Do you “see color” when you look at people? I do…..

So, here in the United States there are some people who believe we live in a “post racist” society.  Apparently some of these people are even my friends on Facebook, based on some of the posts I see on their walls.  Interesting…  It always amazes me when I see comments such as “I am not racist, but…”  That “but” says a lot about how you really feel inside, whether you know it or not.  While explicit racism is not as common as it once was, implicit racism is rampant.

You may be wondering, “what is implicit racism?”  Well, good thing for you I wrote a paper and did extensive research for my Research Methods class last semester on implicit racism, explicit racism and and how those things make us value (or not) diversity.  So explicit racism is overt, obvious……using the N word, talking openly about people who are not white, or Christian, or middle class being “less than” or not as good as the person who is doing the speaking. It is easy to see and hear their racist beliefs and we can choose to avoid them, if we don’t want to be exposed to that nonsense..

Implicit racism is harder to see, and is usually a set of thoughts or stereotypes or biases we believe and act on, whether we are aware of it or not.  Such as crossing the street if we see a black man walking on our side of the street, clutching our purse a little tighter, thinking poor people are “lazy”, or just don’t try “hard enough” to get themselves out of poverty.

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But I think we are dealing with another form of implicit racism these days.  People who want so much not to be looked at as racist or biased that they go to great lengths to publicly state their “non bias”.  They say things like, “I don’t see color when I look at people.”  Ok, at the risk of getting yelled at, I am going to publicly say I think that is a ridiculous statement.

*ducking to avoid tomatoes*

Okay, now before you get your undies in a bunch, I DO understand what they mean, but I think by saying they don’t “see color” they are actually devaluing diversity and cultural differences.  There are cultural differences (in my humble opinion) between races.  They may be small, but they are there.  I think these differences should be celebrated, not done away with.  Cultural diversity (in fact ALL diversity) makes the tapestry of humanity more colorful and vibrant, it doesn’t detract from that.  Why would we want everyone to be the same??? What an incredibly boring world that would be!!

So I am going to say I DO see color when I see people.  I see all the beautiful shades of skin tone, and hair color and hair texture.  I see eye color, and body size, and fully-abled or less-abled bodies.  I see gender, whether male, or female or ambiguous.  I see age, and sometimes I can see wealth or poverty.  I see all of those things when I look at people.  That doesn’t make me a racist.  It makes me observant.

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In my opinion, the problem is not in seeing our differences, but in assigning stereotypes and biases to the people we see based on what we see.  To assume when we see a black person that the color of their skin somehow tells us something about their character is the problem.  To see an Asian person and assume they are good at math is the problem. To see a brown person and assume they are not hard working is the problem.   To place stereotypes and bias on a person merely by looking at them IS THE PROBLEM!! This does not just apply to the color or “hue” of someone’s skin, but also their gender, their physical bodies, their mental abilities.

Think about it, we can’t even assume that a person with darker pigmented skin is “african”.  They may be of Caribbean, or African, or Middle Eastern, or indigenous heritage.  They may be biracial, or multiracial.  We can assume very little about someone based on external appearances.  Assumptions and assigning stereotypes is the enemy, NOT seeing their “color”.

I think if we do want to truly become a post racist society we really need to think about this, and start valuing all humans for their differences, not try to make all humans the same. Do you “see color” when you look at people?

Go ahead and “see” a person’s color, and celebrate it!  Move past bias and stereotypes and get to know the person,  no matter what they look like on the outside. Find something of value in them, and remove the stereotype! THEN maybe we can become the post racist society I dream of us becoming!

I believe with all my heart that we can overcome bias and stereotypes that cause so many people difficulty.  Join me in this effort!

Read more about Women’s Lives here. Women’s stories are important!

 

#womenslives

The stories about women’s lives are important! #Womenslives

I have been blogging for 5 years.  I have been very fortunate to have had my stories featured on BlogHer, Ten to Twenty Parenting, mom.me, The Next Family and Seattle Lesbian.  I have been extremely fortunate to have a couple of posts syndicated, but none of  that was quite as big as my excitement when I opened my email this week and received and email from SheKnows Media with this information:

“I’m writing to invite you to participate in a media partnership with She Knows Media and Public Radio International on a groundbreaking journalism project launching tomorrow, TUESDAY, FEBRUARY 3, called Across Women’s Lives.”

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The email went on to explain what this is all about:

“Across Women’s Lives seeks to change the conversation in news media, because women’s lives are newsworthy. It is an in-depth series by PRI that will reveal the strong connection between the empowerment of women and girls, and economic development and improved health around the world.

PRI is combining deep-focus reporting on women throughout the world with unprecedented outreach so that these stories are heard and can make a difference. It’s funded in part by a grant from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.”

OMG!!!  Breath, Carol…….

That was truly a squeeeeee moment for me.  I am a feminist to my core, and women are a vital part of my life.  To have the opportunity to tell women’s stories is an amazing thing.  News stories about women comprise only 24% of all news coverage is about women and PRI and SheKnows Media intend to change that!  I am going to do my part to change that as well.

This is definitely a labor of love, because although the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation has funded part of PRI’s coverage nobody who participates in the campaign is being paid.  We are participating because we know it is important and #womenslives matter!!

So let’s tell some stories about #womenslives!!

A grassroots movement to change our Homeowners Association Board

Karol and I purchased a house in a very nice neighborhood about 8 years ago. Before that she was stationed in Pennsylvania, and I was living in a little three-bedroom house I had purchased after my divorce. I loved that little house because it was something I bought on my own with my own credited and just my income. It felt like a major accomplishment to be able to provide that for my kids. It was a very small house in a working class neighborhood and I loved it.

I was a single working mom, and my kids went to daycare at a Baptist church just outside the neighborhood. While at the daycare my younger son became good friends with one of the other boys and was invited to a birthday party. When I took The Genius to the birthday party I just thought their house was the most elegant and beautiful home I had ever been in. I drove around the neighborhood and just fell in love with it. The houses were pretty, there was an elementary school in the neighborhood, a pool, tennis courts, and it was clean and tidy. It was just a very pretty place, and I wished I could live there.

Fast-forward about 6 months, and Karol was up for orders. We wanted her back in Virginia, so she chose to go back to sea duty and was able to get orders back to Hampton Roads. We were ecstatic and I started looking for homes. Of course the first place I looked was in the neighborhood that I had fallen in love with and a realtor and I started looking at houses. There was one house I really liked, but unfortunately by the time my realtor was able to write up a contract and get it to their realtor, the house was already under contract. What a bummer. So Karol and I expanded our search area and started looking in Hampton as well as Chesapeake and Suffolk. We actually started looking into building a house in Hampton, and gave them a down payment, and then I realized (thank goodness) that the house was being built on wetlands, so although we were promised a ¼ acre lot, 90% of the ¼ acre was on wetlands and we could not utilize it as a backyard. Since this was not disclosed to us when we made our down payment we were able to get out of that deal, and found ourselves back at square one.

However, as it turns out the house I really loved in Suffolk was available because the buyers had not been able to secure financing. Their loss was my gain, and Karol agreed to let me start paperwork to buy the house. It is the house we live in now, and it was in the neighborhood I fell in love with, Burbage Grant. We moved into this neighborhood in July 2006, and spent that summer getting acclimated to a new neighborhood, and a new town. The next summer our youngest two kids joined the neighborhood swim team, and had such a great time hanging out with their friends from school during the summer. It was a wonderful experience for my kids, and we became a part of the swim team “family”.

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Unfortunately there was some pushback from some of our community leaders against the swim team and we had a very bad experience with the Homeowners Association Board, which I wrote about. Because of the negative, and very public way the HOA Board opposed the swim team, the parents got together and decided to start a grass roots movement to unseat the board and oust the negative board members who had been on the board for at many years with no opposition. In fact, the people who live here had become so apathetic because we did not feel the HOA Board was reasonable, that no one even bothered to show up to the annual meeting to try to make a change. It wasn’t until a group who has a shared interest in something they value felt threatened, that we were able to get the ball rolling for change. One of the parents stepped up to run for a seat on the board, and other neighbors who supported the swim team but did not have kids on the team also stepped forward. The team parents gathered their momentum, and proxies, and we successfully voted in a new HOA Board that was more positive towards the team. Democracy is a beautiful thing.

We thought this would move the neighborhood forward in a positive way, however we were wrong. The previous HOA President took every opportunity to speak negatively about the new board, and even started quite nasty threads on a Facebook page. He made snide comments about the newly appointed board president, and called him out publicly on several occasions. He accused the new President of not understanding the HOA finances, and spending money thoughtlessly, and not being a team player, amongst other things. He rallied supporters and they would attend each monthly Board meeting with the intention (at least that is how it appeared) of undermining the President at every turn. This caused a very clear divide in the neighborhood and people started bickering publicly on Facebook. Talk about a public way to bring down our house values!!!!

Well, I am glad to report that just this week we had our annual meeting. It was extremely well attended, and both sides of the debate brought in people and proxies so they could attempt to sway the vote one way or the other. The old guard was not successful, and again for the 2015 year we have people on our HOA Board who believe in community unity and family activities, as well as fiscal responsibility. I can only hope that with this second round of the community speaking quite loudly the troublemaker will finally slink away and realize his time is done.

I love democracy, and the ability to make changes with voting and canvassing. This is our democratic process in action, and it makes me proud that I believe in something so much that I am willing to fight for it!!