A few years ago I was at the park with my daughter and while we were playing, a little girl kept staring at me. She was about eight years old and I could tell that she wasn’t trying to be rude, she was just genuinely intrigued. I waved, smiled back and then I started to get a little uncomfortable. I looked at her mom for some sort of clarification and her mom just smiled back so I went over to say hello. The little girl looked up at me and said:
“You’re the darkest person I’ve ever seen”
Thankfully, my mother raised me with some tact so I processed her words and immediately looked at her mom again who at this point had turned the color of a cranberry. She kept apologizing and started to scold her child. I looked at her calmly and told her, “This isn’t her fault.”
Listen. It’s been years and that still sticks to me. Most recently, I was contacted by a White mother who told me a similar situation happened with her young daughter where she pointed to a little boy and commented on his Brown face. The mom, embarrassed, took her daughter to the car and began to tell her daughter about how nice the boy was. I’m not here to bash this mom. Why? Because she did not know how to respond so she reached out to me to ask what she should have said to her daughter in that exact moment.
With our current president acting as if racism doesn’t exist, our country is in a high climate for ignorance. What is really disturbing is when I hear mothers say:
“I don’t teach my children to see color”
How? We teach them their numbers. We teach them about good people and bad people. We teach them about different languages and cultures. How is it possible to think that teaching them to see something so blatantly obvious is good for their development? One thing I have learned from the two encounters I mentioned earlier is that children do in fact see color. By disregarding it, you are opening yourself up to a slew of problems.
Teaching your children not to see color is discounting my Blackness. It is discounting the harsh realities that have happened in this country. Teaching your children not to see color is spreading ignorance down to a new generation of youth. Trying to slip our little “race” problem under the rug is a set up for failure.
Teaching your children not to see color comes from a place of fear. Everyone wants to embrace oneness but understand that “oneness” is made up of many different flavors. We can’t ignore our differences in hopes that they will go away but we must embrace them. We are different. That is OK.
To the mom who inboxed me about the experience with her daughter, thank you. I hope it was eye opening. As I said to her – the little boy’s character wasn’t called into question. There was no reason to address how nice he was. His skin color was the topic at hand. The difference in his skin color from her daughter’s. This little two year old isn’t blind. She sees color. Build off of that. Sit down with your child and show them people of different races. Talk about their hair, what makes them unique and what makes them beautiful. Talk about their cultural differences and practices. Teach your children that the world is not only full of little White children who look like them.
Race will come up. Your children see color. And almost every person who isn’t White can most likely tell you a negative experience that has happened to them from someone expressing that they don’t see color. Our country no longer has a majority. We are all on equal playing field. It’s time to start acting like it.