I’m a bird nerd. There, I’ve said it. Now you know. Birds see me coming with my binoculars, confer with their friends and take off. I’m totally okay with them laughing at me behind my back. It comes with the territory.
Birds and humans have something very important in common: we see color. However, whereas birds rely on their color vision to choose mates, find food and scan for predators, whether or not we’re conscious of it, humans use it to make snap judgments about other humans. We’ve been conditioned to do so almost since the day we were born.
We receive messages about the meaning of skin color from our families, our friends, our teachers, movies and TV shows, magazines, newspapers, advertising, you name it. We’re immersed in this conditioning. It is quite literally impossible to be unaffected by it.
That being said, we can work on recognizing it when it happens and redirect the resultant thoughts and behaviors we may have. Example: you’re walking in a park with your (unleashed) dog. A Black man with binoculars asks you to leash your dog, citing park regulations. Should you:
A) apologize and immediately leash your dog, wish the man a enjoyable day and continue on your walk, or
B) go all Mount St. Helens on this guy’s ass and call 911, screaming that an African-American man is threatening your life, while you simultaneously strangle your still-not-leashed dog and demand the man stop recording your antics.
Seems like a no-brainer. I would choose option A, but some women, like Amy Cooper, use their White lady fairy dust for evil rather than good and unfortunately, inexplicably choose option B.
Don’t be that White person. Be the one who sees color, acknowledges that Every. Single. One. of us is different, appreciates and embraces that diversity, and knows that all of our lives are vastly better because of it.
Photo credit Jeffrey Ward/Bird Collective