Color Blind

Racism is all over the media. Most notably, “White supremacy,” and “Black Lives Matter.”
Rev. Al Sharpton accusing “Racism!” I once thought that Revs. Sharpton and Jesse Jackson might be approachable as a source of improving racial relationships, until someone told me — “Todd, their business is discord.”

Some data might help, for perspective – but is not included here. There is something logical and assuring about analysis, but can be spun any which way to support your point. And racism is emotional – a red hot coal tumbling into a pile of straw, quickly blazing out of control. No – no time for logic here. Like the lumberjack straining at his dull saw, when approached by a hiker suggesting he stop to sharpen it, the lumberjack answered :“no time.”

We even get accused of racism by total strangers. I lean conservative and am white. Well, beige actually. I work for a black funeral home, my oldest friend [of 60 years] is black, had more black roommates than any other color and was in community college where I was the minority.
So, I’M racist? Please. If you’re going to insult me, at least be accurate.

In self-deprecating humor, in community college, I named myself the “Grey eyed white devil.” And had more than my fair share of Newports and Old English Ale. And I’d often admonish my teasing classmates to “play nice with the white boy.” Then we’d all laugh and laugh. Ever notice that laughter goes a long way towards breaking down walls? Sometimes we take ourselves way too seriously.

So, let’s take a break from the negativity, assumptions, hatred and name-calling. This article is about five examples where people of color get along. And do it well. Maybe we can better understand “why?” them replicate and do more of it. Across ALL of society, not just these five segments.

The groups that come to mind for me [you might be able to think of more]:

Military: Nowhere in the world is there an organization where the lives of its members literally rely on each other. The training, drills and ultimately battle depend on people being in lockstep – and if somebody screws up, it could cost the life of the person next to you. People enter all branches of the military following the same rules, and get evaluated for promotions the same way. Everyone is treated the same and it appears to be a good system that serves us well.

Education: This seems especially true in larger, public systems – from classrooms to administration. And, like the military, this is another governmental system where rules apply and most people seem to get along. And major goals, like accreditation and pass rates on proficiency exams are “sink or swim” criteria for ALL employees.

Entertainment: Whether theater, music, film or television, this is a group where entry is based on talent and staying is based on performance. Casts, ensembles, groups are only as powerful as their weakest link – and nobody wants a bad review. Patrons are going to lay down their hard-earned money to come see you. Or not. There’s a story that some of Stevie Wonder’s advance team was out scouting talent and came across a decent unnamed group playing in a club. When Stevie asked about them, they reported “oh, they’re an Average White Band [AWB].” The name stuck. And nobody screamed “racism.” In fact, AWB beefed up the rhythm section with some black bandmates, and produced lots of hits in the 1970’s.

Business: There are goals that apply to corporations – usually financial in nature. And you all succeed or fail together. When layoffs are announced, nobody starts scheming about how to target somebody based on the color of their skin. First, it’s everybody for themselves. The it’s lobbying for people or other departments you desperately need.

Sports: Professional sports is a $74 billion dollar [Forbes, Oct. 2015] annual market based on talent, experience and physical performance. And to a lesser degree, even college and high school sports pave the way into entry in the professional ranks. The name of the game is to win and all eyes are glued on the scoreboard. It’s not about skin color, but speed, agility, vertical jumps and good hands. Who can you count on? Who is your “go to” guy or gal in a pinch?

Across these five groups, you might start recognizing some similarities.

First, there are common goals people identify with. And YOU are evaluated based on your contribution to these goals. Recruiting, GPA, Box office receipts, Revenue/earnings/stock prices and wins/losses/championships. Nobody really has time or interest in your color – it’s what you are contributing.

Second, [related to goals], everything gets measured. It’s 3rd [down] and 8 [yards to get a first down]. We’re $8 million short on revenue – heads are going to roll. We’re a Grade “C” school – what parent wants to send their child here? It’s an old [some say going back to Rheticus in the 1500’s] saying with a simple message: “What gets measured gets done.”

Third – it’s about talent. What do you bring to the table and how fast can you start contributing?

Fourth – you’re in, or you’re out and they probably have a list of your replacements. Like a string of holiday lights. You are one bulb.

So there you have it, harsh and brutal as it may seem. Plenty of working, successful, multi-racial organizations where people are too busy to be emotional or judgmental. Nobody is interested in having “a conversation.” There’s too much to do. And nobody is listening anyway.


1 thought on “Color Blind”

  1. Hi Todd,

    First of all, let me say that I love counterexamples!

    If you can find places in our society where racism is not a problem, that’s great. I would, of course, welcome that and would love to know about it. I would emulate it here.

    I noticed, however, you didn’t cite any evidence. A quick google search provided me with this:

    The places in our society you named, then, may indeed have problems with
    race. You may want to check it out.

    Also, I don’t think anyone who makes statements on race is just being reactionary or trying stir the pot. I happen to think they simply have legitimate concerns. I wouldn’t focus on people like the ones you cite—people who, you claim, are trying to generate a reaction. There’s billions of people of color in the world. And very few of them, currently, have positions of great power or authority.

    I get the feeling some of your statements are a reaction to me. Well, I follow the Southern Poverty Law Center, which tracks hate and hate crimes. And there has indeed been an uptick in more explicit racism since Trump began running for office. (That’s not even getting into implicit racism…)

    And, FYI, I used to teach logic at the college level.

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