Tag Archives: parenting

Colour Blindness – a New Racism

20 Nov

This past week I have had the opportunity to reflect (again) on the way we have been taught to not see skin colour – specifically, the way we have been taught to not see non-white skin colour. Somewhere along the line someone decided that this would be a good idea, and would show acceptance. It does not.

Not seeing someone’s colour means you are ignoring an important part of who they are. And, more insidious, it means you also are not really seeing the negative impact of not being White in a world that values Whiteness.

This tendency to really see people goes beyond race to all marginalized groups, but I’m choosing to focus on race because I’m brown, and because people actually say things to me and other racialized people like “I don’t see your colour” or “your colour doesn’t matter to me” or “I don’t even notice you are Black/Brown” – like it’s a good thing.

I’ve been pondering this for quite some time, and I recognize that it’s difficult to see and understand the importance of something we have no concept of personally.

If you are White, you live in a world where YOUR skin colour doesn’t matter. You don’t have to think about it, question if it’s the reason you are experiencing barriers, and more devastating, feel and see the impact of the devaluing of who you are – simply because of the colour of your skin.

So it stands to reason that you will not understand the importance of recognising skin colour in this world. Preferring, instead, to believe that saying it doesn’t matter makes our experience like yours. It does not.

I understand where the impulse comes from – my mother is White and I have heard this phrase from her a few times in my life. I know she loves me, and I know she is trying to say, in a way, that although the world may see me differently and treat me negatively because of my brown skin, she doesn’t stop there and sees me. That’s beautiful. But incomplete. Because my skin colour is an integral part of who I am. And if you’re not seeing it, you’re not seeing all of me.

As parents, colour blindness is even more devastating because we have an added responsibility to help our children navigate the world. And when our children are not White, we have to teach them to navigate a world where racism is alive and well. If you have a brown or Black child and you are not doing this, you are doing them a disservice. You are missing the opportunity to instill a vital skill for them to thrive – and in some cases, to survive.

In the context of child welfare, foster parents and adoptive parents who are White take on Black and brown kids and believe – really believe – that love is enough. Yes, love is SO important. But it is not enough in the world and context we live in today that sees, values, and treats people differently based on the amount of melanin in their skin.

Love is a really great start, but we have to really recognize experiences and lived realities – ours and other people’s – in order to be able to support each other and create change. To do that, we have to really see and acknowledge people for who they are: all of them, because it all matters.

To learn more about this in a parenting context, please listen to my interview with Judy Stigger of Adoption Learning Partners on Transracial adoption (when you get to the page, scroll down to Nov. 20, 2015).

In the context of other relationships, it’s colour blindness is dismissive and we miss so much about each other, as well as opportunities to connect, and to be allies.

And I want to add that what I’m saying here is not to be confused with a belief in how things should be. Skin colour shouldn’t be a predictor or disparity. But saying you don’t see colour in a world that so clearly does, doesn’t change this. Seeing colour and being an ally in outlook, word, and deed is what will help to make the world an equitable place for people of all skin colours. Educate yourself about racism and anti-Black racism. Be an ally. Speak up and stand up. Make a difference because you see colour and the devastating impact of being racialized in a world that values Whiteness.

See more.

Copyright 2016 Annemarie Shrouder
Speaker, Facilitator, and Consultant on issues of Diversity, Equity & Inclusion

Want a challenge? Sign up for my weekly Inclusion Insight – same topic, but with a challenge to help you see more.




The Cost of Exclusion

28 Aug

You may have heard/read about/seen the kafuffel about the transfather who breastfeeds his child and who wanted to be a La Leche League Canada Leader – and who was told “no”.

La Leche League Canada (LLLC) is an organization that advocates  breastfeeding. The “no” was because Trevor McDonald  does not identify as a mother, and therefore it would be “difficult for him to represent LLL philosophy”.

Interestingly, his “non-mother” status did not prevent him from becoming a member of LLLC in his hometown of Winnipeg,  from receiving support, and from being welcomed there with open arms. But attempting  leadership, I suppose, brings out a different side.

Ah, the challenges of sharing power…

Trevor’s hope (according to the article in Metro last Monday) was to “coach LGBTQ members and those who struggle, like he did, to breastfeed after chest reduction surgery”. Sounds like a niche market to me, and one which would benefit from a leader with personal experience and awareness – and a safe place to talk about specific issues other parents may not be facing. Sounds like a golden opportunity to reach out to a specific group, acknowledge that there are some differences, and provide support in a “culturally competent” way.

One cost of exclusion is missed opportunity.

If La Leche League Canada could see beyond the word “mother” to the diversity of parenting breastfeeding experiences that now exist, they would embrace Trevor and his vision of reaching out to  communities that currently may not feel safe or welcome to join. In so doing, La Leche League Canada would fulfill it’s mandate of advocating breastfeeding even more, and further their vision.

If your vision is clear, then embracing diversity and inclusion can only make it stronger, because you will include people and perspectives (and therefore ideas and actions) that you never dreamed of when you started. And you will go further.

See more.

copyright 2012 Annemarie Shrouder
Speaker, author and facilitator on issues of diversity and inclusion.

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