Photo by Alexander Grey

In reality, most individuals have both good and bad, and everything in between. More importantly, black-and-white thinking limits humanity’s ability to see the truth.

Generally, the human race has a vision problem. They only seem to see only two colors at a time. Everything they see and read is filtered through this bi-color lens. They impose a stain on a person, and even when they cry out, “I’m not a color! I’m much more than that!” they say, “No, you’re just black/white. You can’t be anything else.” They even use color to explain things. “He’s doing that because he’s black.” “She’s saying that because she’s white.” There are no beliefs, no principles. Not even a whole rainbow, just two colors at a time.

Technically, this is a black and white thinking or dichotomous thinking. When people think in dichotomies, they assume that if one side is good, the other must be bad. And if one side is good, then they are absolutely, irrefutably good—and any criticism logged against it must be out of spite or envy. In reality, most individuals have both good and bad, and everything in between. More importantly, black-and-white thinking limits your ability to see the truth. You cannot see the gray in a situation; you do not recognize nuance and context. You do not take a step back to see the larger picture. People are too focused on liking one color and hating another. No absolute solution can be found in a world of only two colors.

5 Everyday Ways To Fight The So-Called Color Lens

1. Learn to recognize and understand your privilege. One of the first steps to eliminating color problems is learning to recognize and understand your privilege. Like racial privilege, this plays out across political, social, economic, and cultural environments. Checking your right and using your freedom to dismantle systemic racism are two ways to start this complex process. However, race is only one aspect of privilege. Religion, gender, sexuality, ability status, socio-economic status, language, and citizenship status can all affect your privilege level. Using the rights you have to empower others collectively requires awareness of those privileges and acknowledging their connotations.

2. Check your personal biases and examine where they may have originated. What messages did you receive as a child about people different from you? What was the racial and ethnic makeup of your religious community, school, or neighborhood? Why do you think this was the case? These experiences reinforce bias, stereotypes, and prejudice, leading to discrimination. Examining your preferences can help you work to ensure equality for all. Check out The Corporate Plantation in Bell’s book, as it highlights the author’s vexation when America disappoints him. King Bell knows that so many other non-white people share the many annoyances through conversations, music, art, and his contribution to the plethora of other agitated Black authors. The book can make you cry and laugh all at the same time.

3. Validate the feelings and experiences of people of color. Another way to recognize privilege and address bias is to support other people’s experiences and engage in challenging conversations about race and injustice. You cannot be afraid to discuss discrimination and oppression for fear of “getting it wrong.” Take action by learning how racism continues to affect one’s society.

4. Challenge the “colorblind” ideology. It is a pervasive myth that people live in a “post-racial” society where people “do not see color.” Perpetuating a “colorblind” ideology contributes to racism. When Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. conveyed his hope for living and existing in a colorblind world, he did not mean that people should disregard race. It is impossible to erase racism without primarily recognizing race. Being “colorblind” discounts a significant part of an individual’s identity and dismisses the real injustices many faces due to their race. People must see color to work together for equity and equality.

5. Be thoughtful with your finances. By being financially astute, it means taking a stand with your wallet. Be knowledgeable about the practices of the charities you donate to and the companies you invest in. Make an effort to shop at small-scale, local businesses and offer your money back to the people in the community. 

In Closing

If blacks and whites understand and celebrate past gains, humankind will move forward with the optimism, insight, and energy that further progress demands.

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