I see your true colors

There is a group of people who frustrate me to no end. No, not stinky cab drivers. I’m talking about those well-meaning folk who proudly proclaim (in their best we-shall-overcome-one-day voices), I don’t see color.
… What they are attesting to is their “inability” ever to notice anyone’s racial heritage as they navigate their way through this big multicolored Crayola box called life — and I just don’t buy it.
… Saying you don’t see my color is a clear indication that you do see my color — and for whatever reason, you’re not completely comfortable. … I mean, do Latinos go around saying to each other, “Hey, I really don’t see your color”? Do African-Americans go around saying to each other, “I want you to know that I don’t see your color.” Do Caucasians go around saying to each other, “Listen, I don’t see your color.” Of course not. So why do some people feel it necessary to say it to someone of a race opposite theirs? — See My Color, Cherrie Mackey, Dallas Observer

rose-bouquetLike Cherrie Mackey, I see color and I don’t feel guilty about it. Two reasons. 1) Noticing differences is what our brains do. Without difference recognition software we’d be like the brain-damaged title character in Dr. Oliver Sacks’ book The Man Who Mistook His Wife for a Hat. 2) Appreciating the stunning variety God has expressed in creation is a way of appreciating God Himself.

“I don’t see color” belongs to the same school of thought as “men and women are alike.” It’s whistling-in-the-graveyard talk. If we pretend we’re all the same and keep repeating it over and over, those wicked ghosts of prejudice might just leave us alone.

But can you rid society of its worst instincts with a lie? Wouldn’t it be better to acknowledge our differences (and prejudices) and find ways to esteem each other in spite of them?

There are thousands of roses, yet every year new varieties are introduced. How many do we really need? Aren’t all roses pretty much alike — green leaves, pointy thorns, red flowers and some fragrance?

Roses are bred to give them better adaptability, resistance to disease and desirable physical characteristics (large blossoms vs. small, free-standing bushes vs. climbing vines). And, for color. Two hundred years of breading has produced hundreds of gorgeous color variations.

Roses fascinate gardeners because each new variety contributes something new. And, despite their differences, every rose is beautiful in its own way.

Humans would not be as interesting if we only came in one color. The children’s Sunday school song goes red and yellow, black and white, all are precious in His sight. Jesus loves the little children of the world.

If there’s any shame to be found in our differences, it’s a shame we’ve created ourselves. From God’s perspective, we are all precious.

We’re afraid of what might happen if we unlock the doors to our closeted bigotry, and with good reason. Witness Mel Gibson’s anti-Semitic slurs, Michael Richards’ nightclub tirade and Don Imus’ over-the-air insults. Our hearts hide all manner of rottenness.

So we pretend to be color blind, hoping by sleight-of-hand to make our racial bigotry disappear.

The early Christians faced enormous racial challenges. They were Jews, after all, a people proud of their racial and religious purity.

Jesus dropped a bomb on the notion of Jewish exceptionalism when He challenged them to embrace men and women of other races as equals in fellowship and faith.

It began on Pentecost. In Acts 2:39, Peter and the disciples were filled with the Holy Spirit. Peter began to preach, and in the middle of explaining Christ’s ministry he said something even he probably didn’t understand: “This promise is to you, and to your children, and even to the Gentiles — all who have been called by the Lord our God.”

Time passed but little changed. So God arranged for Peter to meet with a Roman officer named Cornelius, a member of the occupation army. Peter was reluctant to see the man; he had never entered the home of a Gentile because it was forbidden by Jewish law. To Peter’s credit, he overcame his prejudice and went to Cornelius’ home.

On the strength of Peter’s testimony about Jesus, Cornelius, his family and all of his servants put their faith in Christ. In Peter’s presence they were filled with the same Holy Spirit the Jewish disciples had received. When Peter saw this, he was dumbfounded. The Greek word is existemi, which could be translated “knocked out cold.”

When he had regained his senses, Peter said:

I see very clearly that God shows no favoritism. In every nation He accepts those who fear Him and do what is right. … Can anyone object to their being baptized, now that they have received the Holy Spirit just as we did? — Acts 10:34-35, 47, NLT

God shows no favoritism. There would be quite a few arguments to come about Gentiles and Jews worshiping together in Christ, but Paul made that simple truth the centerpiece of his own doctrine of Christian equality:

For you are all children of God through faith in Christ Jesus. And all who have been united with Christ in baptism have put on Christ, like putting on new clothes. There is no longer Jew or Gentile, slave or free, male and female. For you are all one in Christ Jesus. And now that you belong to Christ, you are the true children of Abraham. You are his heirs, and God’s promise to Abraham belongs to you. — Galatians 3:26-29

Christians struggle with the same prejudicial, bigoted impulses that everyone experiences. But the hard work of disarming the conflicts between the races was done for us long ago. We aren’t colorblind. We see our differences clearly, yet we also see clearly that we have each “put on Christ, like new clothes.” As we cover ourselves in Christ, as we understand the generosity of his grace, we discover a unity so powerful that it saps the strength of our bigotry.

Red and yellow, black and white. All different, all joined at the foot of the cross.

Photo credit: Stock.xchng by Greenchild

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  1. Without color, God’s creations would be bland.

    We can tell he loves color. Why not us?

    The goal is not to ignore that people have races, but to come to a place where race isn’t what we believe makes people important (or unimportant) — for that is racism. If we recognize people of all color, and love them as people, then perhaps we’re getting somewhere.

  2. You know, I’m a bigot at heart. At (former) work, they planted a bunch of rose bushes, and I found myself in complete disgust that they were all WHITE! No color at all! There are so many different colors out there in the rose world they could have chosen from, but Noooo…

    What’s the matter with those people???

  3. I think when someone says they don’t “see color”, its simply their way of saying that they don’t discriminate against someone based on their race. Rather, they recognize true equality of all men as created by God. At least its an honest attempt at brotherly love……hopefully!

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