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Our Variances Are Part Of Who We Are As Individuals



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To the Editor:

"I don't see color ". It's a common phrase white people use to signal that they are not racist. "I treat everyone the same".

It sounds good. It feels good. It is always ever used innocently to try to indicate safety.

Unfortunately, it is often not received that way.

A few weeks ago, during Black History Month, my friend shared a photo with me that she took at Newtown Middle School. There were several panels in the display, “We See Color”, “We Recognize the Texture of Human Life,” and several other encouraging and inclusive statements. The first one excited her. "The schools get it it!" she told me. "We See Color". A simple phrase that carries such deep meaning for her.

Navigating racial and ethnic complexities is hard. Including for white people here in America.

Hundreds of years of slave culture required the dominant population to develop and embrace justifications for the permanent enslavement of humans who looked a lot like them — but not enough like them.

These justifications became cultural norms.

In the almost 160 years since the end of the Civil War and the Great Emancipation that occurred at that time, the dominant white culture has failed to fully acknowledge, unwind, and eradicate those cultural norms that we had leaned into for centuries.

In my youth, in the 1970s, we spoke of America as the Great Melting Pot.

The idea was that immigrants would come to America and embrace our dominant language, our culture, and our values. We would become one people.

What this understanding ignores is that the process of "becoming one people" requires the erasure of history and legacy. It requires rejecting the truths of one's natal culture and the embrasure of a foreign culture. An acknowledgment of American Exceptionalism.

A lot of people who come here are proud of their ancestry. Last month we celebrated Saint Patrick’s Day, an Irish American tradition. We don't want to erase our legacies. We want to know where we come from and embrace our histories with pride.

Our identities.

Who we are.

That which shapes and defines us.

For many, that includes the color of their skin.

Every person of color I have discussed colorblindness with winces at the notion. They don't want their skin color to be erased and they don't want it disregarded.

All humans are beautiful in their various skin tones, eye colors, and hair texture.

Our variances are part of who we are as individuals. Not just in how we appear, but in our experiences.

In a country with a long and deep history of justifying racial inequities and narrowly defined societal norms, people of different colors, creeds, and sexual orientations have different experiences than those who more closely match the norm.

Ignoring those differences erases our individuality and our humanity.

Linda O’Sullivan

Sandy Hook

A letter from Linda O'Sullivan.
Comments are open. Be civil.
1 comment
  1. qstorm says:

    Speak English. Get educated. Work hard. Earn your way. That’s the ‘Melting Pot’ I learned in the 70s.

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