In a recent interview with Glamour, fashion model Ashley Graham opened up about introducing her Black boyfriend (now husband) to her White parents and grandparents.
“…I never told my grandparents that the man I was bringing home was Black. I naively hoped everyone would be colorblind—which is not what happened,” Graham wrote. “When my grandparents met Justin, my grandmother was cordial but cold. She greeted him and immediately walked away. When it came time for them to leave, my grandparents didn’t even acknowledge him. Instead, my grandmother looked me in the eye, with Justin standing behind me, and said, “Tell that guy I said goodbye.”
When I first read this passage, the part that immediately stuck out was, “I naively hoped everyone would be colorblind.” Those two words have come to represent post-racial progress, but truth be told, it’s a truly unsophisticated goal that’s complete and utter bullsh*t.
When White people propagate the notion of colorblindness, it has come to mean, “I will ignore your skin color because if I see it, I’ll probably dislike you. Instead, I will be blind to your melanin so I can actually treat you the way I naturally treat other White people.”
There are many people of all races who will read this as being unfair. They’ll state that colorblindness is just a semantic phrase which promotes tolerance predicated on cultivating bonds deeper than the pigmentation of our skin. To them, colorblindness is preferential, because it allows people to excavate one’s soul without getting hung up on our superficial differences. Unfortunately, people who utter this nonsense are frighteningly over-apologetic and have a incredibly shallow understanding of human socio psychological development, especially as it relates to people of color.
The pseudo-profundity of “getting to know someone deeper than their skin color” is predicated on the grievous ignorance that one’s melanin—or lack thereof—doesn’t impact who that person is. But our Blackness intrinsically shapes our worldview because in many ways, our Blackness predetermines how we exist in the world.
Dealing with racism will shape who you are beneath your skin, just as profiting from privilege for an entire lifetime will shape someone else. Dealing with racialized microaggressions everyday will shape who you are. Dealing with colorism will shape who are you. Dealing with being gay and Black and facing intersectional oppression will shape who you are. The simplistic ideology that our souls are unaffected by society’s superficial and prejudiced standards is not only wantonly senseless, but downright insulting.
When you meet another human being, you aren’t just engaging with an amalgamation of random ideologies and thoughts wrapped in flesh and solidified by bone; you’re engaging with a being whose very essence has been deeply constructed by their identity and lived experiences. This is true of anyone you date, even those who you seemingly share much in common with.
So when you find yourself in a position to date someone from the opposite end of the spectrum, it’s even that much more important that you and your family not be blind to any part of their being. If you do so, you’ll be intentionally and willfully ignoring embracing the totality of them. It’s demanding that they shrink themselves for your comfort, because engaging with the things that make you different are far too difficult for you to grapple with.
That’s not love. Hell, that’s not even basic respect.
If you want your significant other to be fully embraced by your family, don’t ask for base-level tolerance and begrudging acquiescence. Instead, DEMAND full acceptance. True love isn’t color-blindness, it is color awareness.