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Why Racial Colour-Blindness Is Not For This Family

Jun 12, 2017

"I don't see race; I treat everybody the same."

Have you ever heard that statement or said it yourself? In a world where being "different" is sometimes misinterpreted as "less than," it sounds like a way to be a good person.

Racial colour-blindness may be a way to cope with discomfort around diversity, but it's at the cost of denying someone their identity.

But it's misguided. We adopted our black child into our white family with a commitment to honour and respect her birth race and culture. A belief in racial colour-blindness doesn't even acknowledge her differences, let alone celebrate them.

It's important to remember that differences aren't bad, or even something to be overlooked or simply ignored. We want our child to feel completely valued and adored exactly the way she is — not just tolerated or accepted. We don't love her in spite of her appearance and birth culture, but because they are part of who she is. We never pretend we don't see her glowing dark skin and hair textured differently from our own. Along with her birth culture's customs, language, music and stories that have become part of our family tapestry, they are integral pieces of her self-identity. We are raising her to be proud of her race and culture, so to look past her skin colour would deny her a vital part of her self-worth.


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Racial colour-blindness may be a way to cope with discomfort around diversity, but it's at the cost of denying someone their identity. We know some histories are difficult, but we hope that being open to acknowledging those hardships is a way to forge a stronger sense of community with others who don't look like us.

So we talk. We talk to our daughter and my stepson to ensure they understand difference is something positive to be appreciated, not ignored. It's not always easy to start these conversations with kids, so we used a great book called We're Different, We're The Same by Bobbi Kates. It explains in very basic terms that while our bodies may come in different shapes, sizes and colours, they all do the same things. It teaches young children to enjoy diversity while confirming that we are all still similar and connected to one another in many ways.

We never pretend we don't see her glowing dark skin and hair textured differently from our own.

Most parents have moments when their kids points at someone whose appearance is different from their own and make a loud remark about it. We are no different. And we also wanted to shush our children and wished for the ground to open up and swallow us whole. Instead, we took a deep breath and confirmed our child's statement in a positive way. We would say something like, "Yes, you're right. That lady does have brown skin. Isn't it cool that each person has their own identity? Isn't it far more interesting than if we all looked the same?"

Kids shouldn't feel ashamed for noticing differences. The more we talk about the benefits of different skin colours, appearances, shapes, cultures, languages, histories and foods, the more our kids absorb our enthusiasm for diversity.

Our own kids learned at a young age to appreciate differences with a respectful curiosity about others. And most importantly, our daughter has a strong sense of dignity, pride and worth — both within our family and within her larger world.

Article Author Jackie Gillard
Jackie Gillard

Jackie Gillard is a freelance writer who lives on the suburban fringe of Toronto. Between writing the thousands of stories she has in her mind, she is busy as the second wife to her second husband (no, she's not a sister-wife) and mom to an elementary school-aged daughter and a teen stepson. Coffee fuels her days and she used to enjoy wine occasionally in the evenings but now generally falls asleep tucking her daughter into bed. You'll find links to Jackie's published work on her neglected blog MyPapayaJambalaya or you can follow her on Twitter or Instagram to see what shenanigans she's up to each day.

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