Those two well-crafted lines from This Is Us summed up a huge culture shift for me since becoming a mama to my mixed-race son. While most weeks I’m sobbing from the show’s powerful emotional messages, this week felt like the writers managed to get inside my head, pull out a complicated topic, and create a scenario based on love that changes the way people think.
Listening to Jack Pearson’s (father) line, “I don’t see color, I see my son” came as the father-son duo was spending time together golfing. Randall (son) was trying to express the complicated feelings he was discovering as a young black teen growing up in a white family in a predominantly white culture. While Randall was starting to see the world with a different lens than his father, Jack only saw love. But love doesn’t safeguard kids from the world they are born into.
Hearing Jack’s line made me think about how I would have said the same thing a few years ago. When white people say phrases like, “I don’t see color” or “All lives matter,” they come from a well-meaning place, but they are missing the bigger picture. Sometimes it feels more comfortable to say that we are color-blind with the intention of wanting to treat all people the same way. There are times it’s important not to see color, like holding the door for whoever is coming behind you. Just be kind, hold the door.
But Randall’s one line sums up what happens when white parents see the world color-blind: “Then you don’t see me, Dad.” Seeing color means seeing the injustice that exists in their world. It means understanding that our kids may struggle or face unfair circumstances just because their complexion is darker than our own. It means that while we only see an endless world of possibilities for our kids, we also need to see the additional challenges they will face in whatever they choose to do.
Seeing color adds to the love we give our kids. Just like I learned how to care for a hair texture I had never interacted with before, I know I need to make a conscious effort to understand the world through his eyes better. Loving my son means getting out of my comfortable bubble to have hard conversations with parents of different races so I can better educate myself and future conversations with my son. Over the years, as I’ve continued to learn more, I know my previous color-blind way of looking at the world has shifted. I do see color in all of the problematic ways color is used to show how we are different, but also in all of the beautiful ways it makes us the same.
Love can make you color-blind when all you see is your heart growing outside of your body. There are so many times I don’t think about color when I look at my son, I just see the most gorgeous, most creative, friendliest, and funniest kid I’ve ever known. What is most important is seeing color, recognizing how we will both interact with the world differently because of our race, and knowing how to support him every step of the way.