My eldest daughter was four years old at the time. We were at a stop light. “Mommy! Mommy! Look! That man over there has black skin!” She was pointing and bouncing up and down in her car seat, celebrating her observation.
My body had an immediate, visceral reaction. My face turned red and my stomach flipped. I was embarrassed by her comment. Why? Because I’ve been conditioned by our society to think it is socially unacceptable to recognize difference, or point out the color of another’s skin (even though I’ve never agreed with it).
“You’re right, honey, the man at the stop light does have black skin. He is African American.”
I decided not to make a big deal, and validate what she saw because what she saw was the truth.
I’ve heard others say that children don’t see skin color, they are blind to it. That’s not an accurate statement. They absolutely see color and race, and they have no problem pointing it out because they are unaware of the stigma. They have no judgment. They see it, they describe it, and then, they move on.
What a wonderful way to interact with reality. I wasn’t blessed with sight to deny it, or ignore what lies before me. I’m meant to absorb the sights of my landscape and the people in it, so I can appreciate life. This is the action of awareness and acceptance.
Have you ever noticed when you’re having a conversation with someone, and their voice dives to a whisper when they describe the color of another’s skin?
We are petrified of being identified as racist, however, racism isn’t about making an observation, it’s about harboring and expressing judgment and a belief in inequality.
Identifying someone as they are, is a sign of respect (in my opinion), and a way of connecting with the person we are speaking with — describing our experiences in order to paint a picture and create imagery, so they can share in our experience, too.
“The blonde behind the counter.”
“The guy with the mohawk and tattoos is our waiter.”
“Do you know who I’m talking about? She is Asian with a cute pixie cut.”
“I met with Randy today. He is a paraplegic.”
It’s ok to see color, to see difference, and describe people as they are.
I’m a Jew. I have freckles and long, curly, brown hair. It’s ok, you can identify me in whatever way you’d like. Describe me how you see me, and I’ll do the same of you.
How blessed are we to be able to see? It is a gift to have the ability to recognize the unique qualities of everyone we come in contact with.
Being observant is a beautiful thing.
We are given the skin and the body we are meant to have, whether that’s white, brown or black. We should proudly wear our bodies, and be honored when others take notice of our authenticity.
I have the power, you have the power, to rid the world of our man-made, make believe blindness.
Let’s start seeing the world as it is, and not be afraid to celebrate it, just as my daughter did that day in the car. I’m teaching my children to see, accept and appreciate everyone as they are, with deep respect for their race, color, creed, religion, sexual orientation, similarities, and differences.
We are the rainbow of life, and what would a rainbow be without all of its colors? ~Rebecca