“I’m not racist, I’m colorblind.”
Many adults recite this statement and it grinds my gears. My response? “I’m sorry, ma’am/sir, but you’re confused.” What if I told you that pretending to be colorblind is a subtle form of racism? Let’s dig in.
First, people are not clear, translucent or iridescent. The human population is an array of beautiful colors, magnificent hues, and stunning shades that we can all see clearly. Second, no one is selectively colorblind when only addressing race. We aren’t robots that easily control what we see with the flick of a switch. Third, people cleverly use this self-reported “disability” to quietly relinquish themselves from addressing race and embracing diversity head-on. In short, the false insistence of colorblindness is a common avoidance behavior that needs to stop.
Pushing the colorblind notion onto your children only perpetuates the overall unwillingness and resistance to embrace our society’s racial and cultural differences. Whether it’s a symptom of intolerance or the need to pretend race doesn’t matter, it’s blatant, hurtful, and negligent. Encouraging this sentiment teaches your child to suppress their appreciation for diversity and robs them of the ability to speak clearly about their love for inclusion. So please explain why you would want to teach your child to ditch, dodge, and weave the topic of race?
Your intent may be good, but you’re going about it the wrong way
Perhaps the word “colorblind” is a misnomer. When people say they don’t see color, they must not mean that in the literal sense…unless they are clinically diagnosed with the congenital disorder. But when mainstream America uses this in the context of race, I suspect they mean they don’t discriminate, which is another topic. But saying one doesn’t see color at all is a lie at best (I mean “fib” as my Grandma always corrected me) and cowardly way to ditch dealing with race in America.
And I know you’re thinking you were doing a good deed by teaching your child to not see color. What if I told you, you are doing them more harm than good? Do you want to open up your child’s world? Let me see if I can convince you to to ditch the colorblind talk and replace it with positive forms of acknowledgment and acceptance.
Seeing color and differences promotes these positive behaviors:
- Inclusion. Instead of teaching your children to ignore the differences they see, help them to embrace and accept their peers as they are. The first steps of inclusion and tolerance are seeing, hearing, knowing and acknowledging. It’s healthy and expected for kids to be curious and address individual uniqueness. Allow them to talk about ways in which we are all different, yet still a part of the group.
- Celebration. Colorblindness is lifeless and boring. Allow your children to come alive and celebrate the beautiful hues before them. There are hundreds of shades of skin color, ranging from pale light to chocolate brown. Each and every tone is worthy of praise and celebration. In addition, America is a melting pot of different cultures, heritages, and ethnicities and children love to learn about them. Supplement learning through cultural lessons at home via reading, learning and activities that promote diversity. Differences are fun, enlightening and worthy of celebration.
- Communication. Telling a child to pretend they see no differences is very confusing and pretty much dishonest. It suppresses their questions, concerns and ways to verbally sort through the complexity of our unique characteristics. When you encourage them to explore differences and give them permission to embrace diversity, they will learn to confidently speak about what they see and how they feel. Give them the gift of independent thought and help them find the words to effectively communicate in our diverse society.
- Engagement and Learning. Children are naturally fascinated with different ways of looking, thinking, and living. As a child, I can remember picking a friend’s brain about why her religion prohibited her to celebrate her birthday or Christmas. Although we had many things in common, our differences were fascinating. I respected her culture and wanted to learn more about it. I am grateful that I wasn’t taught to be blind to her story, but rather to engage and learn. Today, I am a better person because I asked questions and sought information at an early age. Engagement promotes mutual learning, and knowledge is power.
Empower your children
Do you want strong, intelligent, receptive and accepting children? Then 86 the colorblind talk. Refrain from placing your children in an uninformed and dormant position of avoidance. Instead, posture them on a podium of empowerment. Provide them with the cognitive, verbal, and behavioral tools to appreciate diversity and navigate through an ever-evolving society. Equip them with the desire to learn, and arm them with the power to lead.
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