My 18-month-old is obsessed with colours. He points to an object and looks at me, waiting for me to clarify the colour.
Red car, blue t-shirt, pink rattle.
The other day, after pointing at a thousand objects again, he pointed to my arm, and I said “brown arm”. He also pointed to his arm, clearly darker than mine, and I said “brown arm”. He then touched his father’s arm, and I said “brown arm” yet again.
Our son moved on innocently.
That’s all he should ever know because the matter of skin colour should just end there. He should just accept that there are different skin tones like there are different coloured cats or dogs or sheep or fish.
Unfortunately, he will not remain innocent.
Part 1 — the past.
He will come to learn of all sides of the world — of its achievements, its beauty, its culture, and of the tragedic events caused by both nature and humans.
He will come to know of all the great inventions and discoveries, and of the traumatic and appalling behaviours of men. He will not remain naive in thinking that it’s all butterflies and rainbows.
He will discover that multi-racial people once represented adultery, rape, abuse — sin.
. . .
Part 2 — the present.
While my son innocently asked about the colour of his arm, I cried inside.
I became emotional as my son learned that his father and I are different shades of the same colour. He doesn’t yet know that different shades of brown still to this day pre-determine people’s fate in some places. He doesn’t realise that the past mistakes of humanity will make it difficult for some people to live today. He doesn’t know that even he may face challenges just because his skin tone is darker than mine.
Imagine that I would otherwise teach my son that I have more perks than he does because I’m lighter-skinned.
How does that make you feel?
Is it ridiculous to you? It is absolutely baffling to me.
Then answer me, how is it that it happens today? How is it that even though there are clear signs showing inequality between white people and other ethnic minorities in the Western world, it is denied, or worse, admitted and embraced with pride?
I asked myself, at which point do people make the connection between skin pigmentation and being good or bad, or being more or less deserving?
At what point in their growth do people start to question whether someone should be their friend or enemy, based on his race?
How do adults become hostile to different groups of people? Do they hate young?
I asked myself, does a parent really explain to her child that her foreign school friend is not welcome in their house? What excuse would she have given?
Does a parent ever tell his children that darker-skinned people were less deserving than them of anything?
Of course, children don’t always get told to them directly, “that black kid should not be your friend because he’s black”. Kids learn through actions. So, really what I’m saying is that parents act in ways that are racist without saying they’re racist. Sometimes, they act racist without knowing it.
“Racism comes in many different forms. Sometimes it’s subtle, and sometimes it’s overt. Sometimes it’s violent, and sometimes it’s harmless, but it’s definitely here. It’s something that I think we’re all guilty of, and we just have to make sure that we deal with our own personal racism in the right way.” — Jordan Peele
. . .
Part 3 — the future.
How will our son react if he is ever faced with anything that remotely discriminates him because of his race?
How will we, as parents, react?
I can’t help but wonder, what will he think of me? What will he think of his dad? How will our skin colour affect him? Will he blame us if he’s bullied in school for being “neither white nor black”? Will he have trouble “fitting in”, if even I did as a foreign caucasian child growing up in England?
I hope that if racism still exists, our son will live a happy life in spite of it.
I hope that we will bring him up in such a way that will enable him to define himself regardless of skin colour. He will embrace his heritage and take it forth with him, along with his intellect, and build his own empire, full of colour.
He will see colour as beauty.
He will see colour as art.
He will see colour as life.
He will see colour, most of all, as love.
Because love is stronger than hate.
This post was previously published on Equality Includes You.
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Photo credit: Devonte Emokpae