This past winter I went to a tax place in Providence, RI to file my taxes. This was a place where one of my friends referred me because they had a great experience and the service pricing was attractive. Upon arriving I noticed that it was Hispanic oriented, which made sense because my friend was Dominican. I knew that they served a large Spanish population by the music they had playing and the clientele. Being here didn’t bother me as my son is also of Hispanic descent and I enjoy the culture.
Upon arrival, the woman at the front desk began speaking to me in Spanish. Although I could understand what she was saying to me, I responded in English so she knew I was not Spanish. As I was sitting in the waiting area I noticed many people coming into the office and going right in to be seen. At the time, I figured maybe they had appointments or they were there for different reasons. I waited almost an hour to be seen. This was the longest hour of my life and I contemplated getting up and leaving because it was becoming very awkward for me. Not one person spoke to me; however, they all spoke amongst themselves. It was as if I were invisible to all of these people.
When I finally got called into the office, the man behind the desk seemed very kind. Finally, there was someone in this place that smiled back at me! I provided all my information to him and answered many of his questions. He then asked me where I was from. I thought this was weird since my address was on my pay stubs and he already had all my information, but then I realized he meant ethnicity wise. Thinking I was contributing to the small talk, I explained I was half Cape Verdean and half White. At this point, I felt like the man’s personality did a 360. He made rude comments about how I probably thought I was better than everyone because of where I lived and then started inappropriately questioning me. By the end of this awkward encounter, I paid more than my Hispanic friend did for the same services and left the office basically in tears.
After watching Hobson’s TED talk, in/visibility had a new meaning for me. It means more than what you can physically see or not see. It is being able to see someone and acknowledge them for who they are, entirely, beyond skin color/race- because skin color is something everyone can see, despite what they say. However, color should not define who someone is believed to be. I believe the people I encountered when I filed my taxes placed judgements on me because I was different than they were. I agree with Hobson in that being “color blind” is ineffective. To be color brave speaks volumes and is much more courageous. This way of thinking is positive and uplifting. It also supports all different kinds of people and who they aspire to be.
Youth in Action is a safe place where young people, many of which are minorities, can gather together and express themselves with proper guidance. They are encouraged to follow their dreams and taught to be who they desire to be. I believe this is an antidote for invisibility because they are being taught how to be color brave rather than color blind. They believe in themselves and each other rather than falling into the traps of a biased belief.