The plea of colorblindness is a common plea of (mostly white) well-intentioned people. Of course the actual inability to see colors is not being claimed, but rather there is a seeing *beyond* a person’s color that is implied. This colorblindness takes Dr. King’s dream that one day his children would be judged for the content of their character and not the color of their skin and twists it to say that seeing each other’s color is somehow bad.
For years, I struggled with this part of the dream-turned-nightmare, trying to communicate how dehumanizing it is to be told that when I am seen, my color is not a part of what is seen. That people meant well when they said it only intensified the burden.
Years ago, I found an answer. I continue to instruct women in this way today. So, if you are a woman reading this please, recall a time when you were the only woman on a board or a committee. Go “back there” and remember. Please, get in touch with that experience. Take moments to really feel it before continuing to read this.
And, now, imagine one of the men on that committee or board turning to you one day just before the meeting began—maybe while you are both getting coffee. Imagine him turning to you and saying to you with satisfaction and pride, “(Fill in your name), when I look at you, I don’t see a woman.” Stay there. Feel for as long as you can…God is with you, so you can allow yourself to feel it.
Do you feel affirmed or complimented? More assured and confident? Able to give your best at that meeting? What are you feeling?
This is one reason I am so grateful to work with women. White women have a bridge; within their flesh and bones is a way to a visceral and imprinted understanding of how being told “when I look at you, I don’t see your color” is not a positive statement. On this day, I pray we each commit ourselves to going deeper in our understanding of King’s dream; and may we, together, discover ways to bring that dream to life in full, living color!
Inez Torres Davis is Women of the ELCA’s director for justice.