I’ve recently finished reading Why I’m No Longer Talking To White People About Race and I’m near finishing Natives. Reading both books couldn’t have come at a more relevant time for me. I’d found myself losing my voice when it’d come to issues of race. I’d been shut down one too many times, accused of playing the race card, eyes have rolled and I’ve been told my race comes second to my gender. I champion diversity as much as I can, but sometimes people can be selective about how they want to talk about it and often only want to talk about things that they’re comfortable with.
A common retort I hear from a lot of peers is that they’re colour blind and they don’t see colour when they’re making decisions, when people are on stage and so on and so forth. I really wish we lived in a world where race and colour didn’t matter. I wish we lived in a world where equality was that simple. But it’s not.
(And for the record, no one has ever told me that they’re gender blind or age blind, just colour blind. Why is that?)
To be colour blind, is to ignore someone’s race. In my opinion that ignores who they are. It’s to ignore the hurdles that they’ve had to overcome, ignores their culture, their differences and for me personally, ignores a part of who I am.
My blog used to have the catch phrase, small, brown and opinionated.
I am proud of my colour.
I am proud to state it and stand by it because I chose not to ignore it. I grew up being ashamed of my colour, trying desperately to be something I wasn’t. I thought being brown made me ugly. I thought being brown made me stupid. I thought being brown made me different. As a result, other people ignoring me being brown made me shy, made me embarrassed, made me abandon who I really was.
To ignore my colour, to be colour blind, ignores all of those struggles. It ignores all of the differences forced upon me. It ignores every time someone calls me the P-word, it ignores racism, it ignores the isolation of being the only brown person in a room, on stage or in a board meeting. It ignores every time I question whether I’m good enough or if I’m being tokenised because I’m a brown woman who’s under 30 who works in tech.
When I speak about equality, I’m speaking about accepting people for who they are. I’m speaking about creating the space, culture and environment for people to be themselves and to bring their whole self into that space. When I speak about equality, I don’t just mean everyone being treated the same, I mean everyone being accepted for who they are. Equality to me, is recognising all of the differences amongst us, whether it’s race, age, gender, introversion, mental health, everything. We need to accept it and create a space to speak about it so that we build an environment that allows people to flourish.
I’m tired of being told I that I’m the one with the problem because I see my colour. I’m tired of feeling bad when I point out that I’m the only brown person in a room. I’m tired that people are still refusing to accept that I am brown and that I am proud of it.
I don’t want to conform anymore. I don’t want to be told it’s all in my head. I don’t want to ignore the history that’s come before me that’s made the world the way it is. Society is based on racialised versions of reality, that are embedded deeply into our infrastructure, and until that changes, we can’t be colourblind.
I want equality. I want acceptance. I want an honest conversation about colour and what it means in the modern world. Then and only then can we start to think about equality and inclusion.
Please don’t ignore my colour, because if you do, you’re ignoring who I am.