“She had brown skin.”
It’s a simple enough observation; looking back I did remember the woman had brown skin. I saw her with my own eyes but where I saw her as another woman, Sophia saw her as someone different than her. This woman had brown skin compared to Sophia’s white skin. She noticed and filed this piece of information away.
In light of all that is happening in our country the last few weeks, someone in my Facebook feed wished we as a society could go back to the innocence we had as children when we “didn’t see color”. But the above remark from Sophia proves children do see color. They notice all of the differences around them. It’s a good thing. It’s a learning milestone, to identify differences. What you don’t see in children after they notice these differences is a change in how they act towards or treat a person different than them; unless of course they’ve been taught to act on those differences.
Sophia is newly five and has been pointing out these differences for the last few months. She’s been asking questions why someone may have a different color skin than she does or why someone’s family structure is different than ours. We’ve taken the opportunity these questions pose to explain diversity as well as you can to a five year old. We believe God made a wide variety of people and that’s what we explain to her. I often say “Wouldn’t it be boring if we all looked and acted the same way?” But with those talks we also take the time to incorporate the message that someone’s appearance shouldn’t change the way she treats or acts towards a person. We talk about how she would feel if someone treated her differently than everyone else because of her appearance.
It’s not a difficult conversation to have nor is it difficult to reinforce what is innately in her heart…the desire to be kind to and accepting of everyone. This is a conversation that goes beyond race as well. It applies to anyone who may be different than what Sophia relates to as her “norm”. It’s such an easy and organic thing to talk about, I wish every parent would have this conversation every time the opportunity presented itself.
Silence Isn’t the Answer
I’ve been very hesitant to publicly wade into the discussion that is taking place on social media right now. I feel like it’s a ticking bomb just waiting to go off on someone. Frankly, I don’t want to be that someone. Staying silent, though, isn’t the answer. I’m not sure what the right answers are but silence is not one of them.
The suggestion that we should all become “color blind” is ridiculous. The intention is a good one but it misses the mark. Of course I see that there are people in this world that have skin colors different from my own. Your appearance is part of your story, part of your heritage, it goes to a very innate part of your identity. To take that away would be to wipe out a world of culture and experiences. Again, what a boring world it would be. Instead of adopting “color blindness”, why not adopt a mindset of inclusion and acceptance and appreciation?
I don’t think that if we were all having these conversations with our kids all forms of racism and discrimination would end and injustices would cease to happen but I do think it’s a small effort to try and make the next generation more understanding. I’ll be honest…I’m fearful right now. I’m scared for my kids now and for the future they will inherit. I’m asking questions like: How do we fix such a break in our society? How do we get rid of the “us” and “them” mentality that is so prevalent? How do we make people value the lives of others again? I don’t have the answers to these questions but I can’t stand by and wash my hands of this. I’m just as responsible for the state of the world I leave to my kids as anyone else; so we’ll continue to have these conversations.