Paul, peace be with you!

Just so we’re on the same page here, you mentioned that you understand “the context, beyond racism, that this project would be born from.” Which context is that? And I agree, I think there’s numerous situations we’ve all seen occur dozens of times that we simply miss due to a lack of similar frame of reference.

And yes, defining others by appearance or cultural circumstance is indeed just another form of segregation. It’s treating that person as the “other” or lumping them into that group. If I might, let me share some experience that might give you a little more breathing room about the whole colorblind thing.

For a more in-depth about the myth of being colorblind, check out this essay I wrote on that very subject a while back —

Labels in and of themselves are neither good nor bad. We use them all the time to define a person’s profession, sports team affiliation, religious denomination, and so on. Labels are in essence a method of defining something based on a few recognizable characteristics. “Doctor” is used as a catch-all for pediatricians, neurosurgeons, and oncologists as they all treat patients’ medical needs. While they specialize in treating specific types of patients and their needs, they’re doctors none the less.

When labels are applied to people based on appearance, cultural circumstances, what-have-you, that’s when things get murky at best. This is especially true given that many labels are derogatory in nature. But just like with labels, a message is impacted — positively and negatively — both by the intended recipient’s interpretation and collective experiences as well as the sender’s/communicant’s intent and message composition.

Striving to avoid labeling people by appearance or cultural circumstances is a good practice. Few people would argue with you on that point. Paying attention to how others perceive one’s actions/intentions is also a good thing. Yes, it’s a lot of work, but it yields many benefits. Here’s what I mean.

Most doctors at some point discover the importance of having good bedside manners. In this instance I mean how doctors come across to and/or communicate with their patients. It’s in their best interest to put to rest any real or imagined fears their patients may have developed about physicians. Most doctors strive to appear competent, knowledgeable, empathic, honest, and a host of other traits so that their patients will communicate with them openly and honestly, and make their job (correctly diagnosing and making proper recommendations on their patients’ behalf) a lot easier. And productive.

Doctors invest time and energy in fashioning a communication style with respect and care not to avoid condemnation, but to facilitate better communication and lessen the opportunity for misinterpretation of their message and/or intent.

The same principle holds true when engaging in social intercourse with others. Let’s say I replied to your message with something along the lines of, “Come on, bud. Think about what you’re saying to people.” That wouldn’t make me a bad person, but at the same time it wouldn’t express my depth of my intent as the response you’re reading now. Yes, it’s a lot of work, but that’s a choice I’ve made.

Your suggestion of including something about the media in the workshops is a good idea. The media definitely has a finger on the scale in how messages are presented. But let’s not confuse the media’s hunger for eyeballs at all costs with the fact that awful events do occur that warrant reporting. And the saddest part of all is that they’re not isolated incidents.

Thanks for your time,
Clay.

Written by

Artist, actor, author, editorial director of Our Human Family (http://medium.com/our-human-family). Connect via social media: @clayrivers. Love one another.

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