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I do not see color

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Willie Mae Samuel

Willie Mae Samuel, founder and director of the African American Connection for the Performing Arts in Rome

What is wrong with us seeing each other? There is a commercial with the individual asking the world to “See me.” This one is about eczema or psoriasis and the fear is that the discoloration of the skin is the first thing that people see and not her/him. Is it out of fear of being known that many feel relieved when told, “I do not see color?” Just walk away from an individual who says that to you. What he is actually saying is, “I do not accept your difference, so I will pretend not to see you.”

We have many whites and blacks who readily say "I do not see color" and it grieves me to no end to hear it. I am reminded of the point made in Ralph Ellison’s book “The Invisible Man.” Do you know how it feels to be standing at the checkout counter and the cashier continues to hold a conversation with her last customer and never acknowledges your presence? Have you ever been construed by others as a collection of general stereotypes rather than an actual, individual person?

That is what happens to you when a person says “I do not see color.” One should not agree with such a blatant lie. Do we say that to those of the same race? No! Why? Because we are seeing color as we speak those words to people who are different. These kind of views extend to the invisible man actually living out others' views of his invisibility. For some reason we think when we say that “I see color” is to say “I see you as different.” To say “I do not see color” is a crushing blow to our Creator, as well as the individual to whom one is speaking. You are saying, “I fail to see your beautiful brown, red, black or white skin tone.” My question is, what is wrong with different? The Creator saw us in color and most importantly He made us different in color/hue and many other aspects. Out of all the humans on earth the Creator made each one different. No two individuals have the same fingerprints.

When that statement is made I pray that the individual is trying to hopefully say, “I see that your color is not like mine, but since you were made by the same creator as I, I do not regard that difference as meaning that you are any less a human being than I.” We need to just stop saying that and begin to accept each other as different. We need to realize that they do not have to pass our bias test in order to be treated as a human being, having all of the same human rights and privileges made available in this great world of ours — especially those granted by the Constitution of the U.S.A.

People are getting hurt because that kind of thinking. I am reminded of the young lady who went off to college in Texas, and she, along with her close (white) friend, had two other roommates (white). One day one of the white roommates noticed an oily substance on her headboard. She looked at it and began to grimace with disgust and disdain. She remembered that the black roommate had propped up on her side of the bed earlier that day. So she looked at the black girl and asked, “What is this filth that is on my headboard?” The black girl was embarrassed and apologized with no explanation and went on to say, “I am not sure but I will clean it off.”

To save shame and pain, please see color and understand differences. Black people must use oil on their hair even after washing the hair, oil must be used to reduce breakage. Some call it grease. Many other races, on the other hand, must wash the oil out of their hair. The young lady was ashamed of the difference, so much so that she would not explain that simple fact to her roommates. The next year she changed roommates. One is not sure if the roommates would have asked her to remain with them if she had explained to them that she was different in that manner and many of her other characteristics were different.

All of this talk about unity is great, but we must also remember that in order to have unity in a home, a community, a state or a country, the group must be of one accord. Let us remember the instructions by Jesus to the disciples. He said, “Go to the upper room and persevere, spend time with each other praying and eating together, desiring to become as one with your thinking and your behavior." They were instructed to prepare themselves to receive the decisive and powerful gift. When you do that, Jesus said, “I will send power in the person of the Holy Ghost.” Let us be of one accord so that God can do his will in us. If we are not engaging in the things that divide us, we are wasting precious time discussing pleasantries to make ourselves feel good.

It is much ado about nothing if the Creator is not the center. Please see me.

Willie Mae Samuel is a playwright and a director in Rome.