The Color of My Skin

Katie - Lufkin, Texas
Entered on December 6, 2008
Age Group: 18 - 30
Themes: change, race

I have never been concerned with the pigmentation of my skin. I have never had to be.

I distinctly remember being in a social work class my freshman year and comprehending, for the first time, that racism was still prevalent. Race was simply a concept I read about in history textbooks and heard about on Martin Luther King Jr. day.

In light of our recent Presidential election, I am appalled. Ignorance is rearing its ugly head everywhere. Reports of assassination plans based solely on skin color, nooses in trees, and graffiti claiming that “blacks” are evil sound almost surreal, as if they are from the news reports of fifty years ago. Sadly, these instances are from today’s world.

Yes, I realize we have come a long way. However, we cannot remain stagnant and satisfied. Do not simply stick your head in the sand as I did and pretend that hatred is not still pervasive.

Few consider the fact that there is no proof that racial differences exist, biologically speaking. Genetic studies have repeatedly attempted to discover genetic indications that inherent distinctions between races are biological, but there is no such evidence.

Unfortunately, although our conception of race does not biologically “exist”, it still is apparent and real. It is real because we have made it real. To point to this research and say that race is not a valid entity that affects others is to negate the experiences of those who have suffered at the hands of racism everywhere. Still, it is disconcerting that we construct labels based on appearance as indications of innate flaws and characteristics.

People often say, “I see no color”. I applaud the effort to be accepting, but this statement also denies the heartbreaking experiences that others have worked so hard to surmount. When we “refuse to see color”, we refuse to give credence to circumstances that have shaped and haunted so many lives.

One principle of the social work code of ethics is the “dignity and worth of a person”. A person deprived of validation of who they are because of the shade of skin they were born with is not a person shown that they are worthy and dignified just as they are.

Let me be the first to confess that I am guilty of generalizing a group of people because of physical attributes. However, I hope that, as a social worker and an American, I can help others overcome a solipsistic mindset and move towards a philosophy of love, understanding, and acceptance.

I believe that change will take time and that we have to take it day by day. Change is a frightening, deliberate process that comes gradually, but it is a necessity nevertheless. My hope is that we can defeat hatred and show the world that we believe in the dignity and worth of each person.

With your help, visions of change can become a reality.

Change is needed. Change is coming. Change can start with you and me.

This I believe.