Love See No Color, Or Does It?

The Shirt in Question

The Shirt in Question

Recently, because I’ve scribbled some ideas down about being called the f-word (i.e., foreigner) here in Taiwan, where I live, in both a Word Press-posted entry and a currently ongoing-yet-unfinished piece about my daughter, who is mixed-race, also being called a foreigner here, I’ve been regularly contemplating the concept, and may I dare say—issue, of race. Pondering the definition of race and all that that entails, questioning the tendency for some to eagerly point out race, and wondering about the need for others to not accept race at times, have all prompted me to recall a t-shirt I wore in college back in the early 90s. Said shirt simply stated, “Love See No Color.”

Though most details are rather vague nowadays, I recall I had purchased the shirt at a table set up on campus by some now long forgotten, at least by me, student organization at the University of Minnesota. Whatever club it was doesn’t matter now, but it remains with me that the sentiment in the shirt’s saying was powerful. I, some would say blindly, accepted the notion that we should not see color, that we should only see someone else as being just that: a person. Having considered myself somewhat more educated and more experienced than the kid I had been in high school just a few years before, especially having come from a school that wasn’t racially diverse at the time, I labeled my undergrad days as very eye opening. Fortunate to break out of my formerly, periodically, narrow-minded self was I.

Not long before purchasing this shirt, I had had a related experience that had also stretched my horizons a bit more than I’d ever been permitted or allowed myself to be, theretofore. Sometimes such growth is uncomfortable, pushing us out of our comfort zone of habit and scripted thinking. While I was driving through downtown Minneapolis (USA) one particular day with the gal I was dating, I pointed out—-without thinking about what I’d said—-that some bloke had nearly stepped into oncoming traffic, stating, “Did you see that black guy almost get hit by that car?”

Without hesitation, she retorted, “Mike, why did you even mention his race? Would you have said, ‘Did you see that white guy?’ if the man had been white?”

Deep inside, I felt she was right—-even though on the surface I believe I wasn’t sure why it mattered. Back in those days, I recall readily that there was a debate on campus about the need to be so PC. Indeed, however, I wouldn’t have said anything about someone being white by labeling him/her as white. Of course I, being white, wouldn’t have remarked, “Hey, did you see that white guy go out into traffic?” Why did I mention the dude’s skin color? There was no need, right?

To have someone instill in you a sense of seeing the world differently is always a godsend, isn’t it? (In fact, the same gal, whom I’d only dated for a month or so, introduced me to another realm of life I wasn’t familiar with up until then when her college roommate, another member of the U of M’s ladies’ hockey team, came out into the living room one night in tears to reveal to us that she was in love with my date and that I should leave. Oh, the drama that ensued.) Surely, I felt this woman had opened my eyes to a new way of looking at others: simply as human beings. Yet over the years, in retelling this same story, I have heard numerous responses and varied perspectives on the issue. Naturally, I am curious how the blogging community feels.

Back in the early 90s, for the first time really, during that span of personal development called university, I had befriended people from elsewhere: a few international students whom I tutored, free-thinking college kids from other states, big-city-bred blokes, conservatives and liberals alike, and people from different ethnicities, religions, and races. As a result, I felt that donning such a shirt was appropriate, open to all types of people more than in my erstwhile years, which had been mostly because of opportunity–or a lack thereof. Eagerly, I wore it the very next day to my campus job at the library, strutting in like a peacock, proud of my increasingly obvious open-mindedness. In retrospect, I don’t really believe I was necessarily proud of it; the last sentence was just for added effect.

When I sauntered through the door that morning, one of my co-workers, an adult student who was a hell of a lot more liberated and experienced than me, I’d felt, immediately questioned my having bought it in the first place—-and he called me on it, ready for a debate, asking me questions I wasn’t prepared for. Stymied I was. “Egad! Can’t I just wear the shirt without you questioning my choices?” is what I wanted to query in response.

The upshot of that conversation was that love should see color, he thought—-and practically demanded, for if we ignore color and race, we fail to perceive the uniqueness of others; we fail to understand or know more fully. If we disregard someone’s ethnicity, we lose out on what’s special about each of us. Moreover, if we attempt to simply brush aside someone’s race, we risk not recognizing that there are differences, and, as he preached from his soapbox, that isn’t wrong. Differences are what makes the world more interesting.

For many people, it seems, there is a need to intellectualize race, to borrow from a Skunk Anansie song. Had he gone too far in analyzing it that way? Should we be aware of someone’s skin color from the start? Does it matter? Should it? Or was the shirt right? When we meet someone, can we simply dismiss color/race and merely say (internally, I suppose), “Hi. I don’t care if you’re black, white, brown, red or yellow. Nice to meet you.” Or should we stop and say to ourselves, “This guy or gal is of a different race than me,” for whatever purpose, and that is that?

Some days or weeks after my coworker’s questioning my choice in apparel, not sure of how I would establish my own take on the topic, though still leaning more towards the idea that love shouldn’t see color, I found myself the focus again because of the shirt.

Walking down Washington Avenue near the U of M campus, I passed by a black woman (Wait, is it okay for me to point out her race? Twenty-plus years later, I still am on the fence about this topic.), who then called out, with her friend by her side, “I like your shirt, and you’re cute, too.” I wanted to go back and exclaim, “Hey, but wait… my coworker told me I shouldn’t wear this shirt,” but I didn’t, perhaps too overwhelmed with uncertainty about the notion of what the statement strewn across my chest promoted, torn between both outlooks. I wondered why an African-American could appreciate the expression, yet the dude at my job wasn’t comfortable with it.

Later that summer, while backpacking in Europe, I spilled coffee on said shirt, and, somewhat afraid that people would notice the huge brown stain all over the front, I threw it away, worried that others would focus on me for all the wrong reasons: color. Even though twenty years have passed since I donned it, I still don’t have answers to the query: Should we see color?

This entry was posted in Blogs About Anything and tagged , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

9 Responses to Love See No Color, Or Does It?

  1. Esar says:

    I agree completely with you “adult student friends who was a hell of a lot more liberated and experienced than” you, differences should be acknowledged, as this is the only way they can be embraced, because let’s face, my background is vastly different from yours, but in both there is a beautiful tapestry. When we get all hush hush on the things that make us different, then this doesn’t allow us to discover how diverse and colorful the world truly is.

    • vagabondwithfamily says:

      Thank you for commenting, Esar. I appreciate anyone taking the time to read such postings. I surely see your point (and the former co-worker’s), and I completely understand the reasoning. However, I still have gut feeling that we don’t need to focus on skin color or race from the onset, instead trying to focus on our personalities, character, morals, outlooks, and culture. No answers, just perspective, I suppose. By the way, I do agree that we should not be hush, hush about such things as differences, but let’s not make visual differences a priority, I feel.

      Best.

  2. vishalbheeroo says:

    We live in a Global world and I think we should call ourselves global citizens. I still shudder at mindsets who still believe in communalism and racism. That too in this age.
    Cheers
    Vishal
    http://www.vishalbheeroo.wordpress.com

    • vagabondwithfamily says:

      Yes, I would hope that, especially for the sake of my children, that we one day can learn to be so open. Calling ourselves and each other global citizens would be ideal, but I do believe we are still a long way off from that.

      Thanks for responding, Vishal!

      Best,
      MJB

      • vishalbheeroo says:

        It’s entirely my pleasure and couldn’t stop responding to this brilliant post:)

  3. jolynnpowers says:

    I have had feelings very similar to yours and think that world is changing so fast and the mixture of cultures growing everyday that soon we will be laughing at our worries over this topic. Soon the world will be a wonderful mix of browns. yet I am happy to met and enjoy someone from another cutlture no matter what color they are… Their story is the important part.. their traditions and morays of their culture will soon be the only difference between us…. not our color… so does love see color?.. I dont think so, well unless the color is red..?.

    • vagabondwithfamily says:

      Yes, Mountain Mama, the world is bound to be more tolerant (at least my fingers, and toes, are crossed). Yes, I agree that one should appreciate and take into account cultural mores, with less focus on simply color. The world, in my opinion, should be more brown (i.e., that the mixture of races will produce that effect). I feel that even my daughter, who is mixed-race, will not be able to judge whites nor Asians simply because she is of both backgrounds, if I can simplify it that easily in a one sentence upshot.

      Thanks for reading and posting!

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s