What Color Am I?
In the burbs growing up
I was browner than the other kids,
Black Irish, but still “white.”
In NYC walking about
I was one of many shades of brown,
but lighter than most.
In Bermuda, I tanned and
matched the other workers;
they called me their Little American Onion.
After Riley popped out, she
compared our “skins” and asked,
“Why am I darker than you, Mommy?”
I told her she was descended
from desert people, the Jews, who
were used to more sunlight than the Irish.
She went to high school and
her favorite teacher was Mr. Fuller, AKA
FullDogg; his dreds up in a knot, proud Black man
She only called him Mr. Fuller, and
I was pleased that, before I met him, she
hadn’t said, “He’s Black” or anything at all.
I don’t think the world is ready for “color-blind,”
but we are ready for “palms up,” for viewing
commonality and remember the truth:
We are all from Africa, and I am not “white,”
I am Euro-American, born of a race who dwelt
in colder climes… I am beige and melanin-deprived.
© 2013 Amy Barlow Liberatore/Sharp Little Pencil
Image from mnsu.edu (Minnesota State University, Diversity Office, used by permission)
“Colored” was the prompt from the fabulous Kim Nelson at Poets United, and I decided to take it head-on.
Try this: Line up all your friends,or your kids’ friends, all ethnicities, and have then put their palms up.
Without exception, unless they’ve been playing in the mud, the palms are white,
as are the soles of the feet. Then, for a beautiful array of browns, hands down! Peace, Amy
April 12, 2013 at 12:27 am
Well said, Amy – colour blind is the right word. If we were all the same it would be very boring! I love that picture as well.
Sharp Little Pencil
April 12, 2013 at 11:02 am
Nice take on that term, Viv. Some folks are actually offended by the idea: An African American coworker told me, “I WANT you to see my color.” I told her I do see it, but I don’t make judgments based upon it. That was in Buffalo, a city that has never gotten their racial stuff together.
April 12, 2013 at 3:49 am
I like the sound of Riley and think there are many more like her, thank goodness 🙂
April 12, 2013 at 8:25 am
I can just see you and Riley comparing skin tones, discussing roots. When my eldest was two she told a much older woman that Jesus was dark brown like Lance, her Native American friend. I thought the old gal was gonna pass out! She wanted to convince my girl that Jesus was “white”. Didn’t happen! 😉 Strong willed curious and open-minded from the womb, that one.
April 12, 2013 at 9:13 am
Actually I think a lot of children are growing up “color blind.” I think both sets of my grandchildren are. They routinely see and interact with a variety of races, and I have never heard them use race as a characteristic of someone. I do think times they are a changing. I enjoyed your story about you and Riley. Interesting thing is I used to work with a ‘black’ woman; but when she and I put our arms next to each other I, in reality, was darker than she was….even if I did NOT have a tan.
Sharp Little Pencil
April 12, 2013 at 11:01 am
Funny you said that, Mary: In summer, Riley uses sunscreen, but she gets darker than the President! It’s also very true that her generation puts little if any stock in “color.” She says, “It’s SO not an issue.” Thanks, Amy
Eileen T O'Neill
April 12, 2013 at 12:37 pm
I liked your ‘take’ on the prompt very much. An apprecaition of each individual, purely for their being and their qualities as a person.
Children will of course be curious, but in this age of television and access to media, I think that children are more aware of differences, but educated to understand them…At least that is what I would hope:)
Amy, thanks for alll your visits to my Blogs & comments. Much appreciated:)
April 12, 2013 at 12:39 pm
It’s the only kind of colour blind I’d wish on anyone!
April 12, 2013 at 5:05 pm
excellent! love this, thanks Amy!
April 12, 2013 at 5:24 pm
Yay! It’s only the ignorant that still notice color.
April 12, 2013 at 11:11 pm
I’m also melanin impaired. I’m impaired enough that I can’t even step out into the sun without burning.
April 15, 2013 at 10:11 am
Love your take on color, Amy–always a colorful visit–love how people of color are becoming more accepted and yet shocked at how much prejudice still exists–sigh. We shall overcome? (one of my favorite “sit-in” songs–yes, my parents had an album of them…)
April 15, 2013 at 1:09 pm
Head on! Straight up! Oh yes!
Kay, Alberta, Canada
April 15, 2013 at 3:11 pm
My niece was adopted from Bangladesh. When she was small, she looked at her parents and brothers and asked, “How come the only one in the family who’s the same color as me is the dog?”
April 15, 2013 at 4:27 pm
palms up… beautiful not simply as a kind of “color” unification (as if that REALLY matters) but also as a gesture of giving, of peace, of openness.
April 15, 2013 at 5:17 pm
Interesting take on race and the issue of colour. You show that it’s increasingly difficult to put people in little boxes as the world becomes more global. And yay, we’re all from Africa! It’s the thread that unites us all.
April 15, 2013 at 6:27 pm
Hands up. And then yes, lets see the array of beauty. I have six children and one is a through back to my husbands Slavic roots. Her features are different. Her skin darker. In love it. This poem is fantastic and I love the real life you breath into most of your poetry.
April 15, 2013 at 7:39 pm
I really like this,,,it’s wonderful that our children are learning about inclusion almost by osmosis,,,good stuff,,
J Cosmo Newbery
April 16, 2013 at 3:04 am
A lovely write with the right attitude.
Sherry Blue Sky
April 19, 2013 at 9:06 pm
I love this, Amy. Seriously.