We cannot afford to be

My rather observant, extremely verbal 3-year old is currently quite curious about skin color. He keeps pointing it out wherever we go. The other day he methodically studied our friend with darker skin, putting his arm up next to his and looking at the differences, commenting on the parts of our friend’s skin that are darker or lighter than others.

And I have to say, every time our son points out someone’s skin color, I have to catch my breath and stop myself from internally freaking out. Because somewhere along the way I’ve been taught to ignore skin color rather than celebrate it. But this is not what I want to believe and not what I want to teach my children. So I respond with enthusiasm, “Yes, he does have darker skin than you do.”

And we talk and read about similarities and differences and how God made this great, big wide world with skin colors of cinnamon and honey and chocolate and peaches and chili powder. And my daughters eyes narrow in disbelief when we discuss the violence that comes from people thinking they’re better than others.

And some day soon we’ll talk about the privileges that sit at our feet just for being born in the country we live in with the skin tone we possess. That with our ginger hair and freckles and endless need for sunscreen we all also share a history and present reality that favors us simply because of how we look.

And we have and will continue to make friends with people who talk differently and look differently and act differently. And we will travel so our kids can see firsthand the humanity everywhere. We will celebrate our differences and cling to our shared God-given image.

And we will not have all the answers. And we will mess up. Our own prejudices will be observed and pointed out by our curious children who are born to notice inconsistencies in their parents and are actively being taught by us that sometimes we mess up big time. And we will repent and seek forgiveness.

We will get it wrong sometimes, but we will not ignore color and culture. We will not attempt to raise color blind kids. We will not despair as we look around us and see division that seems never ending. We will not give in to hopelessness. We will practice kindness over callousness, beauty over blandness, curiosity over ignorance, listening ears over talking points.

And we will work toward and pray and long and hope for the day where unity and diversity, justice and love not only coexist, but triumph. Lord, may your kingdom come.