“Oh, you mean the black guy.” I casually shot back.
10:30am. (ten minutes earlier)
My white co-facilitator and I were on a break in the “Great Hall” reception area outside of our meeting room where facilitators and attendees from other sessions had also gathered on a break. My co-facilitator says to me, “See that guy over there, blue suit and low-cut hair? He was the speaker at that seminar I told you about that I attended last month.”
“The guy with the glasses standing by the coffee station?”
“No. He doesn’t have on glasses.”
“The one on his phone?”
“No. Look. The guy that just took a drink of his coffee.”
Which led me to this, “Oh, you mean the black guy.”
Context. The black guy and I were the only two African Americans there. My colleague could’ve used this aspect to identify him more easily to me. I get it though. I understand how, in our current climate, she would avoid referencing his skin color even if just as an identifying characteristic. Sometimes in the discomfort of uncertainty around “can I say it?”— “it” gets avoided altogether. A guiding principle shared with my colleague: Noticing that someone is black does not make you racist. Acting like it makes a difference does.
Please click here to subscribe to my monthly newsletter.