When I first got my car two years ago, I discovered something I’d missed during the test drive – there was a significant blindspot over my left shoulder. Uncomfortably so.
I was paranoid about that blindspot. Changing lanes, I’d twist and turn again and again, fearing I was missing an oncoming car. In all my twisting and turning I was a bit of a road hazard and had to consciously train myself to stop the paranoia and trust that I knew how to use my mirrors as aides.
And then one cloudy day when I wasn’t wearing my sunglasses, I realized the blindspot wasn’t there!
What? That’s when I realized it was the arm of my sunglasses, which was attached midway down the frame, that was blocking the view out of the corner of my left eye, not a blindspot in my car.
I bought new glasses, ones with the arms attached at the top of the frame and Voilá! Problem solved.
Blindspots are like that. We use the same set of eyes, with the frame we’re most comfortable with, to view the world. In our comfort, we cannot see the places where our view of reality is blinding us to the reality of others.
Like racism. It has always been amongst us. It’s just many of us were blind to its pervasive presence as well as our contribution to its presence, until the conversation could not be avoided any longer because it was marching right before our eyes and could not be denied.
For those of us for whom the colour of our skin has seldom given us cause to question or even talk about our privilege, nor our inherent biases, it can feel stressful, uncomfortable, disorienting to face our own, as Robin D’Angelo calls it in her same-named book, “White Fragility“.
What if we change our glasses?
What if instead of seeing our discomfort of our ‘white fragility’ as something to be ignored or pushed away or angrily denied, we decided to embrace it and say, “Bring it on. I’m willing to feel this so others do not feel ‘less than’ around me. I am willing to break open my privilege, along with my mind and heart, and be vulnerable to change because what’s happening in today’s reality for so many is not good for anyone. And I do not want my privilege to undermine the well-being of others any longer.”
As a person who fits within the context of being ‘white skinned’, it is easy for me to say, “I don’t see colour.” I haven’t had to. My life is founded on a cultural belief that has survived centuries of life on earth that insinuates (and at times blatantly states), ‘white has more value than black.’
In the world of colour, white actually has no value. It is the reflection of light and gains value through the reflection of other colours. Like rainbows. Sunlight shines through water molecules in the air after a rain and is refracted so that we can see it dancing in a rainbow of colour arcing across the sky.
Without voices of colour speaking up about their experiences, informing those of us without colour about what it means to be devalued in this world because of the colour of your skin, we would not understand the totality of our whiteness in today’s world.
We have that chance. Right now. To listen. To hear. To understand. To learn. To grow and to see the world in all its beautiful colours.
We have the chance to change our glasses.
For real, lasting change to happen, we must stop seeing racism as ‘someone else’s issue’ and see it as ours too, because our whiteness blinds us to the truth about colour. In that discomforting place of recognizing our own culpability in creating the world in which we live, we have the opportunity to refract light differently.
And when we do that, we get to see the world is not black and white. It is a beautiful dance of colour creating rainbows everywhere. And in that light, the world is a much kinder, equal and just place for everyone to shine for all their worth.