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Posted by Lawrence "LAW" Watford - - 0 comments

Once upon a time, a very wise and brilliant man (and I sure hope you’ll know who this man is) dreamed of a day in America when we will all be judged by the content of our character, and not the color of our skin. I, for one, am and have always been in complete agreement with this dream, so it struck me as odd when I found myself taking a slightly nuanced stance in opposition to it. 

Okay… So I was on Facebook (as I tend to be WAY too often), and I posted a comment about how glaring the difference in diversity was between the democratic and republican conventions. That sparked a discussion between my very conservative republican friends (most of whom are white) and my liberal friends (most of whom were black). One of my very good conservative Facebook friends (white) felt that it was very sad that my liberal friends (black) viewed so much through “the prism of race.”  I rebutted that it must be nice for my conservative friend to have the luxury of not having to view life through that same prism… And it was on after that…lol.

But in the fray of the back-and-forth about “racial vs. racist,” my conservative friends took an approach that most of you might think is odd, given our preconceived ideas about conservatives here in the U.S. In their view, all Americans should ignore race altogether, in consideration of any and all things, and simply judge by the content of our character—a view I’d like to refer to as the “I have a dream 2.0.” Now, “I have a dream 2.0” sounds good on the surface, but something about it feels wrong.

The “2.0” refers to the fact that this goes way beyond what Dr. King advocated, which never included a colorless or colorblind society where we magically perceive the content of each other’s character. For one, (as one of my liberal FB friends expressed) people don’t “walk around with text bubbles above their heads saying "I'm responsible," or "I feed the homeless."  Secondly, (and more important to me) I don’t want anyone to ignore the color of my skin, as if there’s something so inherently negative about it that someone else’s ability to disregard it somehow becomes a noble act.

Why is this a big deal?  Well, for many minority women in general and African-American women, in particular, face a constant struggle to be validated by a system that views their physical and cultural identities as less than or deficient - irrespective of the content of their character.  For example, we have a black First Lady, but even she is often the target of degrading comments about her hair, weight, hips, legs and other physical features.  Now if she can’t catch a break, how hard must it be for the average black woman who faces pressure to conform to “acceptable” (Eurocentric) standards of black beauty at work, school, church or anywhere else?

For me as a writer and you as a transitioning.com reader the importance of image and self-image is an important/recurring theme and so I really got to wondering, “what are the beauty implications of a ‘colorblind’ society?” What do we do in a society where race and culture have and continue to be so dominant in our daily interactions?  Well, the answer (in my humble opinion) to this social problem isn’t to take further steps to hide or reduce one’s own ethnicity or identity.  Quite the contrary, the answer is to embrace it, its history and its “otherness” and to wear it proudly. As Marianne Williamson so eloquently put it, “…Your playing small does not serve the world. There's nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people won't feel insecure around you.”  Likewise, there’s nothing noble about disregarding ones skin color as a part of who they are.  And this is true, not only for black women but for all women who find themselves looked upon as “other” in their daily lives.

You see the problem isn’t seeing a person’s color.  The problem is seeing a person’s color as a problem and if that’s the case then the problem isn’t yours, but rather it’s the person’s doing the looking.  To see color is racial. To use it as an impediment to another is racist.   Seeing something through the prism of race or culture doesn’t have to be an inherent negative.

So the next time your white co-worker asks to touch your braids or ends a happy moment with a “Can I get a what what?!” don’t assume that she’s being racist or stereotyping you. She might be doing her very best to connect with you based on the bit of pop culture she consumes.  Hell yeah, she looks silly, but it’s at least a genuine attempt to value what’s different about you in an environment that’s teaching you to hid it.   I’d much rather engage that person, than the one who sees color and avoids speaking to or hiring you.

Thank you for checking out my column “Mansitioning.”  I hope you’ll leave feedback and follow me on Facebook @ http://www.facebook.com/mansitioning and on twitter (https://twitter.com/mansitioning). Please share your thoughts, problems, inspirations, relationship questions, etc. and spread the word.

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