Friday, February 26, 2016

One day ... but not yet

I've been listening once again to some of the great music on the original Playing for Change Album, Songs Around the World.  (And if you don't know about this amazing project, both where have you been and please go check it out right now.  I'll wait.)

One of the songs they covered is Bob Marley's "War/No More Trouble."  (Those two songs are often tied together.)  As I'm listening to it lately I find that it's pulling together some of my thoughts about the idea that "colorblindness" is the ideal and that talking so much about race and racism actually exacerbates the problem.  Check out these lyrics (which I've written to reflect the fabulous phrasing of the Playing for Change version):

the philosophy that holds one race superior
and another
is finally
and permanently
and abandoned
everywhere is way (me say war)

until there are no longer first class
and second class citizens
of any nation
until the color of a man's skin
is of no more significance
than the color of his eyes
everything is war (me say war)

Note that it doesn't say, "the color of a man's skin is of no more significance than the color of his eyes."  That's what the advocates of colorblindness would say.  (And they'd likely quote Dr. King's famous affirmation of a world in which people are "not judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character."  See?  Even the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. says that color doesn't matter!

Well, not exactly.  What Dr. King said was that he has a dream that one day that such a society will exist in which the color of one's skin doesn't matter.  "Dream" indicates that it's not yet a reality; "one day" reminds us that it's not so today.

And Bob Marley wrote, "until the color of a man's skin is of no more significance than the color of his eyes ..."  Until...  I have a dream that one day...

And that's the problem (one of them!) that I have with the assertion that we should be acting as if this were a "colorblind" world.  Because it's not.  And, ironically, the only way to get to that promised land is for folks like me who think of themselves as white to see what people of color see and live with every day -- it is not that way now.  Only by seeing clearly how it is do we have any hope of getting to the place where it should be.

And I believe that we will be able to get there one day.  That one day people will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character.  That one day the color of a person's skin will be of no more significance than the color of their eyes.  One day.  But the dream will remain a dream unless and until the reality of how things are is recognized, truly seen, and deeply understood by those of us who people see as white (who are, for the moment at least, still the majority of people in this country and who absolutely are the architects of our country's dominant -- and dominating -- culture).

Pax tecum,


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1 comment:

Margaret Kantz said...

My friend is an RE director for a UU church here in central Indiana. She's also the caucasian mother of two black sons. Fifth Sunday is social justice Sunday, and she read the kids a fantastic book called Ron's Big Mission, which tells a story out of astronaut Ron McNair's childhood in 1950s South Carolina. She showed the pictures and asked the kids to describe Ron. They went through every available adjective except "black." And she asked them why that was, since being black isn't a bad thing. And no one was exactly able to say why.

While it wasn't an explicit part of the follow-up discussion, one of her points is that if her kids and their friends from church decide to play hide and seek at night, or listen to their music too loudly, or wear hoodies or..., their friends, well intentioned and liberal as they may be, can't be advocates and allies for her boys if they aren't even able to articulate that the categories, biologically fictitious though they may be, still have real and dangerous consequences for those the world sees as "black."