Black and White Thinking

Even among people of color

Candice Louisa Daquin

We use labels to help us identify differences but often they’re worse than when we exist without labels. Even those who dislike labels, resort to them at times, to delineate who they are. 

As we develop nuance into understanding critical race theories, we also fall back on human nature, which is to type-cast or categorize people. When we belong to a group, let’s say, LGBTQ+ or identify as ‘other’ we think we’re free of labels, but we’re just swapping one for another. For the most part this can be cohesive, but sometimes it leads to further discrimination, even within discriminated groups. 
For most of modern history, people of color were prejudiced against by the dominant paradigm, who used the concept of skin color to denigrate the minority, who in reality were often the majority, as was the case in America with slavery (7 slaves to every 1 slaver).

This was a form of control. Tell a people they are inferior and not only will some believe it, but it will justify the mistreatment of the masses and enable those controllers to justify evil. When you wrap it up in the guise of religion or morality, and pervert truth, saying it’s sanctioned by God or whatever nonsense you’ve implemented as your control, then you dehumanize and denigrate until it becomes almost endemic and really hard to remove. 

Fast-forward 2021 and as an immigrant to America one of the first things I noticed was how racially divided America is. Even in Europe where I grew up, racial divide is not as apparent, especially in how you socialize. It is common here to socialize with those in your income bracket but also your race. Growing up, irrespective of being mixed-race myself, I socialized with all skin colors, races and backgrounds. I saw people as people, not a pantone. 

Living in America you cannot be blind to concepts of color and the extreme divide. I was used to being close to anyone; African American, Anglo, Asian or Hispanic American. But my perspective is not the norm where I live. People tend to stick to their own racial groups far more. Take today as an example: I go to get my annual criminal background check and fingerprints for my psychotherapy license renewal. The offices I go to are staffed by African American workers. I am my usual friendly self and make silly jokes as we go through the process, to cut the tedium of being fingerprinted. But nobody laughs. Granted, I might not be funny, but then why are two other clients, who are African American laughing with the same staff I just encountered? 
Call me paranoid but it’s because the black staff felt more comfortable with black clientele than me and my apparent whiteness. They don’t know I’m mixed-race they just see a skin color, but I find myself wondering, if they did, would they be more comfortable with me? Would they respond differently and laugh at my lame jokes the same way they did the other clients? It got me thinking for the 100th time about first impressions, the assumptions we all make daily, the categories we put people into subconsciously as well as consciously and the reasons behind why we feel comfortable with some people over others?

I have spoken with people about this and those of color say they do feel less judged and more uninhibited talking to people of color than Anglo people. This may come from abundant negative experiences of racism, but why does it happen more in America than Europe? There are obviously more factors at work here and until we uncover the nuance behind race relations, then critical race theory will be incomplete. As much as anything this is to avoid the same wrong-headed assumptions made about people of color, being made BY people of color. Impossible to avoid when we stick to obvious labels as our method of identifying others.

CANDICE LOUISA DAQUIN is of Sephardi French/Egyptian descent. Born in Europe, Daquin worked in publishing for The American Embassy and Chamber of Commerce in London before immigrating to the American South West to study and become a Psychotherapist, where she has continued writing and editing whilst practicing as a therapist. Daquin has worked at Jewish Community Centers and Rape Crisis Centers both in Texas and Ontario, Canada. Her area of specialization is adults sexually abused as children. Prior to publishing her own poetry collections, Daquin regularly wrote for the poetry periodical Rattle and The Northern Poetry Review. Daquin is currently Senior Editor at Indie Blu(e) Publishing, a feminist micro-press. She is also Writer-in-Residence for Borderless Journal. As a queer woman of mixed ethnicity and passionate feminist beliefs concerning equality, Daquin’s poetry is her body of evidence. She is Editor of The Pine Cone Review. 

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