I remember the first time I learned about hate. I was about 8 or 9 years old. It was a sticky hot summer night at Pop Warner cheer practice I overheard a few girls talking about something I didn’t understand. My question was simple: “Why don’t they like you?” Their answer set me back a few steps, “because we are black, Jane.” I think my mouth hung open for a few minutes and then I really saw it for the first time my friend’s skin was a different color than mine.
I always knew, subconsciously, their skin was a different color, yet it had never occurred to my childlike mind, that it should matter.
These were my friends and I loved them. How could anyone hate them?
I didn’t get it then. I don’t want to get it now. Yet I have to. This is the world we live in. A world where hate happens every day. A world where the color of our skin matters.
Soon after we came home with our daughter, I was talking to my husband about the change in the dynamics of our lives, how we were now a mixed race family. My husband paused for a few minutes, his reaction similar to mine back when I was a child, and he felt it too. The color of our skin matters, the color of her skin matters, and no matter how hard we try we can’t shield her or her brother from the hate.
We, as her white parents and her white brother, can’t stop people from seeing her as a brown skinned black haired Chinese woman and discriminating against her because of their own perceptions of what she might be, based on the color of her skin and the shape of her eyes.
We, as her white parents and white brother, can’t understand fully what if feels like to be a part of a family where her skin makes her look drastically different than us.
We will never know what if feels like. Nor will we ever pretend to know.
Hate is a learned behavior. Just as I discovered that sticky summer night, children do not innately hate or discriminate against others until they are taught how to see color.
As the hate filled, discriminating events of late of unfolded, each affecting me in a different way, my heart has hurt and my brain has churned.
The truth is, as much as I want to fix this world, I can’t do it. Not alone.
I realized recently, the only way I can make a difference and change the hate filled world we live in is to listen, really listen, when my friends tell me what it’s like to be brown, to be black, to be yellow. And even though I’ll never fully understand what it’s like, because I am a white skinned, freckle faced girl, hearing them tell their stories and share their hearts helps me teach my children how to see color, recognize it and continue to love just as they always have, because that’s what children do innately and easily.
So today my friends, let’s all be a bit more childlike and love like children do see like children do and listen to each other, just a bit more.
[Editor’s note: Be sure to check out more from Jane’s passion project work in Haiti.]
I’m a listener who creates through photographs and writing.
Creativity unlocks my soul by giving me a voice and empowers me to grow.
I'm on a mission to help others unleash their own inner child through listening to themselves and encouraging their creativity.
I firmly believe:
Every child can be heard.
I hear you. You matter.