“Racism isn’t about how you look, it’s about how people assign meaning to how you look.” ~ Robin D.G. Kelley
Race is an illusion.
The very notion and idea of categorizing people based on how much melanin they have in their skin is a man-made idea—as humans, we feel the need to classify everything.
It makes us more comfortable. We know what to do with it if it makes sense.
Yet, what we are really doing is dividing ourselves from our greatest power—our collective differences.
Today, we are celebrating the great Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and the effect he had on the Civil Rights Movement. Unfortunately though, while we have come far as a nation—we still have far to go.
The reality is that I am not white and you are not black. We are people, born together, living together, trying to make this world a better place, and loving like it’s our only job.
I am not a label. While I am proud of my heritage and the ancestors who travelled to the United States from Poland, Russia, and Slovakia, it’s that background that makes me who I am, not the fact that I inherently have light skin. And the same is true for any of us—it’s where we come from that can define a part of who we are, not the color of our skin.
Racism is not dead, and as long as it—and reverse racism—are still present, we will never truly grow and evolve as a nation. Hating me because of my skin color won’t stop someone from hating you because of yours.
I understand the injustices that have been historically demonstrated against those with darker skin, and my eyes are open to what is currently happening in our world. I can comprehend why some people would just hate those with light skin—but while these feelings can be superficially comforting, it’s not going to change anything for anyone.
As Dr. King said, “Hate can’t drive out hate, only love can do that.”
Whether we believe in God, or some other divine being, or nothing at all, the reality is that we were not put upon this earth to hate—but to love.
Our purpose here on this beautiful planet is to embrace our neighbors, our brothers, and our sisters, and come together valuing our differences without allowing them to separate us.
Today I stop and wonder what Dr. King would think of our society, and if he would truly feel that we have accomplished the dreams he had for us.
While we have made progress, I still think he would shed a tear, on bended knee—because it seems we still haven’t gotten it.
The point is to not judge someone based on their skin color, or to think that somehow, it can determine anything—whether it’s character, success or even love.
But, I have faith.
I believe that we are capable of achieving great things. Someday, there won’t be a box to check off on a form so everyone knows how to label us. There won’t be terms like “affirmative action,” “biracial children,” or even “interracial marriage” because we will have finally seen that these terms were given to us to help keep us down—by those who were seeking to divide us, rather than inspire us to come together.
We are people—mothers, fathers, women and men—who are striving to live this life in the best way that we can, and I’m done wearing the weight of race around my neck. I’m done letting someone think that I can be defined by such limited ideals. I’m done with being white. I’m done with checking off boxes on forms, and I’m done with playing into this “me and them” mentality.
There is only us.
The longer we let the status quo remain, the longer we will find ourselves on either side of the race war.
The fact remains that in just days, President Barack Obama will be handing off the presidency to President Elect Donald Trump—who has been endorsed by the Ku Klux Klan. I understand that things seems bleak because there are still hate groups out there that look to feed upon our insecurities and misunderstandings involving our differences, but there is also so much love.
I don’t think that we are doomed, but I do think we need to step up.
None of us are exempt from taking a stand against this issue—because we all have a stake in it.
It has to spread like wildfire, like an evolution of love, because what has been happening clearly isn’t working. According to The Washington Post, in 2015 alone, an unarmed black man was shot and killed by cops every nine days. This is the reality of the world that we are living, and part of it is because we aren’t talking about it.
We’re ignoring it, holding tight to those little boxes we can check off to feel safe.
Nothing is going to change until we make the choice to stop classifying ourselves by the color of our skin. No longer will we let someone tell us what their expectations are because of it, what we should or shouldn’t be doing because of it, and perhaps most of all, no one is going to tell us who we are because of it.
I am not white, and you are not black.
We’re us, you and me, not them.
And just maybe, when we can get to that point, Dr. King’s dream will become a reality. Because at the end of day, the simple truth is that we’re all just walking each other home.
Author: Kate Rose
Editor: Catherine Monkman