After inspecting the skin on his forearm, my son looks up and announces, “My skin isn’t white, but it’s not as dark as my friend Sam’s.” I nod in affirmation. He cocks his head to one side and asks, “So what color am I?”
As a mixed race, transracial, part Asian American family, it’s impossible to avoid the subject of skin color, race, and ethnicity. Noticing difference has always been normal for me and my kids.
Whenever we can, we affirm our kids’ noticing skin color and tone. Whether it’s their own, a friend’s, a stranger’s, a toy’s, or a book character’s, we talk about what we see and note how beautiful the variations are. Every moment of noticing is an opportunity to tell the truth.
We can’t celebrate, know, or grow alongside what we pretend not to see.
In college, I did a Bible study with a group of friends about the life and ministry of Jesus. On Tuesdays and Thursdays, sandwiched between two afternoon classes — “Literature of the Holocaust” and “Blacks and Jews in the National Imagination” — I walked to a local coffee shop and spent time poring over Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John. For hours on those days, my mind was filled with stories of systemically oppressed people groups from the books in my literature classes and the stories of Jesus’ life and ministry told through the gospels.
One particular afternoon, in-between sips of my coffee, I read a paragraph in the study that emphasized how Jesus might’ve looked. It said that based on where He was from, He likely had very dark skin, and course, black hair, like me. Before this, I had never heard anyone describe Jesus as anything other than white. As I considered His face and skin, I cried right into my coffee cup.
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