What Color Are You?

All this press about the dilemma for Obama’s campaign team, of how to color him black enough, but not too black as to turn off the white (majority) voter, makes me think of an encounter I had with a little girl at my son’s preschool. This meeting touched me deeply and provided me with the inspiration for my children’s picture book Max and Me.

On this particular day a little girl in his class stood and stared at me, her expression a mix of horror, confusion and curiosity. Finally, realizing I did not, in fact, have moldy spinach, or “horror of horrors,” a bogey, hanging from my left nasal passage, I spoke first. Our conversation went something like this:

“Hello.”

“Hi.”

“Are you Moses’ mom?”

“Yes I am.”

“Oh?”

“Can I touch you?”

“Ok?????”

The little girl stroked my arm, then she touched her own arm. She closed her eyes and again stroked my arm. She stood very still, mulling things over. Then, with her eyes still closed, she touched her own arm. Abruptly, she skipped away down the hall. Suddenly, she stopped, turning around to look back at me. This little girl was not only smiling at me (a beam of relief and understanding that said “you’re OK.”) she was truly lit up from within – enlightened. 

“Bye.” She said, her ponytail swinging as she skipped away, turning once more at the end of the corridor to wave. And then she was gone. I never again had to suffer her ” equilibrium wrecking” stare and we became friends, known to each other always as “young lady,” and “Moses’ mom.”

I will be honest with you, I hesitated at that little girl’s request, I knew it related to the color of my skin and quite frankly I was tired of educating people as to the humanness, the sameness, of black people, but the Universe whispered to me “Breathe.” So I breathed and said “Yes.” 

I quickly realized that that young lady had not ever had the opportunity to touch dark brown skin and she simply wondered what it felt like. In that open, innocent way children approach life, (until it’s taught, or frightened out of them,) she was going to find out, from me. I, in the fatigue and fallacies implemented by the “isms” of adulthood (especially racism,) came dangerously close to looking a gift horse in the mouth, that is until I released, deciding somewhat involuntarily, to follow her childly lead and open to possibility. Maybe I didn’t in fact really know why she wanted to touch me? 

When that little girl closed her eyes, touched me and herself all over again, it took my breath away. How did she, little more than a toddler, know that what we see with our eyes is so often a distraction, a distortion, not the truth? How did she know that contrary to popular belief, it is in the dark that we truly see? 

Saddened though I was that up until that time, she hadn’t just known that dark brown skin was skin, just like her own pink skin, in that moment I realized we had been gifted. I realized that I, in sharing myself, allowing her to touch me, had handed her a gift that can, I believe, help heal our world – the knowledge that skin-is-skin-is-skin-is-skin, whatever its color. A gift she will carry (in her DNA) and share wherever she wanders in this world. Her gift to me was the reminder to return to innocence every chance I get (no matter how terrible things may seem) for that is where magic happens. I carried my gift home that evening and wrote Max and Me.

During that brief, but profound interaction, it was shown to me that in this era of multiculturalism, one fundamental fact is often forgotten. The fact that people, no matter their color or culture, are inherently the same. Aside from the obvious food and water, we, members of the human race – the only race (the social construct of “Race” was invented for reasons of hierarchy, power and control. There is no scientific evidence supporting the purported different “Races.” In fact, there are far greater differences between a man and a woman than there are between “Races.”) – need hope, truth and love, no matter where we reside on the human color wheel.

Wouldn’t it be lovely if mankind could some day soon be open to receiving the same simple gifts?

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3 Responses to “What Color Are You?”

  1. jon Says:

    Thank you for writing this. I too believe it’s a gift.

  2. jon Says:

    A book called the science of melanin has a chapter that speaks to this post. It’s something i thought since childhood and was glad to have it echoed.Thanks for posting this!

  3. Sharon Says:

    Dear Jon, Thank you for your comments. It is truly a mission of mine to help share this gift with as much of humankind as I can.

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