Back before the turn of the century, when my kids started public school in El Paso, they would describe friends by their names and actions. You know, Mom! Frankie, the kid I play with at recess. (As if I was there at recess to watch and know who was who!) I would be confused as to which child was being discussed, so I would ask for more details and the response might be, “He wears red shoes” or “He likes dinosaurs.” It never even occurred to them to bring up color.
I admit that skin color was the last thing I would ask, because I didn’t want their first inclination to be to categorize anyone by skin color unless that was the natural thing for a child to do. (Maybe it was my own little experiment? I don’t know.) At any rate, if I couldn’t figure out which friend was being discussed, I usually had to ask, “What does he look like?” (I wasn’t there at recess!) and then it was light brown or medium brown or dark brown, or even “tannish-beige” (which is how my kids described their own skin. They “knew their colors” before going to school and they were sure that they were definitely NOT “white”, nor did that new friend have “black” skin. It was just a shade of brown or beige, really no different than anyone else. Even at the age of 6 or 7, my boys must have noticed that everyone in our family had a slightly different shade of beige or tan. The baby was the palest, because he couldn’t go outside and run in the sunshine. Daddy didn’t have much of a tan because he had to work in an office all day. Perhaps my kids thought that some of the other kids got to play outside more often and that was why they had darker skin? Besides, in Sunday school they sang that “Jesus loves the little children, all the children of the world — red and yellow, black and white, they are precious in his sight — Jesus loves the little children of the world!” They didn’t know any kids that looked like a primary color but they understood love.
I suspect that this thought process of theirs is what the younger generations now see: many colors, all different, and just that: a color. The kaleidoscope of color is a beautiful thing — a beautiful thing that isn’t what defines the person.
Admittedly, I am coming from a life where I was not discriminated against nor were cruel things said to me because of my skin tone. And yet, I still don’t like checking that box on school forms, the one that makes me choose my race. I’d rather give my heritage (German, Scotish, and a mixture of many others) than call myself “white” — especially since what really matters is what a person is like on the inside: heart, mind, and soul.
This post was inspired by another blogger’s post, found via Hilary’s “Post of the Week.”
I’m a little early this week, but this is my submission for Time Warp Tuesday, which is the brainchild of Jenn at Juggling Life. Please visit her on Tuesday to see the other participants and their photos.