A Socratic Dialogue
By Lucas J. Mather
Professor, as a person of color, I …
Hode up , the Professor said.
I think I know what you mean by “person.” But we’ll get to that later in the class. What do you mean by “of color,” the Professor asked.
It was dead silent in the class all of a sudden, and the student said, are you attacking me?
If I was attacking you , you would know it, there would be no question about it. I’m asking you a simple question : what do you mean by that prepositional phrase ?, the Professor patiently asked again.
I , it’s just, everyone knows what that means . I’m sorry, it feels like you’re kinda attacking me.
Well I don’t know what you mean by it. And I’m someone. Are you implying I’m not a part of everyone ? I don’t exist? the Professor queried.
No, just everyone knows …
I don’t know. And I’m wondering , at this point , if you even know. And you’re somebody. Right ? the Professor stated.
Thank you for that.
You’re welcome. Sometimes it’s good to be reminded . But I’m somebody , too. What did you mean when you said you were a colored person ?
[Oh s–t professor , oh dayam, LOL, no, oh —the class erupted].
Quiet down , the Professor said.
I didn’t say I was a colored person , professor . That’s an offensive term.
I’m happy to refer to people without regard to color. You’re the one that brought up color and looks.
No, we say “person” in front of “color” to emphasize the person . “Colored person” historically—
Is semantically, if not grammatically, identical.
True…I guess…but. It’s better to say “person” first to emphasize the person .
Why mention color at all then? If it’s offensive all of a sudden, the Professor asked.
Well, it’s not offensive
You just said it was.
No I mean
Now you’re changing your mind. Which is it? the Professor wondered aloud.
Color is obvious. As a historically marginalized community, I
You’re not a community. You’re an individual. I don’t judge you or have interest with you on any other basis, the Professor said.
Colored person is offensive , the student said.
But person “of color”, which means the exact same thing, is not.
Yes. Because of person in front .
Okay, the Professor finally said, furrowing his brow.
So that’s it?
What do you mean by “of color”? the Professor asked, again.
Black and brown.
Black and brown what ?
Black and brown people.
You didn’t say person first .
You’re…right I didn’t . I’m sorry I meant , people of black and brown…skin ?
Is that a question .
No, I mean.
Can I be honest with you? I’ve never seen a black person, the Professor said.
No , I haven’t. I’ve seen brown skinned people . Sorry, was that offensive ? the Professor asked.
No you’re fine.
I’m fine? the Professor asked, surprised.
You’re good , the student said.
I’m a good person all of a sudden ? Why? the Professor asked, anxious to know the ancient secret to becoming “good” so quickly and effortlessly.
No, It I mean it’s fine.
2 seconds ago it was offensive now it’s fine ? the Professor asked, perplexed.
Ugh, omg professor.
Do you have any idea what you’re talking about ?
No it’s just that this is common knowledge.
Well then you should have no problem explaining why “color” only means brown , the Professor noted.
[it was quiet].
Who you guys taking orders from ? the Professor asked. Who is telling you how to talk and think ? [after a pause]. Anyone ever color ?
Huh ? someone said .
Coloring books. You know, Crayola? What are they called.
Craahns! , others said .
Yes, crayons, the Professor said. You ever see the big box?
Yeah . You throw away all of them besides brown ?
The rest are what , chopped liver?
That’s what an 80 year old says, professor .
Sheeit, he said.
You throw away the white one , one whispered.
No, the peach one , another laughed.
Whites not even a color dumbass, an artist said.
Yes it is, someone said. [This debate continued].
Why is it in the craahn box if it isn’t a color? someone retorted.
Anyway, I’m a person of color, the original student said . We all are, besides you .
What am I , the Professor said. A non person?
A person “of colorless”?
No you’re definitely a white person.
Hmm, the adjective is in front of the noun again. I thought that was supposed to be offensive because it doesn’t put the person in front , the Professor noted.
Oh,… that’s true . Uh
By your own view, shouldn’t it be person of white? Instead of the color first? the Professor prompted.
[laughter, several repeats “person of white”, “person of colorless”].
Whites not a color, one said again—the artist.
Yes it is, came another student’s retort .It’s in the crayon box.
Look it up , came another student-blurt, while several phones popped out allegedly to Google all the non blacklisted sites.
But I know what white is, and I’m not white, the Professor said, holding a blank sheet of paper next to his face.
So after all this, what are you trying to say, professor ? the original student said tiredly.
That’s not the question . The question is what are you trying to say, and why ?
I’m not sure, the student said.
Then we’re making progress, the Professor finally said.
Copyright Lucas J. Mather, 2019
All Rights Reserved
Originally Published to Facebook Fri 23 August 2019 at 10:47 pm
Dr. Lucas J. Mather is the producer and host of the podcast taking hell by story, The Republican Professor Podcast.
It’s currently featured as the month of October for Statist Magazine’s 2022 Calendar of Scary podcasts.
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