Do you see “color”? You should.

People look at our family, even young children, and stare at us trying to “figure” us out…they think things like: “how do they fit together?  Is she babysitting a black child?  Did they adopt?  Is that really her child?”  I see those questions roll in their heads almost every time we go out in public, and sometimes we’re actually asked those questions.

I love it (insert: sarcasm) when people come up to our family and immediately go straight to Lucas and ooh and awww over how cute he is…yes I know, he is cute, he is adorable, but I know the real reason they do this…it’s their way of saying, “Oh he’s so adorable!! (insert: see…I’m ok with black people!) and aww, he is just sooooo cute!! (insert: if I keep telling you how cute he is will you tell me how he fits in your family??) and hey, hello?!  Did you even notice that  I have another son who is just as adorable and cute…oh no you didn’t because he is white looking (although he is of mixed race).

Let’s be honest here…none of us are “colorblind”.  To really start to get it you have to first be honest with yourself about that.  Being colorblind is nonexistent, it’s truly impossible.  I’ve heard people say things like, “I don’t see color”, or “I am colorblind, I don’t notice if a person is black, white, asian, etc.”  These naive comments are a way to tell you that they are pretending they have no issues with other races and because they really do they want to cover up issues they have with other races by saying quite the opposite of how they feel, which is in fact they do “see color” and they may or may not be comfortable with people of other races.

As a white person, I know this because I used to say things like that, that “I don’t see color”, when in reality of course I did, and I never felt completely comfortable with people of other races, I’d like to think that I was at the time, and I would have denied otherwise if you told me at the time, but truth be told, I didn’t have a “problem” per say with people of other races, it was just different from mine, and I was uncomfortable with it.  Let me give some examples, like when I would go to a black baptist church with my black friend, where the pastor was yelling and sweating, people dancing and jumping up and down, wearing big colorful hats, people wildly clapping & singing at the top of their lungs…I was uncomfortable.  It wasn’t that I didn’t like it, I enjoyed it, it was just different than those white people churches where a pastor is standing in one place behind a pulpit, and people hardly singing, and quietly sitting in their seats, hardly ever whispering an Amen to anything, so anything different was uncomfortable, and something new and not of the “norm” for me.

Another example, my black friend inviting me over to her house for a sleepover, and what do girls do at sleepovers?  They do each other’s hair.  Yep, if you haven’t admitted it to yourself already or not, black hair is completely and utterly different than white hair.  Most white people are scared of black hair, they have no idea what to do with it.  My black friends didn’t know what to do with my hair either, they slathered in some pink conditioning cream as they would with their hair and it was like glue in mine, and we all quickly figured out this was not working for my hair.  I was uncomfortable with doing their hair and they were uncomfortable doing my hair.  Hair is a whole other topic and subject with both cultures.  I won’t get into it big time here, but let me repeat…hair is a huge deal to black people.  It’s even a more big deal if you’re a white mother raising a black child-in particular if that child is a girl.  Girl, you better know how to do your daughter’s hair or else some black woman will have something to say about that!  The other caveat to that is that most black women relax their hair (meaning they chemically straighten it) and they think that is what is most beautiful to them.  If you haven’t seen “Good Hair” by Chris Rock, it’s worth the watch.  So when I see black women who actually leave their hair natural (meaning not straightening it, just leaving it curly) I think it is so beautiful, and I’ve seen the struggles white mom’s of black girls have when they decide to leave their daughters hair natural.  They get comments all the time from black women who think the white mother has no idea what she is doing, when she really does, she just goes against the norm of having her daughters hair relaxed, and especially if her daughter wants her hair left natural, then I don’t see why all the pressure to get it relaxed anyway.  Getting off subject here, but basically, yes, there is a huge difference with black hair and white people hair if you don’t know that already.

There’s another difference between black skin and white skin too, black skin is much dryer than white skin, therefore chocolate skin needs to be moisturized every single day, sometimes multiple times a day, or else it becomes ashy (skin so dry it looks grey, like ashes)-a HUGE no no in the black culture.  So being a white mother of a black child, you best put some shea butter on that child or else be prepared for even more scrutinized looks and comments, as well as your child being itchy from excessive dryness.  You can’t treat your white child’s skin the same as your black child’s skin, it just isn’t gonna work.  You can’t treat their hair or their skin the same as white hair or skin, and realizing this and getting knowledge and info on what works for chocolate skin is just the beginning of really understanding the difference.  This is the whole reason I started making my own organic whipped shea butter, it works on my sons skin, and it’s what he needed.

White people are not the same as black people, and black people are not the same as white people, black culture is completely different than white culture.  It just is.  Ask any black person. Ask any white person.  If they’re honest, they’ll tell you that it is.

Another issue here is as a white person when some people hear me say “black people” instead of the politically correct “African American” they automatically have their hair raised as if to decipher whether I’m racist or not.  Let me tell you this, if you’re black, and you’ve been born and raised in America, never stepped foot in Africa, and all your relatives and grandparents, etc. are all American, then why are you “African American”?  You’re every bit as American as I am, why would I need to throw in what race you are in front of being an American?  We don’t say “Caucasian American” for white people.  I think it’s more respectful to say “black” instead.  For instance, my son, actually being born in Africa, then becoming American later, is truly the essence of African-American.  Oprah even said herself, “I would rather be called black, because I am an American, I’m not African.  My roots are from Africa, but I am through and through American, just as you are, and I prefer to be called black”.   Here’s another article by a black man who prefers everyone call him black instead:  http://www.manhattan-institute.org/html/_latimes-why_im_black.htm

My whole point is this, you’re lying to yourself and everyone around you to say that you “don’t see color”.  You do.  You should.  You should because it makes you more aware of that race, that culture, and what they go through as a race & culture.  We tend to fear what we don’t understand, this can spread hate and distrust.  When we only know our way, we tend to think other ways are wrong.  This is why allowing yourself to see the difference, allowing yourself to admit there is a difference makes you more aware so you are able to learn more and educate yourself about the culture of black people, and other cultures as well, so you won’t fear them, or be uncomfortable around them, where it truly promotes cultural diversity in a way that you actually “get it”.  But by saying there is no difference, that you are “colorblind” and that you don’t see other races only says that you aren’t willing to learn or accept those of different races and cultures, and that you think your own race is superior to anyone else’s.  Let me explain even more:

We, as white people are privileged, and we don’t even think twice about it.  We should.  A black man walking into a store, high end or not, will get more looks, will be watched more closely than if a white man walking into that same store would.  If you don’t believe me, then look up the topic “White Privilege” on google.  Statistics prove this point to be true.  If you turn on the TV, the white race is widely represented.

Here are more examples:

White people receive all kinds of perks as a function of their skin privilege. Consider the following:
• When I cut my finger and go to my school or office’s first aid kit, the flesh-colored band-aid generally matches my skin tone.
• When I stay in a hotel, the complimentary shampoo generally works with the texture of my hair.
• When I run to the store to buy pantyhose at the last minute, the ‘nude’ color generally appears nude on my legs.
• When I buy hair care products in a grocery store or drug store, my shampoos and conditioners are in the aisle and section labeled ‘hair care’ and not in a separate section for ‘ethnic products.’
• I can purchase travel size bottles of my hair care products at most grocery or drug stores.

Certainly, white privilege is not limited to perks like band aids and hair care products. The second function of white skin privilege is that it creates significant advantages for white people. There are scores of things that I, as a white person, generally do not encounter, have to deal with or even recognize. For example:
• My skin color does not work against me in terms of how people perceive my financial responsibility, style of dress, public speaking skills, or job performance.
• People do not assume that I got where I am professionally because of my race (or because of affirmative action programs).
• Store security personnel or law enforcement officers do not harass me, pull me over or follow me because of my race.

What about black barbie dolls?  Black baby dolls?  Black Santa Claus?  These things are hard to find and the overwhelmingly majority of them are all…you guessed it…white.

I also love this blog: http://www.jenhatmaker.com/blog/2012/03/26/dear-trayvons-mom

Being aware of these things, and especially as a white mother to a black child, only helps me know what types of things my black son will endure just because of the color of his skin.  If I’m not aware, I can’t relate, I don’t understand, and although I may not fully anyway, I at least will be able to teach him there is a difference, and how to handle himself in this very unfair world.

Another thing I learned from the black community, and in particularly from Rhonda Roorda (a black woman raised in a white family who helps raise awareness to transracial families about this very topic) is that if you don’t make an effort to expose these black children to other people who look like him, whether it’s in school, churches, communities, etc. that they grow up afraid of people who look like him because he has never had experience with the black culture because the white family he was raised in stayed in their “comfort zone” of staying in their comfortable white communities, well rated almost all white schools, and safe all white neighborhoods, and comfortable all white churches where people are well mannered and sit quietly in service.  You can find these things in a culturally rich diverse schools, neighborhoods, communities and churches as well!  Just go out of the comfort zone of your own race and look for them.  We have to realize as adoptive parents to black children that this is essential for our children!  How will they learn to love themselves and embrace who they are if they are scared or uncomfortable with people who look like them!?

Being aware, and understanding my white privileges makes me a better mother to my black child.  As white mothers to black children especially, and for family, for friends, it is important to get it, to get the difference, to embrace the difference, not turn a “colorblind” eye to the difference.

When we know better, we do better.  🙂

 

This entry was posted in Adoption. Bookmark the permalink.

One Response to Do you see “color”? You should.

  1. Wendy Brooks says:

    Well said madam! I’m so proud of you Erin. I wish we lived closer so we could get to spend more time with all of you. I miss you and all of your men! Pass out some kisses for us!!! LOVE!!!!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.