STORY 1: I talked with a mom recently who told me about the day her daughter’s 2nd grade class learned about Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Although usually very talkative, that day the little girl had seemed abnormally quiet. When the teacher inquired, the very blonde-haired blue-eyed little girl asked, “Am I black?” As the mom told me the story, she was sad that her daughter had to learn to see color. She said, “Until someone told her, she didn’t even see the difference in people’s skin. I know we have to teach history, but I just wish they could stay colorblind.”
STORY 2: While having lunch with Brynna’s class one day, a little boy told me about the day before when he’d been walking with his older sister. An older boy had yelled words at his sister that he didn’t understand but she later told him were because they’re black. His little face was so solemn as he said, “I was so mad at that boy for being mean to my sister.” My heart broke for him as I told him that what the boy said was not right, and it was ok to be mad. His friends at the table (my child included) looked at him with genuine concern that he was sad but with otherwise blank expressions, having no similar experience to understand what he was feeling.
As I listened to the mom at the party tell me about not wanting her daughter to see color, I saw that little boy sitting in the cafeteria, surrounded by friends who love him but couldn’t understand what he was feeling. What I couldn’t quite express to that mom without turning a social event into a soapbox was that being colorblind is not the answer. I am in no way judging her or her desire to protect her child from parts of the world that are hurtful and ugly. She’s a good mom and a kind person. But her daughter has the option to get to the 2nd grade without seeing a difference in people. She learned about events in history in a safe environment. Brynna’s friend in class barely made it to 5 years old before someone told him that there was something wrong with him because his skin is darker than theirs. He didn’t learn history in school. He faced fear. In 2015.
While it’s become a popular thing to say, being colorblind implies there is no difference between people based on the color of their skin. There is absolutely no difference in their worth, but there are vast differences in their experiences. It’s not noble to teach kids to be colorblind. It’s ignorant. I don’t mean that in a cruel way. I mean it as it’s defined. Ignorant: lacking knowledge or awareness. To shield kids from the truth about race is not helpful to them. It’s like anything else. If we shy away from uncomfortable topics because we don’t know what to say, our kids are the ones who suffer. If the appropriate beliefs aren’t taught at home, they will go in search of answers somewhere else. And who knows what they’ll find.
I won’t teach my child to be colorblind because she’s not blind and neither is the world. I hope you’ll join me. If we could all do that – teach them to see and love people BECAUSE they’re different not IN SPITE OF it – how different would our world be…