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Diversity Lotto #4: not seeing color and other problems

Feb. 27, 2018
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Some “socially conscious” people say they “don’t see color.” And I say to cut the bullshit. No one is colorblind, unless you can’t distinguish your green from red. I was genuinely confused when a mentor of mine started telling me that he “doesn’t see color” and started bragging about it. I was genuinely confused, because I saw it. I saw it when I went to volunteer at Midnight Mission, a homeless shelter in the middle of Skid Row, an area of LA notorious for being filled with homeless people. When I went to go serve breakfast at Midnight Mission, there were about a thousand people that came in, and a good 95% of them were African Americans. How could you go to places like these and say you “don’t see color?” How can anyone look at these homeless people in their eyes and say that they don’t see them

Now, I know that people who say such things likely don’t mean these words to intentionally hurt others, most of the time; yet, I also know that anyone I know who says such things and even the people on TV who say the same are, to be completely honest, white. And to be white is to be inherently privileged in this country. That is not the direct fault of these said people, but the fault of the history upon which this nation was built. So upon hearing one too many people expound upon their “colorblindness,” I decided to find the root of why this made me so angry. 

First, this is the same argument as responding to mass shootings with “I don’t see guns.” It doesn’t make any sense. You have to see the guns—the main issue—to do something about it. You can’t possibly try to solve something if you don’t see the problem in the first place. Now, back to the time I served breakfast at Midnight Mission. I live in LA. Homeless culture is not new to me, because there are homeless people everywhere—on the street, in the library, by the supermarket. And most of them are African Americans or Hispanics. According to lahsa.org’s fact sheet, 40% of homeless people in Los Angeles are African Americans/Blacks and 35% are Latinos/Hispanics. 20% are white, and 1% is Asian American. The numbers are sickening. How can LA—no, this country, the land of the free and the home of the brave, leave so many of the population without liberty and without a home? But the bigger, more uncomfortable question is why? Why them?

Although there are a plethora of reasons, I believe that history is the primary contributor. Even after slavery ended, segregation laws came into effect as “separate but equal.” This phrase implies a notion of the other, an immediate us vs. them. Many former slaves had no other choice but to work under their former masters, because they simply couldn’t make a living elsewhere due to being robbed of an education since birth. And the vicious cycle continued, generation after generation. 

No, we may not have Southern plantations today, but slavery still persists. It’s the rejection letter in response to a black applicant’s resume. It’s the incarceration system that is so clearly tied to ethnic identities. It’s Skid Row filled with tents and tents of black bodies. It’s the Bible that slave masters used to justify subordinations of black people, and it’s the slave passage that kidnapped, tortured, and forced Africans into this country. It’s real and palpable and visible. So no, I don’t buy your bullshit about you not seeing color because by saying that statement, you are ignoring the fact that racism is a problem altogether.

As an Asian American, I never experienced these things firsthand. I listened to the stories, read the history, and wrote this because the homeless people on Skid Row can’t. So let’s all reflect because all of us have so much to learn, and just because February is coming to a close, black history shouldn’t—and it isn’t.