Teachers shift their eyes left and upward as they mentally go along the rows or seating groups, counting on their fingers when asked how many Black or Latino students are in their class. In our teaching mode, we notice who seems to be understanding, who looks puzzled, who is not paying attention. We look at the whole, see our class as one entity, but when working with individuals, we often need to pay attention to their ethnic and cultural variations.
A generation or two ago in America, we heard people -- mostly White people -- say, “I’m colorblind.” They meant a person’s skin color didn’t matter to them. Peace. Love. Brotherhood.
Today, Black folks flinch when they hear that phrase. Some view it as a sign of disrespect. Others see it as racist.
I’m not colorblind. I notice other people of color -- on the street, in a hallway, in a store, at a highway rest stop. But, I don’t think, “Oh, there’s a White person.” when I see one. That is, unless I am traveling in Africa. When in Mexico or South America and I see a White person, I wonder, “Do they speak English?”
I’m not colorblind. I notice whether a newly-met person is Black, White, Asian, or Latino. For one thing, I’m human, curious, interested in people and who they are. As a writer, I observe physical features, voices, accents, and mannerisms. On observation, I may speculate about people’s historical background and what they might have experienced in their lifetime.
Regardless of a person’s ethnicity, I look for ways we can connect. I see them, but my decision to interact with them or to become friends is not based on skin color or cultural group. It’s about our commonalities, whether we have similar interests, values, or upbringing.
Do we automatically become friends? No. But we have a starting place and a good chance. How they treat me and others, whether we can laugh together, our ability to listen to and respect each others’ point of view when our beliefs and experiences are not in harmony, the truth of our words, and the trust we build. These factors nurture friendship.
How comfortable do you feel in stepping outside your own group to make new friends? Has doing so affected your outlook and thinking? And, how do you think being your friend has affected them?
~ xo A ~