Yes, I’m Black and No, You’re Not Colorblind (and That’s OK!)

Every once in awhile I’ll have a generally well-meaning person tell me they don’t even notice I’m black. “I’m color blind,” they say. I personally believe this statement is coming from one of two places. Either one where they’re trying to defend themselves from the appearance of being racist. Or (more commonly) in an attempt to say that they don’t care what someone looks like.

I smile, because I know it’s intended to be a kind statement, but in my mind I’m debating opening up a dialogue.

why you shouldn't strive to be colorblind

I want to say: YES, you do notice (at least I hope so), and that’s okay!

I love one of the infamous lines from Dr. martin Luther King Jr.’s I Have a Dream Speech:

“I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin, but by the content of their character.”

I think one of the keywords in this statement is “judged.” Dr. King didn’t say he dreams of a nation where his four little children won’t be seen by the color of their skin. There’s a big difference.

It’s natural to notice if someone has red hair, is extremely tall, or has lots of freckles. Just as one might notice those attributes, it’s natural to notice someone’s race.

We all have unique characteristics that make us who we are and it’s wonderful. No two people are EXACTLY alike. We are as God intended us to be. You don’t need to feel like you should avoid noticing who I am, or the fact that I’m black. I’m black. It’s a fact. It’s part of what makes me who I am. Not the whole part, but a significant part. To do that would be to ignore a part of my heritage and where I come from.

I remember when I lived in southern Utah once a young child not-so-quietly pointed at me and asked her mom what was going on with my skin. The embarrassed mom whisked her child away as she changed the subject.

There’s this idea that it’s wrong if our children notice skin color. A notion that we should raise our children to not even see color.–To be colorblind. I think we should do the opposite.

I’m not saying to walk outside and have your child point out every person they see and call out skin tones. But have an open dialogue and embrace diversity. It exists. We’re all different and there is beauty in that.

When your child starts to notice race (and they will, not in terms we use like “African American” “Caucasian” etc. but literal skin colors) don’t shy away from it.

“Yes, you’re right, she does look a little like Doc. McStuffins, what did you notice they have in common?” Your child may say because the little girl has pigtails like Doc, or because they share the same skin color.

“Yes, her skin color is darker, like chocolate! Isn’t it pretty?”

When your biracial daughter says she wishes she was white: How to stay calm and work through the situation.

Lil’ J and I bought a beautiful new book earlier this week called The Colors of Us. The book takes a little girl on a walk through the town with her artist mother and describes different shades of brown skin; from toffee to creamy peanut butter to butterscotch to dark chocolate cupcakes. I loved Lil’ J’s reaction as she saw all the different shades and commented on each of their beauty (and deliciousness). She’s also a huge art fan, so seeing the colors mix up in different combinations was fun for her.

I think open dialogues, diverse toys and books like this that openly describe diversity (bonus points for being it in a cute way) are less-intimidating for parents, and entertaining for kids. And if you’re in a less-diverse area like southern Utah and you’ve prepped your kids with diverse books, they may be less surprised when they see their first black person in real life.

While I hope that my race isn’t the only thing you notice about me (or my family), I want you to know that it’s OK to notice. It’s who we are, and we’re proud of it!

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christina says:

great post 🙂

I LOVE this!! And eek – I hope I’m not one of the people who have announced I’m colorblind!

I think I have said it about my son! But I LOVE that he notices more than just skin color. He notices hair color, eye color, gender.

When I think the meaning of colorblind – I think the blind part refers to what color of skin means. It means nothing about a person, other than their heritage (which is huge – not discounting that). But as far as who that person is, what they do, their family – the color of anyone’s skin is just that – a color.

I’m explaining my take in case I’ve ever said I was colorblind! Haha.

BUT – I am glad that I explained to my son recently, in the same way I explain his food allergies, disabilities, eye color, skin color – we were all made just as God intended!!!

So while I was writing this post I wanted to have some kind of disclaimer for friends who have said this to me. I honestly don’t remember who has, it’s not something that offends me or sticks with me. This was more written to say that it’s not offensive to describe me as I am. haha. And yes, I think when talking about our differences with kids we can also share how much we have in common! Cause we do and it’s awesome too!

Haha, so I totally know where you’re coming from and what you mean. No worries here mama! 🙂

Beth says:

I second that emotion! We were actually just talking about differences in people and how they look with my son last night. He’s admittedly a lot more likely to point out someone’s hair or their cool shirt than their skin – but I agree that it’s fine to notice. Why wouldn’t you? It’s not okay to decide who someone is or what they believe or how they live based on their skin color, but how someone looks is part of them. The fact that there are so many different ways to look is honestly pretty bad ass.

We have the book Colors of Us also and refer to it often. Love this post!

Marla says:

YESSS!!! as someone who has many discussion with my kids about skin color (we are mixed race family also) there is nothing wrong with seeing color. The very fact that someone mentions the “color blindness” in the presence (mostly) of someone of color says the exact opposite. See me, See ME for BLACK BEAUTIFUL GODDESS I AM ALL DAY EVERYDAY ;-), don’t however see me and make assumptions about me because of my color. I’ll be honest when someone says that, it’s a little jarring. It’s not complimentary, I don’t see you as someone who on a ‘higher level racial conciseness’ at all. “Color blindness”, in my opinion, is part of the issue for racial understanding of the issues taking place today. Being color blind is not cloak to excuse you from the conversation, if anything it means needs we REALLY need to talk about race because you don’t understand. And it’s not a bad thing, it’s about learning and being able to have that dialogue so that you can be “racially aware”.

PJ LaRue says:

Perhaps a better phrase might be “Color indifferent.”

Sapana V says:

Yes, Very Well said: It’s who we are, and we’re proud of it! People who are living for others, keep on comparing and proving themselves. “I am fairer, m smarter, m faster”. For them, I would say: I dont care. I love myself. I am best at my position!

Carol says:

Around the end of January, I tried to have a conversation with my 5-year-old son about Martin Luther King Jr. and the civil rights movement. I explained there was a time when black people couldn’t sit next to white people on the bus, couldn’t eat at the same restaurant, and couldn’t even play on the same baseball team. But Dr. King helped change all that, and now, it doesn’t matter what color your skin is, you can be or do anything. In fact, look at our president! At that point, I pulled up a picture of President Obama on the computer and said, “Look! What color is our president?” “White,” my son promptly responded. That response really stumped me! At this point, I’m thinking my son is truly colorblind. 🙂 (Or perhaps my computer screen resolution is pretty bad!) But in all seriousness, this is a great post, and it’s so very true. Thank you for sharing.

Great post. And I agree. It is OK to notice.

Love this! We are an adoptive family blended with both biological and adoptive children who also happen to be a blend of white and black as well. In our house skin color and race is a common discussion and something we have all grown incredibly comfortable with. However, I notice more than ever that we have this “colorblindness” mentality. I see it just as you mentioned either by a stranger or acquaintance making a comment about how they don’t see color or a parent shushing a child that innocently mentions the color of one of my children’s skin or asks if they have to use sunscreen. I think if more people speak up about the fact that it is perfectly okay to see the shade of a persons skin color just as it is to notice the color or their eyes or hair the better we will all be.

Debbie Denny says:

Beautiful post. Your attitude is beautiful. You are right about the color of skin is a part of who a person is. I am part European White and part Native American. My grandchildren and nieces and nephews range from white, black, Native American, and Hispanic decent. I love all the shades of my family and how well we have blended together. We are a colorful bunch and very proud of who we are. So yeah…. I agree it is also ok to notice the color of our skin.

Robbin says:

I’m a foster mother raising four beautiful black children. I’m learning to be respectively correct, hoping not to offend anyone. There will always be those people who give looks, or say the wrong things, like do twins run in your family. Well meant comments, that catch me off guard. But the questions that come from my three-year-old are the hard one’s to answer. Mommy, how come I’m black and you’re white? We are made differently, but beautiful in our own way. Three-year-old turns her palms over and says, Mommy, look, I’m white, too. And I so wish my palms were black.

Jennifer, thank you for your honest insight. May our world learn to accept one another for who we are, to see beyond the walls of difference and embrace the world we share.

Jennifer says:

Robin you sound like a wonderful foster mother. The fact that you’re concerned and trying your best to handle these tough questions says so much. Thank you for sharing, and for your sweet comment!

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Hi! I’m Jennifer Borget


I'm a former journalist, and lifelong creator striving to make the world a better place. This is the space where I share my journey in making the most of every day by cherishing our individuality and celebrating our differences.

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