Not a Color!

Before leaving for a two-week long travel adventure (including one week of climbing active volcanoes), our class was studying volcanoes with Dr. Bodnar. During the movie Volcano, there was a scene where people ran frantically through the streets looting stores and houses. The lava was going to reach the city in a matter of minutes, so people tried to steal as many things as possible. Looking straight at the screen, the first few people I saw run out of the store were black men. Hmmmm…..I don’t think this was a coincidence on the movie maker’s part. Why black? Why men? Is this the way that society views black men? As thieves, convicts, and may I even say…killers?

Sure slavery is over and segregation laws have been destroyed, but we still live in an extremely racist and segregated society. After the movie, a group of students and I began discussing the racist implications from the movie. Next thing I knew someone had asked me, “Do you associate yourself with white people or black people?” What? Is this a joke? Sure I am mixed with an African American father and Caucasian mother, but what does that have to do with association? Am I supposed to choose one over the other? Love one more than the other?

I then realized that I never grew up seeking black and white. I had always seen myself as another person. I didn’t have a group of black friends and a group of white friends. I just had a group of friends. Looking back at photos I can now notice myself being the only person of color or being the lightest person in the group, but it never dawned on me before. I never consciously chose to hang out with one group or the other. Much of what had played into who I hung out with was my environment. I grew up going to a small, private Christian school where the vast majority of the children were white. I couldn’t change that, and I didn’t want to change that. People are people no matter what color.

Despite trying to convince myself that I am not racist, I realize that I am extremely racist just like everyone else. When I see a black man walking down the streets with his pants hanging off his butt, I immediately think – gangster straight from the hood. When I see a white girl dressed up in Lilly Pulitzer clothing on campus, I immediately think – preppy, sorority girl. When I see a Hispanic man doing construction work, I immediately think – illegal immigrant.

Although these racial stereotypes may be true, I struggle to understand why we use them. Why we can’t see people as people. Why we can’t look beyond the color of someone’s skin. I may be African American and Caucasian, but I want to be seen as Karli Bryant. Nothing else. Just myself…Karli Bryant.
Racial discrimination and jokes may seem funny until they are directed at you. Telling me that you wish you could be “black like me” is not a compliment when you are implicating that the color of my skin gives me the ability to rap and dance. Because the truth is I can’t rap. Maybe I can dance, but just tell me that you like my dancing. Likewise, saying that I “act white” is not a compliment either. I am proud of all of my roots.

I am not black.

I am not white.

I am not a color.

I am Karli Bryant.

We need to stop drawing lines between races and begin to build bridges. We are one people living in one world. We all deserve the respect of not being stereotyped. We are all people. Let’s start treating each other that way. No it’s not easy to break those embedded, society-driven stereotypes, but most things in life aren’t easy. It’s not impossible unless we decide to make it impossible.

So I challenge you to think before you decide to make a racial remark or begin to stereotype.

People are people, not just colors.

5 thoughts on “Not a Color!

  1. I’ve posed this question before to people in the program, and it seems particularly applicable here. What do you think of the argument that part of our heritage, part of our culture, is rooted in color and to say that we’re color-blind is to rob people of that aspect of our heritage? I have black friends (but not really any white ones that feel this way) that think it’s rude to say that you’re color blind because it means we’re “overlooking” part of their lives. Thoughts?

    • I have also pondered this question a lot. I do not deny the fact that much of the African American/black culture (which is part of my heritage) is deeply rooted in its history, especially within the Civil Rights Movement. However, I feel that the “slavery card” is pulled too often. I do not know if you have experienced this, but I know some black people who try and pull this card in trying to justify their actions or separate themselves from others. Not to demean others, but our generation has not directly dealt with legal slavery. Yes, people are discriminated against, but that does not justify further segregation. African American fraternities are rooted in segregation during a time when blacks and whites could not interact, but those days are over. I am not asking people to forget or push aside their heritage, but I am asking them to look past the divisions of the past and push towards a more united whole. What are your thoughts?

    • I’ve talked with Danielle some (and hopefully she’ll join in here) about the use of the n-word, more specifically in literature, and she espoused a view that I thought interesting. She talked about how her own abstinence from its use is in actively looking forward to a future without racism, but that those who use it are doing so as an acknowledgement of a past that needs acknowledging. Both ideas are ones I agree with. Ultimately though, it’s not just about black and white. I look at the incredibly rich history of Hispanic culture and how beautiful it is and I don’t white to be blind to that. So I think ultimately true color blindness isn’t just about retrospection v. anticipation. Color blindness at its truest form is a really boring thing.

  2. Hi Karli,

    “We are all people. Let’s start treating each other that way. No it’s not easy to break those embedded, society-driven stereotypes, but most things in life aren’t easy. It’s not impossible unless we decide to make it impossible.”

    This is a really powerful statement and I think it is a great summary of what you talk about in your post, but goes beyond that to say why all stereotypes, not just race, are wrong for people to judge their lives on.

    I really enjoyed reading your thoughts on this as well as hearing your contributions to yesterday’s discussion on stereotypes. Thanks for sharing your thoughts with us!

    -Christina

  3. I see Karli Bryant my beautiful extremely bright granddaughter who God has blest us with! You light up the world Karli…..You make the world a much better place and I pray your message and your compassion reaches round the world as you already bless the lives of the people you touch!

    You are sooooo loved!!!! Hugs Gram

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