It’s hard to know what to do about this except to acknowledge that diversity isn’t easy. It’s uncomfortable. It can make people feel threatened. “We promote diversity. We believe in diversity. But diversity is hard,” Sophie Trawalter, a psychologist at the University of Virginia, told me.
That very difficulty, though, may be why diversity is so good for us. “The pain associated with diversity can be thought of as the pain of exercise,” Katherine Phillips, a senior vice dean at Columbia Business School, writes. “You have to push yourself to grow your muscles.”
I was out on a walk with a friend in a tony part of town when we happened upon a store of note. The first thing I noticed was how diverse the store attendants were or put in a less delicate manner - I noticed that the store attendants were Black. This was immediately noticeable to me because (1) I am Brown and (2) I am very aware that this tony part of town has few, if any, Black inhabitants, much less storekeepers.
After leaving the store, I remarked to my White friend that the store attendants were a surprise in that part of town. My White friend remarked, "I didn't notice" in a tone that I often hear when people say "I don't see color."
At that point, I seriously considered knocking her upside her head, but instead I settled for the increasing disappointment I feel with many White friends. I am more and more aware that I can't have an honest conversation with them about a topic that is not only important to me, but also one I live every day: race.
I was having difficulty articulating my dissatisfaction and unease with this "I don't see color" sentiment, and then I hit on this quote (emphasis mine):
"First, I must confess that over the last few years I have been gravely disappointed with the white moderate. I have almost reached the regrettable conclusion that the Negro's great stumbling block in the stride toward freedom is not the White Citizen's Council-er or the Ku Klux Klanner, but the white moderate who is more devoted to "order" than to justice; who prefers a negative peace which is the absence of tension to a positive peace which is the presence of justice; who constantly says 'I agree with you in the goal you seek, but I can't agree with your methods of direct action;' who paternalistically feels he can set the timetable for another man's freedom; who lives by the myth of time and who constantly advises the Negro to wait until a 'more convenient season.'
Shallow understanding from people of goodwill is more frustrating than absolute misunderstanding from people of ill will. Lukewarm acceptance is much more bewildering than outright rejection."
~Martin Luther King, Jr.