And for the love of God and all things holy on this Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Day, please, please don’t pass your colorblind ridiculousness on to your children. That’s not what he meant.
When you say you “don’t see color,” you mean that you judge people on the content of their character, not the color of their skin – I get it. You don’t care if someone is white, black, brown, purple. . . and I believe that you believe that you don’t care.
You intend to treat everyone equally, and you teach your children to be kind to everyone. If they ever ask, you’ll tell your kids that racists are bad guys. . . we’re good guys. . . golden rule. . . love is all you need. Boom. Done.
Ummmm… No. Your 5 year old is already steeped in racism. Just like I was by the time I was five. Surrounded by well-meaning, educated, kind white people who professed not to have a racist bone in their bodies.
When I was growing up White AF in the 80s, nobody talked to me about skin color or race. I do remember hearing mortified parents talk about their toddlers, who were not colorblind, making loud observations about of People of Color in the grocery store. And when those naturally observant babies saw how nervous and embarrassed their culturally incompetent adults became, here’s what they took away from that: something about brown skin is unspeakable.
Once a year in January, people in my liberal bastion of Whiteness would praise selective aspects of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s teachings. Sharing his dreamy peaceful idea of children holding hands. Not sharing ideas, or facts, about why there were virtually no Black children anywhere near me or my hands. And nobody talked to me about how that came to be, or why it was still a thing.
So, the world informed me without explicitly telling me, that the fairest of them all was the most beautiful. That hair is supposed to be let down and silky smooth. The news, the movies, the shows, the suburban legends, all overrepresented People of Color as poor and violent and criminal, as athletes and as entertainment, and underrepresented People of Color in every other way.
We were all racialized and were all passively taught to believe that White cultural norms and standards of beauty are just “normal”. Taught to see Black communities as less fortunate. Taught that discrimination happened in the south, and taught not to examine or question the present de facto segregation all around us. The idea that Whiteness is ideal, is supreme, has been subliminally seeping into us all our lives as if through osmosis, down to our bones. Not just the one racist bone.
White people who tell me they don’t see color generally don’t fully understand how they are still benefiting from racism or understand their own implicit biases – and we all have them. If we don’t see color, then we don’t see social constructs like Whiteness and systemic racism. And if you don’t think about these things on your own and share them in developmentally appropriate ways with your kids your failure to acknowledge and discuss race and racism in America is hurting people.
And yes, it sucks when your sweet, loving child becomes aware of awful things. But please know that other people’s sweet loving children will suffer awful things because of your privilege to ignore them. Protecting your child’s innocence is giving the next generation of white supremacy a head start.
How to even start talking? There is no shortage of videos, articles, and books even for your babies. It’s not hard to find everything you need to make yourself and your kids more culturally competent, and make the world a better place. Just open your eyes.