Color blind vs. culture blind

“My mother raised me to be color blind,” is something I’ve said to people frequently throughout my life. Every so often someone will argue with me that that’s not right, that I shouldn’t ignore differences. But I’ve never understood where I said that I ignored differences. I can’t speak for anyone else, but when I say that I’m color blind what I mean is quite simply that I will not judge a person based on the color of his or her skin. When I look at a person, I see a person, not black, white, beige, red, orange, green, or purple . . . a person.  When I say that I am color blind, I do not mean that I ignore a person’s culture.

I believe in embracing our cultural differences. I love learning about the traditions of other people. I can still look back and remember some of my favorite elementary school days as the ones where we got to share outfits, food, and music from all of our cultures. I was drawn to the Indian dresses, the African instruments, the Spanish dances, the Greek food, the castles of Ireland and England, the animals of Australia, the architecture of Italy . . . and on and on and on. But I’m not quite sure how that’s supposed to be equated to the color of a person’s skin.

Especially in today’s world where race lines have become extremely blurred, at what point can you assume to know a person’s culture just by looking at them? If a child born of a Korean mother and an Irish father looks more like her mother, am I to assume that her culture is solely Korean? Or do I talk to her, get to know her as a person, and let her share her culture with me? I think I’d much prefer the latter.

My whole thought process for this blog came about after reading another mom’s essay for the contest I am sure you are all sick of hearing about. You can read her essay here. She talks about the discrimination she’s faced because her daughter is much lighter than she is. It reminded me of how children see the world so much differently than we do. My daughter’s very fair-skinned and my boyfriend is black. It’s fairly obvious that she is not his child. But last year in pre-K every time the kids would see him pick her up, they’d yell, “Abby, your daddy’s here!” She’d correct them, but the next time they’d say it again. This year it happened again. My daughter’s classmates all know me very well. I volunteer for almost every event, I chaperone field trips, and some of them I even know from the bus stops. Last week at one of the events, a child asked me if my boyfriend was Abby’s daddy. It doesn’t even register to kids that he couldn’t be her father because his skin is too dark. That’s color blind.

I think we could all stand to learn a lesson from these kids.

4 responses to this post.

  1. I couldn’t agree with you more! Color, color, color! That’s all I have ever heard about, mainly when I became an adult. In my entire family, I’m the pepper among the salt. My daughter’s complexion is like that of my mother and brother. People would assume she belongs to them before they would even consider me. The irony is that black people immediately see that we look just alike despite the difference in our skin tones.

    I was also raised to see the person, rather than the color, and I believe I am the better for it. That allows me, and now my daughter, to be exposed to so many wonderful things that can only be seen by eyes that are not shaded.

    Thank you for sharing this!


    • Thanks Anita for coming by!

      It’s funny. My daughter is very much aware of skin color, but only in same way that she’s aware that she has blue eyes and someone else had brown eyes or that she has brown hair and someone else has red hair. She’s actually yelled at me when I’ve said that my boyfriend was black. “No he’s not! He’s brown!” And she refers to herself as peach. She got upset a couple months ago because she didn’t have the right color crayon to color in Jasmine. So I bought her multicultural crayons.

      I think some people take the term “color-blind” too literally. It’s okay to notice differences. A girl I used to work told me that my boyfriend looked like a black Drew Carry. Another girl was offended by that. I don’t get it. How is that any different than saying, “hey, that woman looks like a blonde Demi Moore”? Of course we NOTICE differences. You’d have to actually be blind not to. It’s how you react to those differences, whether you choose to put all of your focus on them or treat each person as an individual.

      The fact is that you cannot tell a person’s character by their physical appearance. You just can’t. And I care a hell of a lot more about a person’s character!


      • Posted by Miss Anita on April 23, 2011 at 11:08 pm

        My daughter is the same way. She sees the beautiful and interesting differences among us. Her awareness is the same as your baby’s awareness. No different than black, brown, red, blonde, curly, or straight hair. She sees beauty in everything and everyone. Ironically, she even gets upset when she can’t get Dora’s or Boots’ complexion right (LOL). All she sees is a lot of different kids to play with, and a lot of mommies for her mommy to talk to.

        What we need is for the world to see through the eyes of our color & race blind children.


  2. Crayola makes multicultural crayons (though there’s only 8 of them). Lakeshore makes people colored crayons and there’s 24 in that set. Unfortuantely, I can’t find the Lakeshore ones in the store. I may have to break down and order them online.

    And yes!!!! I think there are a lot of lessons we could learn from children!


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