Life · Parenting

What my daughter taught me about race

In the teaching profession, if you’re lucky you get to be part of some absolutely wonderful professional development. Some of the best I can remember was around cultural diversity. The content was not delivered in a new and exciting way, nor was it particularly revolutionary in its content. Still, I learned so very much from someone simply explaining one key concept to me: being a person who doesn’t “see color” is still offensive. I didn’t understand this at first, and I’m embarrassed to admit it. 

In the beginning of learning about cultural diversity I thought that it would be a waste of my time. Then I learned something extremely valuable. We should see people’s color. We should also see their religion, their nationality, their personal culture. We should see these things and we should honor them. To not see race or religion or all of the other factors would be to assume that everyone is like me. Even more than assuming people are like me, it is simply assuming that their culture should remain hidden or that I simply do not need to care to see it. I’m proud to say I know better now. Even more of a point of pride is that Daughter does a thousand times better. 

When Daughter was about three we were sitting in an airport. It was late and everyone was tired, it was hot and no one felt good. I was on the floor playing with her when she climbed into a chair between strangers. She turned to a woman and touched her arm, just touched her without permission, and said, “I love your brown skin.” I was mortified and felt myself turn red and hot in the face. The woman looked Daughter in the eye and said, “Thank you! You can touch it all you want.” In that moment I realized that this woman was pleased with the honesty and open heart of my daughter. 

She’s grown up a lot now and she understands a lot more about what’s socially accepted and what isn’t. Still, she will tell someone that she loves their brown skin or their curly hair. She says, “Your hijab is very pretty,” or, “Oh. You have a husband. You’re gay. That’s nice.” She says these things because she is a person who simply speaks what she is thinking and she genuinely wants to know more about people. She loves everyone so openly and honestly. She genuinely values the differences in everyone. She sees them, and she honors them. I know I’ve done something right. 

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