The Skin Color Crayon
There is great power and affirmation in raising black children in a racist culture who are conscious and proud of who they are, who have no desire to be white or look white or ‘act’ white; any of that. And by acting white I don’t mean what they sound like or what kind of music they listen to or whatever. It’s the conscious imitation of what some people think white folks are like…it’s hard to put my finger on but I know it when I see it.
When I was a child I didn’t want to be white, but I had a difficult time being the only black child in my school class or at camp, I felt singled out a lot of the time and I got easily upset and flustered at questions about my skin color, hair texture, slavery, etc.
My kids don’t have that and it knocks me out. They don’t have the apprehension around white people that I had at similar ages. They have a confidence in themselves that took me decades to master. Little things…like one time my son Scott had this white friend over and they were coloring. The boy asked Scott to pass him the ‘skin color’ crayon. So Scott passed him a brown crayon, he didn’t even blink. The kid said, No, I meant my skin color. Scott then said, you should have said so, because when you say skin color I automatically think of brown. I’m brown and most people in the world are brown. The kid said, I didn’t know that! Then they started talking about their Yugioh cards.
I didn’t say anything…I was just knocked out how Scott responded to that. When I was a kid I hated it, absolutely hated it when white kids started that ‘skin color’ crayon nonsense. Me at that age? I would have just passed the peach crayon and felt upset in silence, because I would have assumed that’s what they meant…even though my own skin is brown.
Scott’s response tells me that he is viewing the world from his perspective as a black person, not the skewed, reflected perspective of white people. It didn’t even occur to him to care or wonder if his white friend would get upset if he passed him the brown crayon. I think being free from caring what white people think is an important step in achieving black consciousness. For black children who never have this ‘caring what white folks think’ mentality, there is no telling what they can/will do as adults.