Sunday, August 14, 2011

SOC Sunday: Colorblind

Today's SOC Sunday was inspired by another post that I read today, a really important one, this one, here: This Is Not Really About Cake

In it, Mocha Momma calls upon the bloggosphere to be brave and talk about race in a real and substantial way. Please go read that post. (And down into the comments, the one from Suebob, it's brilliant.)

This deserves more than a quick SOC Sunday post from me, and it will get one one day. But also one of the things that holds me back from writing about race is my tendency to over-think things. And the more important they are, the more so this tendency.

Race is such a hot topic, as in potentially dynamite. It is a touchstone. I want so much to not make mistakes in this sensitive area, to never, ever hurt anyone's feelings. And so caution makes me timid, which I abhorr.

So I'm going to just open up here on the first thing that came to mind as I thought: What can I say about this? My story is a bit off the center, but it's what I can bring today.

Soon I will delve deeper, into the swirling mess of contradictory notions that stream through my head when I start to try to untangle all my thoughts and feelings on race. There are clearly more posts here, and I won't let them die in my head for fear of exposing myself.

Because what we don't talk about festers under the surface, unless exposed to fresh air and sunshine. Or moonlight. So, here is a start...


One of the many reasons I've been thinking about race lately is that Jake keeps bringing it up. Well, not exactly. He brings up the color of people's skin, but to him that has nothing to do with race, he has no notion of race -- an abstract concept if ever there was one.

One of the things I admire most about my son Jacob, one of the ways his autism is a gift, is his colorblindness. He doesn't see white people, brown people; Asian people, Latino people... he sees... people.

Or rather, he sees the different colors we come in and to him it is merely color -  a favorite topic these days:  Eye, hair and skin color differences are all just ... interesting to him for their visual component. There is absolutely NO value that is attached to any of these differences, no preconceived notions, no expectations that go along with the color of a person's skin or the texture of their hair to my son.

And he is very conversational these days, and very observant, so while we are out and about on the streets of New York City - where people always come in every size, shape, age and color - he wants to talk about the people he sees... So I end up having very public discussions with Jacob about race.

"What color is his skin, mommy?" Jake will ask in his too loud voice about a man standing in front of us on line. And I have learned to not flinch, to answer, matter of factly, the question asked, knowing there is no judgment in the slightest little way behind it, just... observation and conversation.

"His is skin is brown, Jake" I'll say, "And isn't it wonderful that people come in so many different beautiful shades of beige, tan and brown?" Truthfully, that latter part is probably more for the people who might be listening than for Jacob, because he already knows all this, instinctively.

Jacob has warm feelings towards nearly everybody he sees. He does not parse into "like me" and "not like me."  I wish I could be more like him.

I will never succeed, having lived in the world too long as a white person, knowing what that means, the automatic below-the-conscious-unless-I-work-to-be-aware level of privilege that wraps me in, that I bring with me everywhere just because of where the ball landed in my genetic roulette spin.

But Jacob? He is free of this. His classmates are generally more brown than white, his teachers have often been too. To him, this, his world is just an interesting rainbow of shades. He talks about skin color the same way he talks about eye color, hair color or the color of someone's shirt. Exactly the same. Observationally.
People say we learn from our children, but when they have special needs there is a tendency to forget this, to get so, so stuck in "teaching them" mode that we forget they can have important lessons for us, too, can be *our* leaders. This is something I hope Jacob can teach me, to bring me into his colorblindness.

He declares that he and I are pinkish beige (and we are). We talk about how humans are not ever purple or green. And always: "You know that while we are different on the outside, we're all the same on the inside, human." But again, I don't need to tell him that.

He knows. My son, the autistic one, he gets it.


OK, I must confess this was NOT a true stream of consciousness post. I went way over time, I went back and edited it. A lot (because this topic seemed too important for sloppy and unclear writing). But it came out of the free writing I did this morning on race, attempting to do a SOC Sunday post, so I still want to let it stand here, link it up. (I don't think Fadra will mind, right? Especially since I fessed up?)

Next time, I promise: true random brain dump, unedited (watch out, world!)

Also, please, bloggers who are reading this? I know you think about race, too. Join in the discussion. Write your own post exploring how race affects your life. Let's keep this dialogue going....

New to SOCS?  It’s five minutes of your time and a brain dump.  Want to try it?  Here are the rules…
  • Set a timer and write for 5 minutes only.
  • Write an intro to the post if you want but don’t edit the post. No proofreading or spell-checking. This is writing in the raw.
You can do it, too!  Click on the picture link and let's hear your 5 minutes of brilliance...

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