Told to see race, am puzzled

14753661863131938596926Jeff Marks,
Mountain View, CA.

I have been hearing about the importance of “seeing race” a lot lately. What does this mean for my life? It can’t mean I should TRY to categorize people, should it? I often meet people that don’t easily fit in a standard racial category. For me, I will take it to mean three things. One is to be aware of my own reaction to people’s differences, and to not assume I don’t react differently to different people. The second is to be aware of the diversity of different areas of my life. “Seeing” if there are any black people in management roles at work can be good at identifying a lack of diversity. The third is to see the uniqueness of others. I find that if I focused on trying to really “see” someone I want to get to know better, an identification of that person as having a particular racial identity is ….. sorry, but not that helpful. Culture, yes. Experiences, yes. Stories, yes. There are many times when someone’s culture and experiences are very different than what one would expect from a racial category. Am I missing something here? Is my understanding of what it means to “see race” what other people mean by that? If not, should we even be using this shorthand advice to “see race”, or replace it with something more specific? I read advice to teachers on the importance of seeing the race of their students, but what I got out of the article was not the importance of seeing race, but really seeing the unique environment each of their students is living in. I am not going to advise people to “see race”, but to see a lot more. Really, again, am I missing something here?

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