I grew up in England, white skin, bright blond hair. One of my closest friends was from Jamaica, and two thirds of my elementary school were Sikh. My entire short life, I was surrounded by a canvas of brilliant color. For me, skin color was like eye color, or hair color. It was like whether you were a Pepsi fan or a Coke fan, part of who you were, but nothing definitive. For me, definitive was, were you kind, did you play games with me, did you swear. No one ever taught me that there was anything different about someone with different colored skin. No one ever taught me that there was a difference. I went to church, they went to temple, some went nowhere, it just was.
This is really my parents story, I only remember what I am told. When I was 11, I went to Florida. The tour guide was African American. I remember that when we stopped at Church Street Station, she bought me more peanut butter fudge than I could ever eat. My parents said it was because of my fascination with her hands. I had sat with her on the bus for an hour turning her hands over and over, because I could not comprehend the difference between the color on her palms, and the color on the tops of her hands. Even my friend from Jamaica was the same all over, and I was fascinated by this beautiful woman who who was all different colors. My parents recalled the tour guide almost in tears, realizing that this little blond haired english girl had no concept of race or color.
At 32 I now know the value people place on color, on race, on nationality. I strive to retain that little girls perspective and to teach it to my boys.
Note from Deidra: The idea for “Going There” came about as a result of the 31 Days In My Brown Skin series I wrote in October, 2012. (You can read those posts here.) The series generated a lot of valuable dialogue, and when the thirty-one days were over, it felt as if the conversation wasn’t done. Now, I invite you to share your story as it relates to issues of race, ethnicity, and culture in your every day life.
The goal of “Going There” is to encourage ongoing dialogue about topics of race, ethnicity, and culture in a way that is thoughtful and that shows respect, with the goal of advancing our understanding of the beautiful diversity in the humanity that surrounds us. Interested in sharing your story? Start here.