Monday, December 7, 2009

Colour Blind

As a counselor, I help people identify the unhelpful/irrational/untrue/illogical beliefs that cause them to experience negative emotional and behavioral reactions. Often we use faulty thinking to come to bad conclusions about ourselves, others, and the world that then severely impact our relationships. Depression, anxiety, and a myriad of relationship problems are all directly connected to our human ability to misperceive things.

Anyway, we learn these things from somewhere and one source of irrational beliefs is from our parents. I was reflecting yesterday on my parents and the things I learned from them about people of color. I was kind of amazed to realize that I do not have a single memory of even one derogatory comment they made about someones skin color or race. Not even one! As far as I can remember I don't think they ever mentioned anything about anyone's skin color ever. Of course they may have made some comments and probably they have some biased beliefs that I don't know about, but even if they do - the fact that I can't remember any seems to be unusual. For them it just wasn't an issue and without trying or being intentional at all they passed onto me a fairly helpful belief; people's skin color is a non-issue.

I have spoken to many friends who did not have a similar experience. They grew up hearing comments about people of different races that were subtly or outwardly antagonistic. Racial jokes and stereotypes right up to racial slurring - or worse. As a child listening to such comments you are affected by them - your first beliefs about those different from you are formed. My parents weren't perfect (as all parents aren't) but I'm very thankful and proud of them for not passing on any racial biases to me. It makes me wonder what my kids will learn from me . . . hopefully they will get a similar message.

I realize that not all people may agree that being color blind in terms of race is a good idea. In one of my cross-cultural classes our professor argued that my lack of racial "awareness" was a liability (as I couldn't feel empathy for those who's racial background makes them subjects of discrimination and powerlessness). What do you think? Not sure I fully agree with that. Yet, I still like the idea of basically treating people the same, no matter what their racial background is. By the way, the painting at the top is called "Color Blind" by artist Habib Ayat.


Lindsey Dueck said...

I agree. I think that people should be treated equally no matter what their skin colour is. Giving special treatment to certain races, even if it is positive, helps reinforce racism I think! We are all humans. We are all children of God. He sees us all the same.

Mark said...

I agree! Of course I won't go as far as to say that I have no biases at all (I wish I didn't) as that is almost impossible. Preferential or discriminatory treatment to someone based on skin color is unhelpful, unfair, and untrue.