See my colour, see me
Black History Month shines a light on issues around racism that we should be aware of every day of the year, both inside and outside the workplace
PEOPLE & CULTURE
Associate, Campbell Tickell
Issue 69 | December 2023
Seeing me in my true blackness shouldn’t be reserved for just one month of the year. When you see colour, you see me.
Sometimes I’m tired of talking about racism and the inequalities people who look like me face on a daily basis outside our homes and in work. But I know these conversations need to be had and there are still people out there causing harm to Black people without realising it, because they “do not see colour”.
The saying “I don’t see colour” is more harmful than you can imagine to a person of colour. I understand where the sentiment comes from, but it doesn’t stop me feeling somewhat unsafe when I’ve heard a non-Black person say it. Saying you “don’t see colour” tells me you are not likely to see injustices and unfairness due to biases.
“I don’t see colour”.
So if you didn’t, it wouldn’t matter where I’m “really” from?
Or is it just the inequity and inequalities that you refuse to see?
The microaggressions, the overt racism, the requirement to code-switch and adjust my natural behaviour to ‘fit’ into the environment. This abuse is one reason why Black people could never bring their authentic selves to work. But I’m eternally grateful for employers and clients that have given me space and allowed me to express myself authentically, professionally.
I still code-switch occasionally in unfamiliar surroundings or with unfamiliar clients, however it’s reassuring to know that there are spaces where I can just be myself and breathe a little.
What it means to really see me
A quick story about what it means to really see me. When I was eight months pregnant with my son, I went to the doctor to have some blood tests. The medical practitioner tasked with doing so couldn’t find a vein. Now, this was either down to incompetence or ignorance, and as far as I’m aware, most phlebotomists know where to go digging.
I know this medical practitioner could not see beyond her biases. As I tried to help her and indicate where the vein was, I was told: “I’m the professional, you’re not.”
When I told her I was in pain after the fifth aborted attempt, I was told: “You can’t be in pain. I would know if I was hurting you.”
This sort of arrogance, the sheer lack of care – of both my body and peace of mind, given that I was eight months pregnant – speaks to this person’s world view.
During labour I was denied painkillers. My body, my thoughts, my voice, didn’t matter and didn’t carry weight. To speak up or against it was petulance. I was to be spoken down to, to be belittled and told I didn’t know myself.
So, you can see why Black History Month is more than just one month for me and people who look like me. I’m not Black just one month a year. See my colour all the time and you’ll see the real me.
“During labour I was denied painkillers. My body, my thoughts, my voice, didn’t matter and didn’t carry weight. To speak up or against it was petulance. I was to be spoken down to, to be belittled and told I didn’t know myself.”