Recently, while shopping in an Ethiopian-owned store in my D.C. neighborhood, I witnessed a verbal confrontation between and African American woman and the Ethiopian sales clerk. She was very upset that during a previous visit to the facility, he had told her that her credit was no good. What really set her off was the fact that he did that “in front of white people.” His response was,” I am color blind. I am Ethiopian.”
I had listened quietly to their exchange until he said that. In a calm voice I told the brother that it’s impossible to be color blind in the United States of America. One may try very hard to ignore color in this country, but one can’t be color blind. I told him that when a white person first sees him in this white supremacist society, they don’t see an African or African American — they see a Black man. After hearing you, they may make a distinction, but their initial reaction is, “that’s a Black man.” With that, I left the store and assumed he and the woman continued the confrontation.
The mistake made by that young Ethiopian is one made by many African immigrants to this country and also by way too many Black people born and raised here. They mistakenly believe that the whites they see and deal with in urban areas are the real white Americans. They spend time in New York City, Washington D.C., Los Angeles, San Francisco, Atlanta and other such urban centers where the whites smile, say hello, address them as Mr. and Mrs., sir and madam — even if in a patronizing manner — and take them as prime examples of a changed, color-blind America.
My response is that those who share such a belief should leave the urban centers and visit Nebraska, Iowa, Vermont, Kentucky, Kansas, Wyoming, Arkansas, etc. That’s when they’ll see the essence of White America.
If I had the money, I’d pay for them to travel from Washington to California by train to experience what this country is all about when it comes to Black folks. His awareness of that America is why Number 45 aka Donald. J. Trump is president of the United States today. He mostly ignored the large urban centers while focusing on White people throughout the country who basically believe that Black people, whether African immigrant or born here, should be grateful that they are allowed to be here at all.
Unfortunately, for us as people of African descent, a whole lot of us believe that we should keep our mouths shut, make as much money as Whites will allow us to make and be grateful like they want us to be.
Their position brings to mind a survey on what constitutes racial integration made by a University of Michigan professor in the 1990s. Black folks said 50 percent Black, 50 percent white with a Black or white person in charge. Whites said one Black person for every 15 whites with a white person always in charge. That is why it is impossible to be color blind in the U.S.