By: Amanda Regas
Did you see this episode of This Is Us?
Photo Credit: TV Line
Randall is putting into words what he has been sensing regarding his race and role in society. He has a function that feels and looks vastly different than that of his white siblings and parents’ roles.
Jack is assuring his son, Randall, that when he looks at Randall, he does not see color.
Randall replies, “Then you don’t see me, dad.”
Rhonda Roorda, author of In Their Voices: Black Americans on Transracial Adoption, is a consultant on This Is Us. No doubt, her fingerprints are all over this scene, showcasing how Randall travels through life facing difficulties and situations his dad cannot comprehend, even while living in the same house. Jack, meaning well when he announced his “color blindness,” discounts Randall’s human experience.
White supremacy presents to many of us like abusive, cruel white people hiding behind sheets and burning crosses. But that vile evil gets all the glory; the truth is that white supremacy blankets our nation most through our complicity. And our complicity is layered, one layer is this idea of color blindness.
When we state that we don’t see the color of other people, or when we feel accomplished when our kids seem not to notice their peers of color, we are discounting the human experience of people of color.
Additionally, when we point out that color goes unnoticed, as though that’s a good thing, we are quietly shaming color. What is wrong with noticing flesh that is not white or peach-colored? Are we trying to assure someone it is okay even though they are not white? They see white skin and feel no need to offer up reassuring platitudes to us.
Colorblind mentality keeps truth conveniently dormant for members of white culture. The resulting denial is convenient for people like me because it requires no self-reflection. No self-reflection ensures that we do not confront that which is not “nice.” Racism is an ugly business.
If we, in white culture, need to make it about ourselves in order to care, please be assured these issues are harmful to all. By stifling our role rather than confronting systemic race issues, we ensure the same destructive race issues hurting our society now will continue for our children’s generation. This will be an issue when your child’s soulmate is a person of color, and you have a beloved biracial grandchild born into this world that is not as invested in his or her safe future. There are scores of scenarios where your efforts now will matter for your family’s future. So let’s all start now. Let’s see color and also the truth.
This Is Us, and shows like it, may not provide hard-hitting examples of racial issues. However, for those of us who have grown up white and feel sensitive (fragile) about the idea that we may contribute to racism, a gentle introduction via characters we have grown to love and trust is helpful. When we are attached to a role as good as Jack’s, and as sweet as Randall’s, we become open to seeing ourselves in their mistakes. Jack is kind. I am kind. Yet, we both contribute unknowingly to a system that has left people of color to fight their own battles, because we assume that our kindness means that we never add to ongoing race issues faced by real-life Randalls.
Every day, our children sit at their teacher’s feet, in a posture of learning, listening to stories. No storytime is complete without questions and reflections as kids process themes. May we never forget we learn best this way too, and that our self-reflection after hearing stories is paramount to our ongoing education.
Jack says at the end of the scene: I am going to listen more and lecture less.
Thus, we now see Jack displaying a listening posture. He’s uncertain—confused and taken aback. But it’s clicking. And he has decided that for many reasons, he had better start to listen, even while uncomfortable.
I am learning that I don’t know much about race or race issues, but I now know that Jack’s posture is the one I need to take.