“I don’t see colour”
Chances are you have seen, heard or even said this problematic phrase before…
Colour is a beautiful thing; who wouldn’t want to see colour? I certainly do not like the idea of people not seeing my colour, I see it every day in the mirror, it’s great! There is a lot behind it and many many things in history have happened purely because of it…
Raising your children “colour blind” is like wilfully sending them out into the world impaired. It might not be obvious, but children are brilliant and coherently capable of discerning what feels natural from what fits a narrative. Enabling your children to understand diversity and the differences between colour and their choices is the better route to take because it opens them up to an acceptance that they are different. Still, their differences are not superior or inferior to any other.
These are things they will gather for themselves rather than being reminded not to “see” that person’s colour – something that will always linger in the back of their head with every interaction (surely, the opposite of what you were going for?)
Simply put, raising them colour blind is an excuse not to teach them about racism, and here is why:
1. Skin Colour Is Not Optional
A parent being oblivious to the fact that one’s skin colour somehow affects how a particular entity or person sees and receives them is complete ignorance. Skin colour is not optional, nobody chooses which colour they would prefer to wear depending on the occasion. And ignoring somebody’s colour doesn’t make racism go away… racism is real and more often than not surrounds us in more ways than one. It’s only perfectly natural to know why there is a distinction and denying them that opportunity doesn’t make the fact go away.
2. It gives them a choice.
Change is what happens when reliable information is acted upon.
Children need to know the ramifications of their words and actions from an early age. Instead of finding themselves in awkward and uncomfortable positions when something very real happens outside of their world and comfort zone, and in the world of the colours they’ve been taught to ignore.
They may very well have good intentions when faced with racial issues in the future but then say or do something out of their ignorance which could impact another human being’s life. Educating them about race, history and our differences gives them power.
While teaching them that we are not all the same, it allows them to understand the difference between ignorance and knowledge. Parents are the first teachers and thus responsible for the type of human beings they add to society. Raising them colour blind means the society is also blinded to the obvious. In an ideal world, a person’s colour wouldn’t dictate their experiences in certain instances. While it seems great not to have to acknowledge that colour is a real thing; it would be even more significant to acknowledge that colour runs deep.
3. Transparency and openness streamline what is acceptable and what isn’t.
When they get to a certain age, they need to be exposed to information that builds their character and expands their minds. Coming out of one’s comfort zone, naturally is an uncomfortable place to be but that is where we inevitably grow. Using the excuse that your children are still too young to be taught about the ugly truth of racisms is, quite simply refusing to teach them right from wrong. You aren’t saving them or preserving their innocense in the way you think you are. Because at the end of the day, society, other family members and peers will not take that same approach. Before you know it you are explaining to another parent, “I’m not sure what happened, I never raised him like that!”
Additionally, if you are of the mindset that teaching your children about racism too young is somehow going to ruin their innocense, try to imagine how a black child might feel experiencing it at that age or younger. Because racism doesn’t kindly wait until you are an adult and mentally capable of handling it. Innocense is at jeopardy every day, privelegde is not teaching your child about it so theirs remains intact ignoring the fact that their ignorance (or rather yours) could be the source of another child’s pain.
4. While some parents are “protecting their child’s innocense”, others are preparing their child for the worse.
There is something in the black community called, ‘The Talk’, whereby black parents have to strategically plan how and when they are going to teach their children about racism, the people who benefit from the system of racism and, perhaps the most difficult part of all…why. This is not optional for black parents, because the society we live in will inevitably show it’s ugly head, and sooner rather than later.
Additionally, we don’t get to just have one talk with our children and send them on their way. There are various talks to look forward to as our children grow and navigate into different sections of the system.
Often times, black children just have even more questions. This new knowledge, in the short term makes them angry and confused but also gives them thicker skin, resiliance and prepares them for these inevitable encounters. So again, while some parents have the luxury of not seeing colour and protecting their children from their own ancestors past attrocities – others are preparing theirs for the remnants of those attrocities that still exist in this society.
5. Not educating them about colour exposes them to the wrong ideas about colour.
Character is shaped at home because the parent is the first source of information for children. Teenagers go on social media and read articles on YouTube and might very easily get influenced to soak in the wrong content. A child who never got the necessary information about colour is quickly bombarded with all the occurrences and facts on social media and might never fully understand colour. Teenagers easily judge people by their physical characteristics and appearance, so they’re susceptible to misguided groups that attract them using these very intrigues of fashion and appearance statement. It hence lies in the parent or guardian to teach them the nature of words and actions in specific settings. Most parents find it difficult to talk about racial bias; hence prefer to raise their children to colour blind to avoid explaining the topic. They don’t know that it will take them much longer and intense conversations about removing the mindset their children have after being misguided.
6. The link between perception and interaction.
What you tell children will determine how they interact with people in a social setting. If you teach them that color is insignificant, and they should be blind to it they will disregard it. They are also unlikely to recognize that equality comes from understanding your differences not ignoring them. They will be ignorant that there is racial bias in almost every institution they will walk into, because it does not negatively impact them. It would be easy for them then to nurture a disdain towards anyone who says they have been treated differently, because in their head, colour doesn’t matter. Their primary focus will be to fit a narrative that their parents instilled in them growing up.
Ignorance is dangerously close to racism. It is ignorance that encourages people to act the way they want without regard to other people’s feelings. It’s much easier to claim that your actions are innocent when you can confidently say no one told you it was wrong to do that. Parents have a divine role in raising their children to make them productive, upright individuals sensitive to human feelings. Ignoring color defeats this purpose.
7. If Barbie Can Talk About Racism And Social Injustice, So Can You!
Barbie and Nikki Talk About Racism
I must admit, I was pleasantly surprised when I found out 1.) Barbie had a Youtube channel, 2.) Barbie and her (black) friend, Nikki were touching on Racism, and, 3.) Though brief, actually doing a damn good job at skimming the surface. Something that most schools, parents, major channels and government fail to do.
Maybe we could all learn a thing or two from Barbie, who apparently was not raised colour blind.