Friday, October 2, 2009

Raising a Child to be Color Blind

"Mommy, Imani's kind of brown."

This comment about Sophie's best friend came totally out of the blue as Sophie and I were coloring together one morning. Imani's been a part of Sophie's life for almost two of her three years and this summer was the first time that the question of differences between the two of them came up. Imani is our next door neighbor and is seven years older than Sophie, but the two adore each other. Imani's the one who taught Sophie the importance of a sense of humor, especially in making others laugh.

I wonder how long Sophie had been thinking about the fact that Imani's more brown than she is. We're in an integrated neighborhood and some of our close friends are African American but it's not something we ever talk about because there's nothing really to talk about. It just is.

We want Sophie to grow up color blind because color is just another tag that gets put on people and the less tags she recognizes, the more unimportant she'll understand they are. We had a conversation about the different colors people are and decided that even though Imani's more brown than Sophie, she's not a whole lot more brown than my father, who spends a good amount of time in sunny places and enjoys soaking up the rays. Being of Mid Eastern descent, he has the olive skin that turns him a deep brown the minute he steps outside.

When we were in high school my parents took my older brother and me on a trip to Israel and sent my younger brother and sister to stay with my aunt in Michigan. When we returned all we heard about from my younger brother was a guy named Charlie that lived in the apartment complex. Charlie did this and Charlie said that. He seemed to be a wonderful guy and he treated my siblings as his own kids. It wasn't until months later that we were talking about it to my aunt and she mentioned something about Charlie being African American. It had been such a non-issue that it hadn't ever even crossed my brother's mind to mention that to us. It was great and it's what I want for Sophie.

Understanding what color is but being color blind will also serve Sophie well once she's old enough to understand that she carries a tag or two as well; being a female (especially once she hits the workforce) and being adopted.

Imani IS kind of brown, but she's all high spirited, funny, kind and a great friend for Sophie and those are the things that count.

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