Colorblindness Is the Goal

When there is violence against a black person, one of the most common questions I see on social media from my fellow white people is, "Why does this have to be about race?"

Assuming the best of those asking the question, I think this comes out of an honest attempt to not be racist. A lot of us were raised to believe that being "colorblind" was the highest achievable virtue of racial ethics. So when we white folks see people of color bringing up race about any number of topics, we might think that our "Why-does-this-have-to-be-about-race?" question actually puts us on higher moral ground.

I think it might be wise to hold our colorblindness goals loosely when the majority of people who make this the goal are, in fact, white. I'm reminded of the book Animal Farm, where the pigs have taken over and declare, "All animals are equal, but some animals are more equal than others." If the majority people asking for colorblindness are white, then maybe we should start listening to some of the other voices in the room. As New Testament scholar Mitzi J. Smith writes, "Often race, ethnicity, and gender are not just the elephant in the room; it built the room."

Often times these conversations turn into a "quote fest," in which we post the article or statistic that best supports our case. While I personally believe that statistics can tell us something about racism in America (and how that racism is made manifest in our educational, housing, economic, and policing systems), a debate of numbers and charts rarely changes minds.

When I look at how Jesus and Peter dealt with race and ethnicity, I see stories of submission. Jesus submitting to a Greek woman and allowing His initially geographically and racially limited mission to be expanded (Mark 7:24-30). Racially scrupulous Peter (after requiring a literal vision from God) allowed Gentiles into his home and then entered their home and changed his mind on the expansiveness of God's salvation.

In other words, I don't think we're going to move past the goal of colorblindness by throwing statistics at each other Jesus didn't tell the woman, "Actually, Greeks are 28% less likely to be possessed by demons". We grow through relationships and by submitting ourselves to other people's stories and perspectives. "Submit to one another out of reverence for Christ" (Ephesians 5:21).

Now, let's be brutally honest. Most white folks don't have a lot of friends of color. You don't know how to submit yourself to a person of color's experience because you're not just gonna walk up to a stranger of a different race and say, "Teach me about your experience with race." Nor should we presume that every person of color exists to educate us on the things they live with day in and day out.

Friends: this is why books exist. People who are not white have done us an incredible service by writing down their stories and experiences and research. Read them. And, if we're not willing or able to listen to and read about someone else's experiences, then we should grant ourselves permission to simply stay silent. Or better yet, take the advice of Paul, "Rejoice with those who rejoice; mourn with those who mourn." Yes, there is a time to ask questions or attempt to correct someone. But, geez, it's a lot less often than you'd think.

Here are some recommendations on where to start:

The Very Good Gospel, by Lisa Sharon Harper

I'm Still Here, by Austin Channing Brown

The New Jim Crow, by Michelle Alexander

Just Mercy, by Bryan Stevenson