“No one is born hating another person because of the color of his skin or his background or his religion. People must learn to hate, and if they can learn to hate, they can be taught to love, for love comes more naturally to the human heart than its opposite.” – Nelson Mandela
Last weekend my eight-year-old grandson stayed with me—our first weekend without mom in a long time. I sat next to him while he fell asleep. Adults know that there is really nothing more peaceful than watching a child sleeping. I think of the times I watched my son sleep like this. And I think of the different lives these two people will have. How different the world will see these two young men. My grandson is a person of “color”. But really so are all of us—my color is just fairer. And with that lighter color the world grants me more privileges. I’m not assumed to be wrong or causing trouble or dangerous. My son was given the benefit of the doubt. My grandson will not start with that assumption.
Police and security people often question famous black men. Just ask Trevor Noah or James Blake, a tennis star who was tackled and arrested in a hotel. All people aren’t given the same presumption of innocence.
One day when my grandson first started living with us he turned to his aunt and said, “I use to be black.” At that time he was still trying to figure out who was white and who was black. He didn’t see the world divided up. I wonder how I will help my grandson carefully navigate this world. At 5 he couldn’t really see the difference in our colors. Now at 8, he is sometimes painfully aware that he is black first, an adorable child second.