“I Don’t See Color” and Other Lies We Tell Ourselves

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We will continue our series highlighting the voices of young diverse authors. Our next piece is an essay by Sabrina Dearinger challenging the myth of color blindness and the importance of celebrating and recognizing diversity. Sabrina is a graduate student at Northern Kentucky University, majoring in Education. She works as an educator in Kentucky schools.

By Sabrina Dearinger
Graduate Student at Northern Kentucky University

I see a question asked often in the world of educational learning: When did you have your first black teacher? I often think about this, hoping I’m forgetting a teacher somewhere in the past 20 years of education.

            I was raised in a family that drilled into my head, “We don’t see color, we see a human.” At the time, it was valid. We were in a society which only saw our black and Latin peers as humans, we did not see their history or their struggle. I was a child, struggling with my own barrel of problems, I did not see their struggles. My mother, whose upbringing was between a small Kentucky town and an even smaller Florida town, did not experience much diversity. She did not have any friends of color, she did not have peers at school of color, and she did not work with people of color. She knew it was not a good, easy life, but she did not understand the struggles going on within those communities. My mother did the best for her limited world view, she taught me to respect other people and not see them by their skin. I was taught to treat all people good and fair.

            As me and my mother have grown to welcome the ever changing world, we have learned a lot. I learned why we do not say “I don’t see skin color, I see a human.” I have learned ACAB does not mean every, single, police officer. I have learned that “Black on Black Crime” is a lie. I have learned that the “War on Drugs” was a “War on Minorities.” I have learned that it is not my place to judge the use of the N word in To Kill a Mockingbird. I have learned not to steal another culture’s most sacred traditions. I have learned to lean forward in my seat when passing a pulled over motorist. I have learned that melanin caressed skin is a critical detail when getting to know someone. I have learned how beautiful color is, and why we should see it.

            I have now taken two classes about diversity (in Graduate school, mind you) in which I have been assigned four textbooks to read. The first textbook sent me into a frenzy of “Culture and Diversity Professional Development Sessions,” despite the fact that I do not need to gain PD hours for another year. I have learned more in these two classes than I could have ever learned in school. I learned more than any book could show me. I’ve been taught to face my whiteness and use it to fight for diversity. I have used these classes to pass my textbooks onto my mother, who works in a school office, and calls me every three days to tell me about another tragedy in the black community. A tragedy that occurred long before I did.

            It is 2021, and us two white women are seeing our privilege. We have begun to realize that our long said saying is not the right way anymore, and we have begun to realize that our privilege is not a bad thing. Our privilege is a tool to help minority communities ascend to the level of honor and dignity they deserve to be at.

            I am on vacation in a tiny southern town in North Carolina writing this essay, asking myself when the first time I had a black teacher was. As I am surrounded by cabins, elk, mountains made of smoke, a flock of “Trump 2024” signs, a tavern of white folk, and a myriad of “We back the Blue” letter boards; I realize the answer is my freshman year of college. Professor Brittany.

            Who was yours?


  1. I chose this article because this was something I could relate to, my parents always taught me to treat others like you would want to be treated. My brother is adopted from China and they wanted us to treat him like he was blood, so they taught us to “not see color” from a young age. After reading this article I am thankful that my parents taught us to be kind to all people but I do see the problem with this saying and the importance of respecting other cultures and the differences.

  2. I really like this article. You can see the progression of thinking that the author and her mother have experienced. I agree with the fact that say “I don’t see color” is not a correct statement. Everyone has a color, this is a fact, and denying that we see that is lessening all the experiences that individual has gone through because of the color of their skin. As someone that also grew up in a small town in western Kentucky, the first black teacher I had was during my sophomore year of college which is a little crazy to think about it being that long.

  3. I love this essay, and I think it is very well written. I like that the author was able to acknowledge and recognize her own privileges she has as a white women. I also have learned how important it is to see skin color and be able to recognize how much history and how many more obstacles come with it. I too, was raised in a household of “we don’t see color/ everyone is equal in our eyes”. It has the right intention, but the wrong idea as it does unintentionally override the struggles and differences that do come with people of color.

  4. I felt this was a very powerful article that stood out to me especially. I grew up in an extremely small town in Ohio, not having much diversity at all. This article shows the importance of even if you can’t see the struggles others face, they are still real and important. It’s important to acknowledge someone’s background in order to fully see what they face in everyday society.

  5. I honestly think that you are my first black instructor. Which now that I think of it that is kind of sad. I haven’t had many male teachers either. 

  6. This was such a delightful reading. I was raised in a similar way as this author. It was not until I was an adult that I began to realize that this was the wrong world view. It was my career in healthcare that taught me how wrong this was. My major in Social Work is showing me how narrow my realization was as well. To say there is a learning curve is an understatement. This is a lifelong journey and I am elated to be on it.
    Honestly, my first black teacher/professor is Dr. Childs. And that is an terrible realization to have. I have been to many elementary, middle, and high schools (moved over 15 times before college) and Dr. Childs is the first.

  7. I cannot remember a time when I had a black professor until now. However I don’t honestly see why it would make such a difference. I would assume it would be comparable to seeing a female in a male dominated sport. I also do not understand why seeing people as human rather than the color of skin is such an absurd idea. I believe I am just ignorant in this subject and would not mind having insight.

  8. I like how this article shows the statement “I don’t see color” is a generational thing and is a phrase that is taught not to see. But once someone realizes for themselves the impact of believing in a statement like that, they are able to change the way they think and influence other opinions to recognizing, such a misleading statement.

  9. I really like this article. My favorite part is when the writer said “I have learned how beautiful color is, and why we should see it.” I like that the writer also said using privilege as a tool and not as a weapon. I also believe that more people should use their privilege as a tool, instead of a weapon.

  10. This essay was very well written and very moving. Reading this article made me question when the first time I had a teacher/professor that was African American. The first time that this was the case for me was my second semester of my sophomore year of college. I think that this is a important concept as it connects to our students. As I am in my pro 2 semester, my school has a large population of minority students in the school. As I walk through the hallways though, all I see is white teachers. With the concept of diversity, this is a problem that needs to be fixed. I can not imagine how this makes students feel to see one race in power that represents their school. This essay was really moving!

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