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.
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?”
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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