When I was growing up, white children like me were taught that the best way to handle race relations was to be “colorblind.” I think what was meant by “colorblind” was despite that fact that we might notice physical differences (i.e. skin tone), we were taught that those differences didn’t matter. To paraphrase Dr. Martin Luther King, we were taught to judge others not by the color of their skin but by the content of their character. Of course, this is still an important and noble belief to share with children, but are we sending an accurate message?
While this may have been an important first step (albeit 100 years late) along the evolutionary path of race relations, I want to suggest that colorblindness is not an end goal. Despite our best intentions, colorblindness gives the message that differences are unimportant. On the contrary, I believe that diversity enriches our world. I propose that an even more important goal is to raise children who can notice differences in others and engage in respectful dialogue about the ways that we are all both similar and simultaneously different from one another. Rabbi Sharon Clevenger recently shared with me, “The big idea that we want the kids to take away is that your identity: religious, ethnic, racial, etc., impacts the experiences that you have in the world. And that’s okay.”
Here’s an interesting article from the Washington Post about parenting and raising your children to be race-conscious rather than colorblind. Click here to read the full story. I’d love to hear your reactions to this article.