The Soapbox: It’s Impossible To “Not See Color,” No Matter What Kim Kardashian Says
As most people already know, the ubiquitous Kim Kardashian and Kanye West are expecting a baby. I’m happy for them. Unlike most people, I don’t mind Kim Kardashian. She makes an obscene amount of money for being herself (or the version of herself she wants us to see). I’m someone who’d be happy to make an obscene amount of money the same way.
Despite being here for the media blitz surrounding the Kimye bebe, a recent statement the mom-to-be made gave me to pause. And, no, I’m not talking about that weird fake tweet.
In an interview with BET, Kim Kardashian said, “I have a lot of friends that are all different nationalities, and their children are bi-racial. So they have kind of talked to me a little bit about it, what to expect and what not to expect. I think that the most important thing is how I would want to raise my children, is just to not see color. That’s important to me.”
I’m sure the sentiment comes from a loving place. At its core, it’s apparent Kim doesn’t want her child to judge people based on their ethnicity and doesn’t want them to be bound to all the baggage that comes with misunderstanding the place of ethnicity in one’s identity. This is noble.
However, the idea of not seeing color is fundamentally problematic and does more harm than good.
In my opinion, the concept of raising your child not to see color is ludicrous. I believe such an idea is a way of us collectively absolving ourselves of the responsibility to have the uncomfortable discussions about race with our children and each other. It also blocks the hope of real dialogue starting.
The statement, “Oh I didn’t even notice you were black. I don’t see color,” has been said to me on countless occasions. It’s patronizing and insulting. Unless you’re blind, you did see my color.
People who claim not to see color and seek to spread the idea that others shouldn’t, tend to occupy positions of privilege. They’re fortunate enough to have access to a world where the pervasive and insidious impact the construct of color has cannot be felt. Of course you can make flippant remarks about not seeing color! The problematic connotations behind this complex social construct don’t impact you.
The “I don’t see color” way of living is both specious and dangerous. We cannot fix our race (or class and gender) issues by pretending these constructs do not exist. No problem has ever been solved by silence. We cannot inoculate our children from the perils of this world, by teaching them to be blind to the obvious. Life will happen to them. All children will eventually see color. For they will be thrust into a world, where empirical evidence demonstrates that things like color, gender and sexuality, have the power to shape perception and the trajectory of your life.
We cannot feed children utopian ideas about a world that doesn’t exist. You see no matter what people like Kim K teach their children, people do see color. And there’s no problem with that!
There is such beauty in our diversity to simply ignore it would be doing a disservice to us all. Furthermore, contrary to perception, most people have no issue with another person acknowledging their race. The issue arises when a person sees someone’s color and makes assumptions based on it. Inequality is fostered when people discriminate against others due to color or incorrectly infer that due to their color, they must exhibit certain behaviors or possess inherent traits.
Growing up, my parents had candid conversations with me about color. These conversations were unavoidable. I had a surname that none of my teachers could pronounce, hair that other children would ask questions about (and touch) and they’d drilled into me that to be viewed by some as competent, I would have to be excellent. Initially their words didn’t have gravitas, because I was a child who simply wanted to play and avoid bedtime.
One day, around age 7, I remember approaching a group of older children in the playground. My normal group of friends were still in the lunch hall and I needed company.
“Can I join you?” I asked.
“No,” one of the boys responded.
“’Cos you’re black.” I remember in that moment, feeling like someone had viciously ripped a mask off of my face without my consent and I could never put the mask back on. Those three words felt like knives.
I felt exposed and I felt a loneliness so crushing, that I spent much of my teenage years trying to avoid it. None of the other children said anything and I walked away, puzzled and hurt by the exchange. I intuitively knew what he said was wrong, however all of us were too young to understand why.
We are a society in desperate need of having healthier and more fleshed-out dialogues about race, gender and sexuality with each other and our children. We cannot afford to raise our children not to see these things. We must raise them to view them appropriately, not ignore them all together.