Monday, May 26, 2014

We're not "black" & "white" but BROWN

image from www.macmakeup.us
Last spring I was out shopping with the family. I saw a beautiful orange floral skirt and tried it on. When I came out of the dressing room to show my husband, the response was something about needing a tan (he was right). As I changed out of this beautiful yet not right for my skin tone skirt, I chuckled to myself. I had picked out a color that would look AMAZING against my daughter's beautiful dark skin and apparently forgot how pale I am! Then I marveled at the thought of how much money is spent at tanning beds so people can achieve darker skin tones yet it really wasn't all that long ago that people were (sadly) divided because of how dark their skin was or wasn't...ironic!?

When I was in Middle School in the early 90's, my church youth group attended "Young Christians Weekend" at Silver Dollar City. I wish I could remember the name of the speaker we had that weekend so I could give him credit but I'll never forget him holding up his Bible with a black leather cover and white pages and asking us what colors his Bible was made up of; then relating that to the words we so often use to describe the color of people's skin. His point was, if he held up the pages of his Bible to someone we called a "white person" they wouldn't actually be as white as the pages in his Bible. If he held up the cover of his Bible against someone we called a "black person"they wouldn't actually be dark enough to match the color black. Instead, we all have varying amounts of brown in us. His analogy always stuck with me. Fast forward a few years (just a few ;) ) and as we prepared to grow our family, I thought on this analogy many more times.

Wes & I had talked some about what we would try to do when our kids asked questions about our different colored skins. We thought a lot about Luke 18:16-17:

"But Jesus called them to him, saying, "Let the children come to me, and do not hinder them, for to such belongs the kingdom of God. Truly, I say to you, whoever does not receive the kingdom of God like a child shall not enter it.""

Based on this verse, obviously Jesus thinks a lot of child like innocence and I wonder if he would ask them questions just to enjoy hearing how they would respond...I digress. We decided that rather than being politically correct with what we should call our skin colors, we should remind them of our similarities and see how they define it in their own words. What can be more innocent and less offensive than that? 

As their language skills developed, they initially referred to the difference as light skin and dark skin. As language developed more and we learned more about colors, they used the words "pale" and "brown." Even more recently they've used the word "tan" which I'll gladly let accept over pale (!!) and since they've had some other ethnicities in their classes and friend groups, they'll talk about those friends being a little darker than mommy but not as dark as they are. I can't help but smile when Amiya is coloring a picture of our family and is frantically searching for the Tan crayon, not the white one. I also had to laugh when a friend and I were wearing similar colors and the same color boots. The kids noticed those similarities so we started pointing out others similarities and differences. Our friend said "Is our skin the same color?" The kids thought about it for a long minute and Malakai said "you're a little bit darker than mommy, but not a lot."

When I think about Genesis 1:27, how many people there are in the world and how each and every person is different yet still created in His image, I can't help but be in awe of how creative our God is...to think, no 2 people look exactly alike...I don't think I could draw 10 stick people that look different!

Genesis 1:27 "So God created man in his own image,
in the image of God he created him;
male and female he created them." 

I'm oh so thankful for the variety of browns and knowing those shades were purposeful...especially as we creep up on shorts weather again (sigh). I find myself more and more sensitive to the terms "white/black person" and uncertain how to feel about those labels (if you will). I also find myself describing people differently than I used to. My husband said I need to finish this post with a point. I don't necessarily have one, just have these thoughts stirring around in my head and they've been there for a while. If I need to end with a point, it would be to remind you that we are each created in God's image and lets celebrate our similarities and differences rather than trying to define people by them. Which would bring me back to my favorite verse in Psalms 139


For you formed my inward parts;
you knitted me together in my mother's womb. I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made. Wonderful are your works; my soul knows it very well. My frame was not hidden from you, when I was being made in secret, intricately woven in the depths of the earth. Your eyes saw my unformed substance; in your book were written, every one of them, the days that were formed for me, when as yet there was none of them. (Psalm 139:13-16 ESV)