I’ll never forget my first Education course in college. During one of the first classes, my professor told us the following story:
When she was in the grocery store one day, a small white child turned to her also-white mom and not-so-quietly asked, “Mommy, why does that lady have such dark skin?” The mom tried to quickly shush her daughter, but my professor interrupted. “You’re right, little girl! I do have dark skin. And you have light skin. And other people have different shades of skin. But we’re all people and equally beautiful.”
That story changed the entire way I thought about discussing race. That little girl in my professor’s story was simply making an observation, and her mother was only trying to avoid a potentially awkward situation. However, this mother’s action (as well-intended as it was) demonstrated to her daughter that race was not something to be discussed. And subconsciously she was sending her daughter a message that different is not ok, that discussing race is not something to be done. This is the cycle that we have to break.
I was always taught that I should respect everyone and treat others the way I’d like to be treated. My extended family is composed of several different races and ethnicities. But that alone doesn’t mean that my son will grow up to not be racist or prejudiced; it’s my job to teach him how to see color and ethnicity as gifts and beautiful aspects of who someone is. It’s my responsibility to encourage him to learn and discuss and ask questions. If I fail, he will perpetuate the silence that has continually demonstrated is not a solution. If I succeed, he will help break the cycle and encourage his own and future generations to love and respect no matter what color one's skin is.
As parents, aunts, uncles, friends, and humans, we need to speak out and denounce racism, hate, and prejudice of any kind. We are all influencers, and it is our responsibility to help make sure that the younger generation grows up understanding that every person of every race deserves love, respect, and kindness. This is actually a lesson that many people in other generations need a refresher course on as well.
I’ve really been struggling with how to show my support to my family members, friends, and clients of all different races. And while I still want to do more, the one thing I can do right this moment is teach my son that color exists and that he is encouraged to talk about it. I will teach him that every color skin is beautiful, and it is ok for him to talk about it. And if one day that he asks, “Why does Aunt Ade have dark skin?” my response will be straightforward. I look forward to being able to respond by explaining that God gave her gorgeous dark skin and He gave him (my son) beautiful light skin, and both are equally special because God makes each person perfectly.
I don’t want my son to be silent. I want him to stand up and do something simple – talk.