Guest post by Suzann Darnall
There is a series coming to Netflix called “Dear White People”. From what I can learn it is another message to white people to stop being racist. While I am conflicted about Netflix’s role in perpetuating the stereotypes that all white people are racist and that only white people can be racist, I am not currently planning to stop my subscription ‘cause it is actually an essential tool in my quilting. But, I am very sad that there is just one more thing happening that can potentially stir the ashes and embers of racism back into fiery flames.
In the various online sources I researched about “Dear White People” there is a lot said about “white” people need to listen to people of “color” about racism. Well, let us look at one’s definition of “color”. It really depends on what one is referencing when talking about color.
In painting, white is considered to be the absence of all color while black is considered to be the presence of all color. There are three primary colors: red, yellow, and blue. From these colors all other colors are mixed. White and black are added to lighten or darken the colors.
In light, there are a couple of ways light is looked at. In one, white is considered to be the presence of all light, while black is considered to be the absence of all light. In the other, the visible colors are: violet, indigo, blue, green, yellow, orange, and red. White light is a mixture of all the colors of the visible spectrum.
However, in people, color is very different. Most of the time when we talk about white, black, red, or yellow, the people are not actually those colors at all. At least not like the colors happen in a box of crayons or tubes of paint. Even so-called brown people are often a variety of shades ranging from tan to gold to sienna.
All too often people are lumped into categories based on preconceived notions about skin color and race. Skin tones may have little or nothing to do with racial makeup. Most so-called black people in America are a mixture of black, white, and other races. Many so-called white people in America are just as likely to contain some genetic lineage that comes from a so-called person of color member of the family tree.
My own family is pretty much considered by others to be white. However, through family history, adoption, and marriage, we are actually quite the rainbow. We have European, American Indian, Hispanic, Filipino, Oriental, and African.
I am a kind of pale golden cream with peach tones. I am European and American Indian. My hair used to be nearly black and my eyes are dark brown. Most people consider me Caucasian, but when I am forced to declare race I generally prefer American Indian or Native American. This does not mean I reject my “white” ancestry, it just means I hate government bureaucracy and don’t want to be forced into their little type-cast boxes any more than necessary. My preference is to not declare a race or ethnicity at all.
While I do not embrace the classification “white” or the classification “person of color”, I am both. As I said before, many Americans are mixtures. At various times in history some races, ethnicities, and nationalities have been considered different classifications than they are today. Mexican, Hispanic, or Latino used to be categorized as white. In parts of the American South, there was a time when Polynesians were not considered “people of color” and were thus able to go into places open to “whites only”.
Since history has been fluid and flexible about race, even in times of bigotry, shouldn’t we, in our supposedly more enlightened age, learn to be a bit more open and tolerant? Shouldn’t we finally learn that lesson Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. tried so hard to teach us way back in 1963, when he said, “I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character.” But, even more importantly, shouldn’t we learn that he meant this for everyone.
He dreamed of a country where “little black boys and black girls will be able to join hands with little white boys and white girls as sisters and brothers.” A land where “all of God's children, black men and white men, Jews and Gentiles, Protestants and Catholics, will be able to join hands and sing in the words of the old Negro spiritual: Free at last! Free at last! Thank God Almighty, we are free at last!”
Please let us stop looking at each other through the prism of race. A prism divides out the colors. Let us instead look at one another through an open door where nothing can block our view or cause a distortion. Open the doors in hearts and minds. See one another as God sees us. Look to the character. Get to know the person. Don’t just stop with a label. A label that might not even be correct. Black, white, red, brown, and yellow are not always what they seem.
One thing I like to say about color and me is that I am an all American girl. I am truly red, white, and blue. I am part American Indian (red), part European (white), and I was an Air Force dependent for 40 years of my life (blue). These are colors I am proud to claim. But, even they do not totally define me. I am more than colors. All of us are more than colors. Let’s start seeking the other things that make us who we are and finding them in those we meet as well.