Does Color Matter? Should we “See” the color of people’s skin?

In the world of trans racial adoption and as my husband serves as the Pastor to Families of a diverse church (www.fellowshipmemphis.org) in the heart of the south, I hear the phrase  – “I don’t see the color of people’s skin” often.

In fact, I said it myself for years. When I proudly proclaimed it, what laid behind my words was an honest attempt to line up with God’s word. I wanted to communicate that I was seeing the content of someones heart over their outward appearance, and that I did not value or devalue a person based on the color of their skin. I.E.- “I am not a racist”.

What I have come to learn is this: when saying that phrase we are missing a HUGE part of God’s creative nature and in actuality we are devaluing the person, their culture, and who God created them to be.

On this side of eternity, in our world, in my city, race matters. Color matters. It matters very much.

We are left with a choice. We can choose to celebrate it. We can choose to embrace the culture that God places people in for His Glory. He sees color. He created it.

Just ask my precious Asian babies if they see the color of people’s skin. They do. They notice every Asian person we see. Just ask the sweet African American teenager who lives with us during the week if he sees color. He does. He knows he is living with a house full of Caucasians and Asians. He knows he has to educate us on his culture and different needs. He sees. But we as white people, we are the ones saying we don’t see.

I think it is time we look them deeply in the eyes and say WE SEE.

WE SEE YOU. WE CELEBRATE YOU. WE VALUE YOU. WE THINK YOU ARE WONDERFULLY MADE BY A CREATIVE AND LOVING HEAVENLY FATHER THAT COLORED THE WORLD WITH HIS CREATIVE HAND. HE SEES. HE KNOWS THAT WE LIVE IN A FALLEN WORLD WHERE PEOPLE WILL AT TIMES JUDGE YOU BASED ON THE COLOR OF YOUR SKIN. BUT HERE IN THIS FAMILY AND COMMUNITY WE WILL CELEBRATE YOU. YOU AS GOD MADE YOU. YOU IN THE CULTURE AND COMMUNITY THAT HE CREATED YOU IN. HE SEES. WE SEE.

A few resources worth your time:

– Our pastor Bryan Lorrits was asked to speak at Together For Adoption in 2011. If you have adopted transracially or are planning on it….please listen.

https://s3.amazonaws.com/Conference_Audio/Together4A11-K4-Loritts-Main+Session+4.mp3

– A blog post by a friend who adopted from Ethiopia and serves at a diverse church in California.

http://planaethiopia.blogspot.com/2012/01/color-matters.html

Blessings,

Tona

Disclaimer – I do not employ an editor so please forgive typos, grammar errors, misspellings etc. I am a fast typer and often write while my kids are staring me down and waiting for my help.  So proofing my blog will have to come some other far off day, unless of course you would like to take the job for free =).

2 thoughts on “Does Color Matter? Should we “See” the color of people’s skin?

  1. Just a couple thoughts, if I may. As a mother of a black child, I can’t describe how much I appreciate this post. There have been several occasions in which I would have liked to have had the guts to articulate these very thoughts to some well-meaning people in my life. For instance, after moving out of state and becoming a repeat visitor at a local church, a new friend was trying to describe another female in the congregation. She described her as having long hair and heavy. She told me where she always sat at church. She described her husband, an older man. She described her college-age son, very tall. “Nope”, I said, “I have no clue who she is.” Once I finally met the woman, I was very surprised to see that she was black, one of the few black people in our congregation. In addition, her husband was white and her son was mixed. If only she’d used color as part of the description, I would have known exactly who she was trying to describe. When I asked my friend why she didn’t tell me she was black, she replied, “Well, I don’t think of her THAT way.” It truly made me wonder about subtle prejudices, probably totally unknown to her conscious mind, under the surface of her thoughts and words. I don’t believe this woman is a horrible, black-people-hater, but her blunder is representative of several I have heard over the years. Sad, but true. Most people say things like this without missing a beat, never knowing that what they just said could be revealing their hidden biases.

    Another thought that is interesting considering your topic concerning “seeing color”. Many black Americans would rather be called black than African American (as you describe the teen above). I’ve heard it said many times by many of my black friends that being called African American (they feel) takes away from their being 100% American, just as much as any white person born in the US. My husband has German roots, but would be quite shocked if someone decided to call him German American.

    Also, there are black people outside the US in countries other than Africa. What does one call them? African Brazilian? African British? African Canadian? African French? Caribbean French? Caribbean Canadian? You get the point. Not all black people are American. Furthermore, not all citizens on the continent of Africa are black. And what about Egyptians? And Libyans? Exhausting if you think too deeply about it, isn’t it? Columnist Walter Williams has an interesting, similar take here: http://www.creators.com/conservative/walter-williams.html

    Having said all of that, I also acknowledge that there are some black Americans of African descent who prefer to be called African American. (Maybe the teen you’ve described above, for instance?) I get that. My point is that if one doesn’t truly know a black person’s nationality or their preferences, one could more easily blunder. Of course, it would be ok to ask which they would prefer. I have, none have ever seemed to mind.

    Melissa

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