Colorblind No More
By: Jan Smith
Love must be sincere. Hate what is evil; cling to what is good.
Colorblind. That is a word that I have heard a lot, especially in the past few months. “I’m colorblind. I don’t see color.” On the face of it, it seems like a good thing, a virtuous stance implying that the speaker is treating everyone equally. I believe that the truth is far different, although the speaker probably has no idea of the damage that way of thinking can do.
When I think of that word and its implications, I think of something that happened to me in the first semester of my freshman year of college. I was violently assaulted on campus, a crime that if prosecuted today would have resulted in expulsion, likely jail, and lifelong offender registry. None of those things happened, and I lived with guarded apprehension of that individual walking freely along the same paths and into the same buildings as I did for the next four years. Even today I struggle dressing in a feminine way, and everyone who knows me knows that fleeces and baggy pants are my clothes of choice.
But what has that got to do with colorblindness? It was what happened afterwards that gave me some ability to relate today. My mother picked me up from college to give me some time to recover my wits, and I will never forget what my father said to me when I got home. He said, “You’re home now. You’re safe. You don’t have think about it now.” However well-meaning he intended to be, he was telling me to ignore what had happened, put aside everything I was feeling, and not talk about it at home. Family life went on without much change, and I was encouraged to act as if what had happened to me belonged to another world. Of course, it didn’t. It went with me, an ever-present weight that tried to drown me while I was treading water.
My father wanted to create a safe space for me, but I felt trapped with no outlet to share my pain and fear for what was to come, an ordeal that involved the police and ultimately unsympathetic campus officials. My mother, thank God, stood with me through many meetings and helped me draft my victim statement. I was able to talk to her out of the house, but when I came home on the weekends it was back to our family routine and rhythms. I understood that to some degree, but I still felt trapped.
My father did what he felt was best and right at the time. I know that is true, but it didn’t mean that his words and actions met my needs. I need to talk, to share, to cry and wail even, and I wasn’t allowed that.
In the same way, I believe that colorblindness doesn’t allow our brothers and sisters of color to share their experiences and their pain. We are learning this as a fellowship, that our church, our family, should be the place to share our pain and sorrows, no matter how raw and uncomfortable they might be. Colorblindness makes no room for how brothers and sisters of color experience the world. It considers everyone the same and in so doing shuts down conversation in favor of conformity. It leaves the world outside when in truth we carry our experiences with us wherever we go.
I am grateful that we have God’s word and Spirit to guide us and help us change how we think and act. Below is a scripture that I wish my family had embraced at the time, but I am relieved that my spiritual family is determined to live this out as fully as intended.
Carry each other’s burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ.
About the Author: Jan Smith and her husband Eric lead our “Disciples in Motion” here at the Southern CT Church of Christ and have been incredible pillars for this church for many years. Jan has been a disciple since 1986
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