For the White Students of Middlebury College:
As we entered the beginning of this school year, we found ourselves greeting and catching up with our old friends. In the mix of all the warm greetings were the constant cold mix-ups of White students mistaking Black Students for other Black students. I myself have been mistaken, several times, for many other black males on campus by a supposed white friend. It’s utterly disappointing because often I’m mistaken for other black people who have spent a semester and even an entire school year in the same classroom with a supposed white friend who can’t recognize them after all that time together. Standing there being talked at and mistaken for other black people who are completely different than me is dehumanizing. There is no more space for these microaggressions because they must and will stop. White students must begin to #Recognize_Us. Why? Because we expect that our individuality and humanity be recognized. Here are two ways to stop yourself from committing the microaggressions of mixing up black people in the future.
Before you approach a black person, especially when you have not seen them in a while, stop yourself and recognize us before you approach. If you're intention is to catch up with an old friend (who is black) that you haven't seen in a while make sure you know it's them. Do this by stopping yourself from walking up to strangers and saying "Hey (insert name here), is that you?" and instead tell yourself in your head "I should recognize them first." If you're at the point to where you can't recognize them with all your effort, do not approach them in the first place. If you can't recognize the face of someone who you spent a year with, you're not at all they're friend. This is important that white students begin practicing these behaviors and thoughts to prevent the dehumanization of black people that happens when white people fail to recognize us. When white people fail to recognize us our individuality is taken away. Columnist for the Water Cooler Convos, Jenn M. Jackson puts it best "When white folks mistake individuals of minority backgrounds for other individuals of a similar minority background, it simply denotes a lack of interest in our humanity." and we black people can feel every bit of disinterest when this happens.
Know that if you’re someone who mixes up black people for other black people, you’re experiencing the Other Race Effect. The Other Race Effect is when people fail to recognize the individual differences of someone outside of their race. To combat the Other Race Effect effectively you must make the commitment to not assuming that black people look identical and to knowing we all have individuality and humanity. This commitment particularly looks like you working on recognizing your peers outside of your race by acknowledging their multifaceted individuality and allowing yourself to have more meaningful exposure with people who come from other racial backgrounds.