By Lemn Sissay
If you can see the sepia in the sun,
Shades of grey in fading streets,
The radiating bloodshot in a child's eye,
The dark stains in her linen sheets.
If you can see oil separate on water,
The turquoise of leaves on trees,
The reddened flush of your lover's cheeks,
The violet peace of calmed seas.
If you can see the bluest eye,
The purple in the petals of the rose,
The blue anger, the venom, of the volcano,
The creeping orange of the lava flows.
If you can see the red dust of the famished road,
The white airtight strike of Nike's sign.
If you can see the skin tone of a Lucien Freud,
The colours of his frozen subject in mime.
If you can see the white mist of the oasis,
The red, white, and blue that you defended.
If you can see it all through the blackest pupil,
The colour stretching, the rainbow suspended.
If you can see the breached blue of the evening,
And the caramel curls in the swirls of your tea,
Why do you say you are colour blind
When you see me?
Every time I read this poem I find something new to love about it. This poem has such immense power. It starts off talking about all the beauties of life and the colors within them, and for a minute it feels like a simple imagery poem about color. Then, the title leads you to think it will be about someone that cannot see this. However, instead of this, the poem ends with the lines "Why do you say you are color blind When you see me?" These lines resonate with me because I understand how it feels for people to say they are color blind as if not acknowledging the color of my skin is a good thing that I should be thankful for. As if though that phrase should put my mind at ease and I should thank them for their knowledge.
I understand the depth of the statement. I have felt the numbness in my heart as someone pretends I am not brown. I have heard the statement uttered over and over again like a broken record in my head, and all I can do is sit there and smile because after hearing it for so many times, your brain numbs down the idiocy of it. It simply shuts down and pretends it never happened because if it didn't, you won't have to have the conversation again. The statement has now simply become a joke you say to people once in a while when they claim not to be racist. The phrase will become a joke for people of color when all we can do is laugh at the irony because we're so tired of being the spokesperson for all POC. My being should not lead you to believe I know it all. Not all brown people think like me or act like me and that is okay. What is not okay is looking at me and pretending as if though you don't see the color because let's be honest, the only reason you said that was because I am brown. Overall, I just feel as if though this poem is simply so powerful for its imagery and the way it leads up to its ending.