I Can Clearly See You Are Black

"I don't see skin color."

Yes you do. I definitely do. Unless you are literally blind and your eyeballs cannot do the special eyeball magic which helps your brain describe your surroundings visually, I'm pretty sure you do too.

When I help clients fill out their biographical information on immigration forms, I don't look at them and ask their race.  I can clearly see if I should mark Black/African, Asian, White etc. 

I know - you don't mean you don't SEE color.  You mean you see everyone the same through your "everyone is valuable" glasses.  But when you try to pretend an obvious physical trait doesn't exist, you are signaling your belief the trait is undesirable, and your goal - valuing people equally - just went in the crapper.  

Pretending you don't see something when you actually DO see it signals you are uncomfortable with the thing.  You don't like the thing.  You wouldn't want the thing in your own life, on your own body, as your own skin.  

My mom has sometimes described me as "the girl with the birthmark".  As in, someone asks "which one is your daughter?" and she responds with "the one with the birthmark."  Some people have balked at this, thinking she was being unkind.  That is dumb.

Other people can clearly see the birthmark on my face.  It sets me apart from whatever sea of people I might be in. Why would she not use this to describe me?

I know why she wouldn't.  She wouldn't use this if she were embarrassed by it, if she were ashamed, if she were uncomfortable. Many people are uncomfortable with it (or think I should be, or assume I am) and this is why they balk at her description.  (Why are you drawing attention to that terribly ugly thing on her face - let's ignore it.) Except my mom knows it isn't something to be embarrassed, ashamed, or uncomfortable about - it's just a thing on my face. (Don't feel bad, she has had years to get used to it.)

I'm notoriously unobservant, but I can clearly see you are black.  

I definitely won't notice your eye color, unless it's crazy striking for some reason, but I'll notice your skin color. I don't know why I would pretend to not see it - that doesn't make any freaking sense and also, take it from someone who has a glaring physical trait which people sometimes try to pretend doesn't exist, it is painfully obvious and awkward.  

(Ending on a side note: awkwardness and discomfort cannot physically hurt us.  Some of us walk around terrified of these feelings.  Idiots. Myself included. Let's choose to be real live people, not icky pretenders afraid of a little discomfort.  Let's grow a pair.)

(Extra side note:  I dislike the terms "black" and "white" because they are not logical descriptors in my opinion.  On those immigration forms I mentioned, a lot of my clients have at some point had their eyes listed as "black."  Black! No. I put my foot down here.  I say no, sir, your eyes are not black. They are an extremely dark brown at most - I have not yet seen anyone with black eyes.  Ridiculous.  Skin is also not white or black except in rare cases, but, alas, these are terms we use and are familiar with.  Also my title would have sounded stupid as, "I Can Clearly See You Are A Dark Shade Of Brown."  More accurate, which would have brought me joy, but we writers have to make sacrifices.)

Hope you are having a fantastic week, whoever you are and wherever you are reading.  I am about to take a walk in the rain.  

I talk more about my birthmark HERE in my essay Pity the Pretty