I am not a racist. And, that’s not enough.

A point of pride has been my “color-blindness.” And, that was stupid.

Too often, white people say this to somehow prove they aren’t racist; in fact, it shows a complete dismissal of beautiful people of color. To say you are color blind is to say: I DON’T see you.

I’ve spent some time intentionally remembering black people who have had a direct impact on me.

I quickly realized that my black friends and mentors over my lifetime contributed to the person I am today. They’ve shaped the better parts of me, even though I didn’t have nearly as much to give them in return.

This is a tribute to them.

L. S. – Thanks for being my childhood partner in crime and putting up with me being so incredibly bossy. Even though they got wise to us after a couple of grades and separated us, you are still one of my first best friends with the best braids and hair clips. Your mom showed me so much kindness and love, too. I’m forever blessed by you both.

R. B. – In middle school, you left me. But, that’s because your Mom left you. I’m thankful for your friendship, even though it was cut short. You and your amazing family showed me (and our friends) how to celebrate life and the Lord in the midst of a great loss. I’ve never forgotten you….and neither has my Mom. One day after school, we were walking together and you asked for my phone number, and I wouldn’t give it to you. You replied that you’d look me up in the phone book (remember those?) and asked for my daddy’s name so you could find me. My Mom and I still laugh about it to this very day. I don’t think I’ve ever really gotten over when you had to leave us.

J. K. – To one of the most hardworking, loving, funny, and kind men in my life, thank you for showing us (all of the ungrateful, spoiled rotten brats in school) what a strong work ethic looks like. Thank you for not putting up with our shit but cleaning it up anyway. When you were tired, you still smiled, laughed, kept on working, and kept on talking. Like so many who came before me and after me, we love you so much. Thank you for taking care of us and for loving us, unconditionally.

D – Thank you for not leaving me for dead at UT Knoxville, when we traveled from MTSU to meet your friends. Thanks for having an illegal rabbit (and loving my illegal hamster) in our college apartment, going with me to get a piercing when I lost a bet, and for showing me that people like drawing maps so much that they major in it in college. Most importantly, thank you for letting me know that we will never go to a club again due to my lack of rhythm and coordination.  You were my best friend in college and a terrible influence, but you cared about me and protected me, even when I didn’t deserve it.

S. A. – My first boss and mentor. You showed me what a strong black leader looked like. You inspired me to not be complacent in my professional and spiritual journey. You inspired me to aspire to greater things that I had not considered up until that point in my life. Thank you.

A. L. – I almost didn’t leave that first job because of how much I loved working with you. Thank you for all of the customer service advice and personal chats. Thank you for putting up with a silly kid trying to figure out how to work like an adult.

S. R. – Thank you for humoring me in 9th grade as your student teacher and for making me laugh. Then, you showed me and so many others, what it means to be a strong, black influence in the classroom and in many high/middle school sports. So many computer science students and so many athletes have a tenacity to pursue their passions because they have seen it modeled in you, in someone like them. What an immeasurable contribution to education and into the lives of young people. You inspire me.

L. P. – You taught me to find complete joy in everything in life. Your beauty, ambition, and light in this world, that can be so dark at times, is incredible. You wear your heart on your sleeve, you are fearless, and you are one of the kindest souls I know. You are love – you show it in all you do and for all you meet.

S. B. – Strength. Resilience. Bravery. Courage. I want to be more like you. Everyday. I admire you for who you are and all you stand for.

A. W. – Caring. Selfless. Driven. Patient. You show me every day what it means to be a good human. I aspire to have your level of selflessness, but I fail way too often. Your kindness and humility in all you do is inspiring me to be better.

J. L. – Innovator & Creator – You remind me to dream big and know that the Lord is guiding us in His time and in His way. I appreciate how you model ambition to show us all to never give up our aspirations as we seek after Him.

S. D. – Thank you for modeling what it is to be a strong woman and loving caregiver. Your laugh is infectious and your style is impeccable. You remind me that there is only so much we can do, and we have to bring our best every single day.

D, M, SL, M, E, Q, C, K, K – Thank you for sharing your painful stories. Thank you for putting up with this unaware white girl and allowing me and so many others to ask questions. Thank you for patiently correcting us when we make dumb comments about systemic racism today, like it is something new. Thank you for mentoring me in leadership, diversity, awareness, bravery, and perseverance. I know you are hurt and tired, yet you continue to educate and hope. I’m inspired. Thank you for not giving up.

I see you.

I’m not color blind; instead, I’m seeing more color than I ever have before. And, none of this is about me, but I need you to know, I’m better for it.

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