I didn’t see color.
I didn’t see color when I worked on the Wildwood boardwalk because it was next to impossible for a person of color to get a public-facing job there. So I didn’t see color there.
I didn’t see color in the books I was assigned — unless you count the supporting role of Tom Robinson in “To Kill a Mockingbird.” So I didn’t see color there.
I didn’t see color, so I didn’t see a problem when our high school cast a white Dorothy in “The Wiz” or when I darkened my skin to play a Shark in “West Side Story.” And about that confederate flag that’s prominently displayed in the class picture in our yearbook…
I didn’t see color when I was interviewed for a scholarship and an adult said to me, “You know, Temple University is an island of white in a sea of black.” All I replied was, “I’m not really worried about that.” But I didn’t say more.
I didn’t see color among the unpaid students at any of my media internships, nor did I see color on those staffs. And I didn’t ask or explore why that was.
I didn’t see color on the minibus coming back from the National Magazine Awards, a ride burned in my memory not because of the nomination honor but because a lengthy conversation about race with a person in power led to me asking, bluntly, if he believed Black people were inherently inferior to white people. He said, without hesitation, “yes.”
I didn’t see color on the covers of magazines where I worked (athletes and celebrities and one person in a group shot excepted). And I didn’t challenge that nearly enough.
I didn’t see color when I became an editor and reached out to those writers I knew (pretty much all white) for assignments and assumed that it was enough to simply open the door for new potential freelancers rather than proactively reach out to diversify the voices that I published.
I didn’t see color among my fellow critics reviewing the arts locally. And I didn’t see color in much of what I reviewed. While it is easy to put all of the blame for that on the arts ecosystem, I also have to own the fact that I didn’t try as hard as I could have to diversify what I covered.
I didn’t see color in the casting of most of my plays (when I had that power) because I rationalized and mentally limited who could and should bring those characters to life.
I spent a lot of time thinking that not seeing color was the way things were going to get better. I’ve slowly learned that it takes a lot more than that.
Let’s learn. And let’s actively make things better.