Please, “See My Colour”
Many of my white friends have bought my memoir, and because it is on race, they think they are reassuring me and our relationship by saying they have never seen my colour or thought of me as any different from them. But to be a better friend I want you to see my colour. By not seeing my colour you are also not seeing the racism that POC (people of colour) face. My challenge to you is to move from being “not racist” to being “anti-racist.” But how can you fix something that you cannot see?
Skin colour matters because many POC experience racism because of their colour. By not seeing my colour , you are ignoring the problems POC experience because of their colour. Seeing colour means you can acknowledge the experiences POC face as real. I have spent most of my working life where my friends and colleagues have denied that my experiences could be because of race. They clung to the belief that they live in Canada and that Canadians are not racist. When you move quickly to invalidate the reality of a POC, because their experience is different from yours, you miss an opportunity to learn and grow.
My challenge is to be “colour brave” and not “colour blind.” I would like to challenge everyone who reads my blog to not be colour blind.
Let’s dig deeper to the “I don’t see colour” myth.
Do you feel uncomfortable if you are in the presence of many Black men? If yes, you see colour.
Do you clutch your purse in an elevator when there is a Black man next to you? If yes, you see colour.
What would you think of your white child dating or marrying someone Black? If concerned, you see colour.
Do you avoid neighbourhoods where many POC live? If yes, you see colour.
Does your impression of me fall into a Black stereotype? If yes, you see colour.
A white friend reacted to my memoir in which I described as addressing microaggressions I experienced in 2 work places. She immediately assumed that I must have been an angry black woman “aggressive, loud, angry …” without even reading or trying to understand what I really experienced.
I want to delve in even deeper to make you see that prejudice does exist and is pervasive and covert today to “visible minorities.” Some of you who have said to me that you don’t see my color are white, Poles, Jews, Italians, French Canadian and Canadians of Western European heritage. You are all seen as White Canadians, you are not a visible minority. Whether it was the accent of your parents or your last names your ethnicity or the community in which you lived in Canada a few decades ago, you probably experienced prejudice from the Anglo-Saxons majority. Prejudice is defined as an opinion about someone simply based on that person’s membership to a particular group. For example, people can be prejudiced against someone else of a different ethnicity, gender, or religion. “If someone is acting on their prejudices, they are pre-judging someone before they even get a chance to know them on a deeper level.” Reference: Very Well Mind
My white friend of German heritage shared that her parents came to Canada after World War 2 and experienced slurs and negative comments frequently.
My white Jewish friend says that he was constantly called names in the school yard in Montreal in the sixties
My Polish friend said that the parents of Anglo-Saxon girls would not let their daughters date someone Polish
My French-Canadian girlfriend said that her mother specifically told her that she shouldn’t date anyone Black.
My Italian friend said she grew up in Toronto in the seventies being called a Wop outside of her Italian community.
So why do you think that things have changed for visible minorities? What is so different today than when you were growing up? Why is it so hard to believe that visible minorities are experiencing covert racism and prejudice because of their ethnicity and colour?
Please, my white friends, “see my colour” and do something about it. As people of colour we need you to come on board and see what is happening all around you.
How can you change yourself, or the social systems around you – if you do not believe there is a problem in the first place?