Friday, July 9, 2010

A Vision Test

By Amie Sexton

Love is colorblind.

Do I hear a resounding “AMEN!”??? You might regret it. There are two things you should know before jumping on this bandwagon.

1.) 99.9% of the time this statement is made by white people. If you hear an African American use this comment (without an excessive sarcastic drawl and much rolling of their eyes) you are the exception to the rule.

2.) It is one of the most misguided statements commonly made by white people, many of them adoptive parents.

Let me quickly point out that I have spoken these words myself in times past. So has Tara. (Yes, Mrs. Livesay- I’m dragging you under the bus with me. =)) It is based on this personal experience and the outgrowth of it that I am willing to share my thoughts with you now. Let’s delve into the phrase more deeply.

Is love colorblind? I believe what we have here is a classic picture of good motivation followed by crappy methodology. Good intention meets bad interpretation. The notion behind colorblindness is just as simple as you might expect: to be blind to color. But one trip to Wal-Mart with your Haitian, Ethiopian, Ugandan, African American child yields extreme evidence through bulging eyes and double-takes that your and your child’s color difference is easily identifiable.

It is only convenient for a majority race member to flippantly (no matter how well-meaning) discount color in this way. White people don’t have to think about being white…it is what it is. Unless they happen into a room, party, neighborhood, or country in which they are the minority. The average white American will never walk into a department store and wonder “will I be followed around and accused of shoplifting today?” You assume this will not happen to you. No, no, wait. It’s worse than that. You don’t have to assume it won’t happen. You don’t have to even waste half a second considering it. It never has to enter your consciousness.

Hispanics and African Americans do not share this luxury of NOT considering it. I have witnessed blatant and abusive racism first hand. And at the Goodwill for crying out loud! I get that stealing is stealing but seriously? Is it really worth it to let your stereotype destroy another human being over a $3 pair of used jeans? Anyway. Without arguing through 200 years of history, the simple reality is that whiteness has natural benefits. Benefits that no one had to march for, beg for, or be lynched for. The freedom not to think about race if we don’t want to being numero uno on the list of benefits.

Furthermore, to say that love does not “see color” is as ridiculous as saying that because I love dogs they are all exactly the same to me. Suppose you stood before me with a Great Dane and a Chihuahua and I insisted that there is no difference between them –that I am blind to their genetic traits. Any one of you would argue my insanity in a court of law because clearly one of these dogs is a 210 lb. mini-horse and the other could be mistaken for a rat. My love for dogs does not change my ability to recognize their distinct attributes. My love may allow me to impart affection to both critters equally regardless of their size but it will not cause me to ignore what is obvious. And taking it even further –if I insist these two creatures are practically the same in every way and therefore I cram my Great Dane into a crate made for a toy breed I’m no longer just ignoring the difference but overlooking their specific needs and inadvertently causing damage.

Have you seen Avatar? The Na’vi tribe greets each other with the phrase “I see you.” Simple but heavily loaded with meaning. New Age nuances aside, it is explained in the movie as deeply significant and referring to the very essence of the person. I see who you are and all there is to know and love about you. We could take a lesson from the overgrown blue people.

When your adopted minority child looks in the mirror he/she sees black, brown, peach, yellow, tan, etc. skin looking back. For that child to hear us say that our love is “colorblind” can be far more hurtful than any of us would dream. What we mean is that our love for them transcends color and ethnicity. But what they often hear is “I don’t see part of you.” We so desperately want to affirm our children in the security of our unconditional love that we miss the point. What if Tara came to me tomorrow and said, “Amie, I’m going to overlook the fact that you are a red-headed freckle factory and continue loving you anyway”? Besides how completely ironic that would be given our shared features, it would also hurt me deeply because the very nature of such a statement implies that my traits are unbecoming and undesirable and something to be overlooked in order to find me acceptable. Our children want to be accepted because of who they are –inside and out- not in spite of it.

Love that overlooks is belittling. Love that acknowledges is accepting.

Bottom line: love is not colorblind. In fact, God (who is love) is not colorblind. And now the bigger questions are: How does God see color? Does the world see it the same way? Do we? And how do our, the world’s, and God’s views of race affect our adopted children?

Part 2 on the way…


Andy & Kiara said...

Thank you, thank you for taking the time to explain this so well! I stumble over my words when trying to explain this concept to others. Maybe I will just memorize this. :)

Melissa Mae said...

thank you. this is well-said and beautiful.

johninara said...

love this! i too have had a hard time articulating it...thank you Amie!

Mighty Isis said...

Thank you, Aimee, for such a wonderful, important post. I address the topic of white privilege in a "diversity in the sciences" course that I teach at my university. And, as you might guess, it is a difficult subject to broach with students, particularly midwestern students who try very earnestly to be really really nice. They don't want to hear that statements that they think are coming from a place of love (e.g., Love is colorblind) actually have the exact opposite effect!

Students (and lots of other people, including me earlier in life!) think simply because we no longer see overt signs of discrimination within society, that it no longer exists. But it's just much more insidious, which makes it much more difficult to address.

I often use this article by Peggy McIntosh to begin a discusson of white privilege in my classes. Thought I would pass it along in case you and others are interested:


P.S. One of our adopted kids, Joshua, is Haitian (and was at the same PIHS orphanage as our daughter).

cwhited said...

Our adopted Haitian daughter, while looking at a school here in the U.S. said, "I don't want to go here. There is no one like me."

To deny her color is to deny who she is. I appreciated your words very much.

brenkachicka said...

Well said.
I personally have always hated that phrase, "colorblind." I cringe when people say it, or worse... when they assume that I feel that way about my adopted son.
What message does that send him? About his worth as a person?
I celebrate his uniqueness. And that is hard to do. Bio mom never knew her bio dad, and a bio dad was never identified for our son. That means we know 1/4 of his ethnicity. The rest we guess. Because he was born in Hawaii, we know that the local culture of Hawaii is what we must keep in his life. And funny thing. We were "adopted" by hanai family long before he ever entered our home. So the local Hawaiian culture was a part of who we were long before he came to us. Everything from the food to the music to the clothes. It's a part of us. It's a part of him.
On the flip side he's just as exposed to his adopted culture. A couple weeks ago we took our family to a Swedish midsummer festival. Our boys were wearing Samoan ei faitagas, and my daughter and my cousin's daughter were wearing Hawaiian mu'u mu'us. We all danced around the Maypole and had a fabulous time! Norwegian lefse is his favorite food, next to sticky rice!
I think that we all need to celebrate who we are. Being "colorblind" does not help at all. He knows I love him, all of him. From his brown eyes to his sparkly laugh.

Karen Firstbrook said...

Fantastic post!
I just had a conversation about this the other day with a friend . . .
I like your quote:
Love that overlooks is belittling. Love that acknowledges is accepting.

I'd like to add that in our family we want to have a love that celebrates our color differences and praises God for His creativity!!

Firstbrook Five

His Hands His Feet Today said...

GREAT post!

Mom to 10 kids... none of them look like me! (and that's OKAY!) :)

Mama D.'s Dozen said...

Great post!

When we were in the process of adopting 3 children from Ghana, we got together with a family that had already adopted 3 children of different races. On child was a domestic adoption, but obviously bi-racial.

I can't remember the specific conversation, but I asked the mother a question about the child's race. I may have asked, "Is she 1/2 black?" The mother glared at me and told me in effect, "We do NOT talk about color."

This mother also happens to be a psychologist by profession.

I was very confused. Why don't we talk about color? My Ghanaian children can see clearly that they are black and my other children are white. The kids talk about it. They talk about chocolate and vanilla. They talk about what it would be like to be each other's color ... or what it would be like to trade 1/2 of their physical features. It's just a matter of discussion at our house. Nothing to be embarrassed or afraid of.

Laurel :)

Jess said...

this is so flippin' good! DANG!

C and G said...

Love this post - fantastic!

Hannah_Rae said...

This really helped. My husband and I have adopted two fantastic boys, and have considered adopting a child from another ethnicity, especially since it is such a need in Michigan, but we are really concerned about whether our community would be able/willing to ACCEPT that child for who they are.

I would really appreciate some perspective if anyone of you mamas has time to answer questions.



The Sexton Crew said...

Angie -we will definitely read that article!

Good to see so many who are celebrating the differences. Hope to get part two out soon but am guessing it won't be earth shattering for all of you who are already working through life. Thanks for the encouraging comments!

Hannah --you are welcome to email me about specific questions. You can find me on FB (Amie Sexton) or at

Becky Dietz said...

Thanks. I constantly need to be challenged with Truth.

Corey said...

GREAT post. The article Angie mentioned is used in most Social Work curricula as well.

Cherie71 said...

We LOVED your post. We spend a lot of time in our home talking about our love of our little girls' beautiful chocolate velvet skin or their amazing big brown eyes and gorgeous curly hair that can do things I only wish my hair could do... they are all little but I know they are listening. I will be waiting to read part 2

Kristen {RAGE against the MINIVAN} said...

SNAP, AMIE!!! This post is awesome.

Elizabeth Mahlou said...

Very insightful post. I am glad I stumbled onto it.

La TempĂȘte said...

What a great post, worded so well.

Rachel said...

Wow. Thank you so much. As I prepare to bring an Ethiopian child into my home, I confess: I fear the ditch on both sides of the road of being an interracial family: making too big of a deal out of it, to ignoring it altogether. Thank you for the wisdom here; praying God will guide me through it all in a way that honors Him and this precious child.

T & T Livesay said...

I have super smart friends. What can I say?

Thanks Christine, Kristen and Amie for saying things so well -- and with love.


Jennifer said...

An amazing post! Thank you for your honesty.

Momto15 said...

Great posts. Thank you!!

Mama Drama Times Two said...

Oh- how timely and helpful as we foster a fabulous young teen of color and begin to navigate the issues around us and in us.

love said...

someone left me the link to this post on my blog. thank you for speaking up and for this viewpoint! it needs to be heard and i'm so glad it is. i wrote recently about this and there was some great discussion/suggestions in the comments.

[it makes me so uncomfortable to leave a link to MY blog on YOUR post, but we're fighting for the same great cause....true love. and seeing in color...beautifully!]


Jodi said...

I really appreciate the articles on adoption. There are so many things to think about!

As I was reading this article I realized that it struck a cord with me. I am not adopted, however this year I have thought a lot about being accepted for who we are. Everything about who we are. Even though I grew up in a Christian home and knew God loved me, I knew he didn't like my sin and so I felt I was somewhat unacceptable no matter what (b/c I couldn't kick all my sins). To keep this short, he knows what I do (Duhh) all of it and loves me for who I am. We all long to be loved the way we are. This article makes so much sense, thank you.

nikiJ7 said...

I love this post. Thank you for pointing things out that aren't always considered. Would you mind if I posted a link to this post on my blog?

Linda and Milton Watt said...

Thank you! I have pinned your post to my Adoption stuff in Pinterest. This was excellent! Keep writing about these things. There is so little written from a Christian point of view.