to be colorblind

When I study The New Yorker cover, I feel hope, but mostly pain. Tears well in my eyes seeing the image of a handsome family, the littlest sitting atop his father’s shoulders. Their brown bodies are clad for the beach, standing closely in the sand with a crisp blue backdrop of sky. Three children gaze out to sea. Dad seems somehow intent on the viewer, like a papa bird minding his chicks. Despite the flawless sky, clouds pool in his dark glasses. His strong body emerges from red, white and blue trunks laced tightly at his waist, bars of blue crossing his hips.

White folks in the distance have their backs turned.

I clutch my son and caress his belly, keenly aware of my privilege. I grieve the recent killings of decent black men. I grieve for my American sisters—mothers of brown and black children who’ve been gunned down so violently, needlessly, brazenly, mothers who have been robbed of the embrace of their child, of the chance to see them one last time, while I hold mine with impunity.

I am not colorblind. I see their beautiful hues. Far different from mine, they move me—everything about them: their history, their strength, their humility, their tenacity, their courage, their wisdom, their stamina, their love, their calm, their rage. I bear witness to their murders. The blood and pain in countless videos stains a nation already steeped in too many egregious deeds.

My son seizes weekly, his crooked arms stiff and shaking above his head. His father and I hold him, kiss him, whisper loving words that we hope somehow he can hear. Alton Sterling was shot in the chest by a blue-uniformed stranger. His body cramped, his arm rising in that same arced tremor while he lay—alone—expiring on hard cement.

Through my tears, I ponder those—and there are many—who like to declare their colorblindness, or who deny that racism exists, who resent, misinterpret and discount the claim that black lives matter, who blunt and derail the conversation by stating the obvious, that all lives matter, who resort to scapegoating rather than addressing the epidemic of violence and oppression against our nation's precious, darker skins. I ponder how one justifies an act of murder—of execution—yet condemns the act of driving with a broken tail light or of selling loose cigarettes or questioning authority or waving a toy gun or wearing a hoodie or standing up for civil rights or fighting for life? Too often it comes down to the color of their skin, and to some that means the victims, who they insist are culpable, are somehow fair game for shooting at point-blank range.

Is that what it means to be colorblind?

What if we were to imagine our children being choked to death or beaten by police or bleeding out in the middle of the street or a passenger or driver’s seat? I wager colorblindness doesn’t allow for minds to travel to that kind of place. It’s unsafe territory for the willfully blind, for cowards, for racists.

Perhaps this apathy and reproof stem from some lack of capacity, or perhaps from mere satisfaction of wallowing in the comforts afforded by white privilege braced by erroneous and harmful notions about minorities, which fill sorry voids of dark-skinned comrades. Perhaps, in that void bubbles blame, hatred, fear and contempt. I see the vile memes, read and hear the same old lame retorts, the hard edge of prejudice pressing through the fear of conceding that skin color in this nation has consequences, has privilege, has meaning.

Kadir Nelson, A Day at the Beach


  1. Replies
    1. thanks eee, i'm never 100% sure when it comes to these things. xo

  2. Wow. You know, I got this New Yorker in my mailbox and I studied the picture. It's gorgeous, just on the face of it. A beautiful family at the beach. And I DID NOT SEE THE CLOUDS IN HIS SUNGLASSES!
    Now it makes sense. Thank you.