Exploring issues of race, culture, and individuality
“It is in moments of illness that we are compelled to recognize that we live not alone but chained to a creature of a different kingdom, whole worlds apart, who has no knowledge of us and by whom it is impossible to make ourselves understood: our body.” ~Marcel Proust
We have all heard them. “I am color-blind.” “I do not see race. I see people.” Statements like these are seemingly progressive, and ideal. Aren’t they indicative of a world we all wish to inhabit? But stop for a moment and listen to the quotes. How do we exist in a world that strips us of our color and our race? Is it ideal to be monochromatic? Who would you be in a world that rendered you colorless?
We see each other before we hear each other. When approached in the halls at school or at a party in a room full of strangers, we have yet to dazzle those we encounter with our expansive intellect or our charming wit and vivacity. Something about our physical selves is aesthetically pleasing. Our bodies, and yes, our skin, speak before we can use our minds and our words to draw people to us.
Strength, conviction, kindness, and courage are not dependent on a particular racial make-up or skin tone, but by our experience. We look in the mirror and it shows us our skin. We do not choose what we look like. We are shown. We are born into a world in which we are verbally branded with this notion of an identity. You are “black.” You are a “girl.” You are a “black girl.” What does this mean?
In this sense, we collect human responses. We are born with bodies covered in flesh that are receptacles for revelations and misconceptions about what the color of our flesh should mean to us. It is naïve to believe that we define ourselves. How much of our identities are tightly linked to how we are perceived by others? Is it possible to separate our minds and our spirits from the race and the skin of the bodies we inhabit? In a world free of labels, where race is non-existent, we have nothing extra to cling to. We are all human. Does this make us the same? Is sameness an ideal to strive for? Human experience would become far less diverse and inescapably universal.
We are given bodies, races, and genders that define our physical being on earth. It is a constant struggle for me to acknowledge these concrete fixtures of my being as relevant or important. I want the wingspan of my mind and my soul to extend far past confinements of race and gender, and the constrictive nature of my own skin. But then, this division between the flesh and the spirit makes me pause. If who I am internally is partially shaped by who I am externally, my entire being is inextricably linked. I should praise the strength of my bones, the color of my skin, my race, and my gender for giving me experiences that challenge me as a human being. I never want to live in a colorless world. I wish to thrive off of vibrancy.