insulting when they said it. Most of them probably saw themselves to be as benevolent as the two cute little girls in the picture above. I started with that picture because how I viewed life as a child was that people were people. We were different in a lot of ways: tall, short, skinny, chubby, etc. The culture of ethnicity never came up for me that much in elementary school (see my blog post about my experiences here).
We grow into our cultural identities, and I don’t think that to be aware of one’s heritage is necessarily a bad thing. The only time it becomes such is when one uses that pride to harm and/or stifle others. Then there is the phrase at hand: “I Don’t Think of You As Black” which basically negates someone’s personal cultural identity and invalidates it. Intentional or not, it is insulting to say that particular phrase (insert any other culture in place of Black here and it is the same idea).
The image to the right is a much more harsh way of putting the idea I am trying to get across here, but it accurately describes the effect of the phrase. There sees to be a pervasive lack of awareness and a deeply ingrained insensitivity to the very idea of privilege in this country. A white man will cry about I was poor and/or affirmative action and/or “reverse racism” (the definition of “racism” being a whole other post).
I’m not angry. I know no harm was meant. At the same time, I feel like I would be remiss in not pointing this out and trying to educate people on appropriate and inappropriate things to say that could very easily offend someone who isn’t as patient as I am. To say “I see MORE than your race/culture/orientation” would be a much more sensitive thing to say.
I would love to live in the beautiful rainbow filled racism free world that people who say things like the title of this entry live in, but I don’t. Truth is, neither do they. Until the rest of the world is in the same frame of mind, it’s best to be aware of what the things we say actually mean to the people who hear them. I’m just glad that I have friends who will actually listen and take all of this into consideration.