Uncovering the Memory of Race

I was raised to be colorblind.

One person is the same as another,

but being equal in one place is different than in another.

Distinct views separate cultures, not one

alike. Some are looked down upon

as people of lower class and value,

lesser humans. In the South,

my mom grew up with these views

so peculiar to me, to you, where it was normal

to call those people with dark skin names,

to stereotype, to segregate schools and homes,

drinking fountains and busses.

I remember walking into the Atlanta airport for the first time,

my eyes got wide—everyone working at the airport

was the same color,

black.  Confusion filled my mind.

Why is it like this? Are some jobs only for people of color?

Why is it different than home?

I wouldn’t get my answer until later,

and just accepted this is how it was, that this

was normal and would always be like this

when I came to visit, unchanging as the heat

and humidity of a Georgia summer.

I blew this whole moment to the curb,

an observation from my past

I wouldn’t come to terms with until I grew up.

I was raised to be colorblind, to see

the world from a new perspective,

to sit above the clouds and look down below,

to believe I was better than people who saw coloras what defined others, a memory buried.

Innocent or oblivious as a child,

I saw my visits as experiencing a new culture,

a different way to live, something for my relatives to complain about—whether it was the loud music of their Hispanic neighbors, or the need to shop for groceries during the week to avoid the weekend crowds of Blacks and Hispanics, their strange

voices filling the air like litter in store parking lots.

My mom left her home to escape this culture,

a way of life that seemed wrong,

out of place in this land of prejudice and discrimination.

I was raised to be colorblind.

Paying attention to race as a child was uncommon to me,

but older now and reflecting on the past,

I realized I noticed race,

not just as a simple observation or memory,

but as a way of life I did not like,

forcing myself to hold back my fight to visit family,

placing myself into this established culture,

peering in from the outside, never quite fitting in,

putting up an imaginary wall to resist,

to disagree politely, to close my mouth, to think better

of causing a scene. Having no right to control,

having no right to say what is good and bad,

what is true or false, accepting that it’s difficult

to change those with strong ideals and morals,

I believe now you should voice your opinion,

show how hate is not blind but blinds us

to the pain racism has caused, and then walk away,

into a world of color and light.

We come from different worlds—

assuming the worst, without learning the best.

– Arendje Louter