Apparently, the properties of color which are inherently distinguishable by the human eye are hue, saturation, and brightness.
Brown is made up through some of these combinations.
After a day of protest (maybe I sat in for 3hrs in total max, in between classes), drained and sleepy, I dragged myself to go take a shower. Passing by the mirror, I saw my reflection. It pained me to see that I am brown – or a person of color; (because apparently, the others are devoid of color?) Wait, what?
It hurts me. I feel an intense tearing sensation inside me, pulling at my heart from all directions. It pains me not because I directly experienced racism (I’m not even sure what such a situation is supposed to look like). Before coming to the States, and Reed, I was a virgin: I had no experience with racism at all. Now, I see it all around and not really sometimes. I am not sure I am aware of racism as much as my American peers are. But I see it subtly all around; in the looks, the attitudes towards me compared to my white friends, in the structural injustices experienced by my black and brown peers. I see it in Hum110, I see it in the resistance to diversify the syllabus, in the fractures within the Hum faculty, I see it when faculty defend the importance of everyone knowing those Eurocentric roots of all the main disciplines, (as if those are the foundations of all intellectual thought), failing to acknowledge that these disciplines have grown to become the main ones and such an understanding of what is intellectual has been put in place, precisely through imperialism and colonialism, at the expense of other ways of knowing the world, other disciplines. I see racism when they ignore and reject the desires of students to look at the world through non-Eurocentrically-tainted lenses. I see it in the reaction of the President to the movement and protests, I see it in the way I went to work today, and my white colleagues either talked about the protest in a vague, misinformed manner, without knowing what it’s for, or were uncomfortable and dismissive of the subject- because they have the privilege to be that way. I do not have the privilege to impose my reality on them; because it is only marginal. I am pressured to conform to this flawed reality, where racism is a thing- although I do not agree with it, and where talking about racism is too uncomfortable. Had it been an equally big, race-less, universal issue on campus, could/would they have ignored it in the same way?
It pains me not because I feel personally affected by racism. (I must be and am, at the larger structural level that escapes my immediate, everyday attention; and in situations where it is so deeply ingrained that I have learnt to take it for granted that this is the way things are, without even recognizing that this is not the same for white people).
I feel so much pain from this reflection in the mirror which tells me: racism exists. How can racism exist? It makes my heart weep. We are all just humans. How can the color that your eyes pick up from the wavelengths of color reflected off my skin, be the basis for so much violence, injustice, conflict, misunderstanding, hate, grief, struggle, oppression, subjugation? How can all these people around me, who claim to care for me, who gave us cookies for Halloween, who act as the protectors and the president of our community of Reedies, still be perpetuating racist practices, from a position of power and privilege? These are the very power and privilege that the white secured by invading this land, calling its peoples Indians, grabbing their lands and resources to turn into their wealth and using black slave labour to build their empire. They climbed, stepping on our backs, to rest comfortably at the top and then went on to propagate their culture at the expense of others and impose their ontologies and values throughout the world with the economic and political power unfairly won by exploiting all these other races.
The resulting sweet, comfortable, powerful privilege is what the President of my school is today using to silence and ignore our voices, our pains, our problems.
It hurts me to have to acknowledge that being brown does not only mean having a beautiful, glistening color. I have come to realize that being brown – at least with regards to what it means in the eyes of racists and those who perpetuate racism – carries such a heavy price. I don’t feel inferior being brown. I have enough dignity and see and know the truth of who I am, enough to know that none of those ignorant perspectives and structural, historical, colonial factors have any bearing on who I am and my worth. I feel so much pain, simply to have to acknowledge the ignorance present in the world, among humanity, in the US (this powerful nation), and at Reed (the most progressive environment where I have ever been). Why, how could racism exist? I refuse to accept that ‘racism just exists.’ It has no premises, no foundations. It cannot exist. And since it does exist, I will continue to question its existence until we all realize that since it has no grounds at all, it cannot and should not exist anymore.
I wish the totality of the Reed community: all the faculty, the staff, the other students would all pay attention to what is happening. Even if they do not agree with all the demands, with all the ideas of RAR, with the methods, at least recognize that a bigger issue is being addressed, that of racism, and that we cannot just live with the knowledge that ‘it is there, that’s sad but oh well’. Yes you can do that any other time, but NOW, what is happening currently, the sit-in and the ongoing protests since Black Lives Matter, have been possible only through Reed’s community members’ huge amounts of work, organizing, efforts, sacrifice, emotional toil, energy, and hard decisions, failures and the courage to keep going- and of course, so much courage at all steps,- conviction and with the collaborative work from so many in the community: students, faculty and staff included. A great machinery has been set in motion, and it is not easy to set it in motion again, if it dies out. It has gained much momentum and this is the time to help make things change. If you still look away and don’t feel concerned, not even simply to recognize, (without endorsing ideas), the extremely taxing and painful experience that your peers or community members are going through in order to address this question of racism, (THAT NEEDS TO BE ADDRESSED BECAUSE IT’S F*CKIN STUPID, and the source of so much suffering and frustration,) then I will..not judge you. I will just feel more pain, from realizing the ignorance that prevails; an ignorance that racism feeds on, and that racism feeds.