Let’s Talk about Skin Color

By Troy Headrick

Race and racism are hot topics in America and likely elsewhere.  Just yesterday, Derek Chauvin, the police officer who murdered George Floyd, was sentenced to a bit more than twenty-two years in prison.  Not long ago, the nation memorialized the hundred-year anniversary of the Tulsa, Oklahoma, race massacre, one of the bloodiest mass killings in American history.  These, along with other events, are causing lots of talk about racial matters among the citizenry of this country.

One of the most divisive current topics is something called “critical race theory.”  Trumpists with offspring are in an uproar because they fear that this “theory” is being taught in their children’s schools.  The way they discuss the matter demonstrates that they neither understand what CRT is, nor do they realize that it isn’t actually being taught, not as a class or subject.  Critical race theory is actually nothing more than a way of thinking critically about “race” and the role it has played, in all aspects of life, throughout American history.  It’s more about asking challenging questions than it is about indoctrination.  If you tell me that you’re against doing critical thinking (about any subject), I’ll tell you that you’re making an argument in favor of ignorance and stupidity.

I’m married to a woman who has a much darker skin pigmentation than I have.  This fact provides us with ample opportunities to have interesting and entertaining conversations about skin color.  My wife, a woman who hails from northeast Africa, will often begin such conversations by pointing out that she is “black” and that I am “white.”  When I hear such a claim, I remind her that, in fact, she is the color of caramel or coffee that has had milk poured into it.  In describing myself, I always say that I am a little beige and that some parts are beiger than others.  But I have been known to have pinkish blotches here and there, especially on my face, which makes me wonder if I’m more beige or more pink.  I almost always conclude that I’m not actually a “white man”—just like my wife isn’t a “black woman.”  I’m more of a pink man with lots of beige mixed in.  Having said that, what am I to make of those very dark freckles I have on my arms and elsewhere?

By referring to people as black, brown, or white, we force them into categories that have no bearing on actual reality.  In fact, there are almost no people in the world who are truly black, brown, or white.  (Designating them as one of these three is a way of caricaturing them.)  Most of us are on a continuum between extremes.  And any single individual’s colorations can vary a lot depending on all sorts of things.  In fact, there have been times in my life, mostly when I was younger and did manual labor jobs, when I was quite tanned, even somewhat “brownish.”  Did that mean I became a different sort of person when I was in that state?  Did I become a “person of color”?  Should I have thought less of myself when I was darker?  Should others have thought about me differently?

I hope you see how ludicrous all this is.  We might as well start categorizing people by hair types.  Let’s designate those with straight hair of higher rank than those with curly locks.

The fact that race plays such an important role in our lives says a lot of not-so-flattering things about too many of us (and it’s a good argument for the implementation of something akin to critical race theory but on a massive scale).  Those who would argue that people with “white” skin are somehow divinely intended to be “in charge” are full of you know what.  And those who think they can perpetually use skin color as a way of dividing us are going to be sorely disappointed going forward.  I see a definite trend toward color blindness as we intermingle and intermarry.  In the future, it’s almost certain that we’ll all be “people of color.”

Troy Headrick’s personal blog can be found here.

36 thoughts on “Let’s Talk about Skin Color

  1. We’re all born ‘color-blind’. Tragic that so many’s vision becomes ‘racized’ as adults.

    “Red and yellow, black and white, all are precious in His sight”.

    1. Why is it that children, those with the least amount of “training” and life experience, often seem so much healthier in their behavior than do adults? You mention a line in a song I used to sing when I was a child and church attendee. Why have so many “religious” people forgotten about that little song that is so full of wisdom? Thank for contributing.

  2. You can get in trouble in some circles for advocating for color blindness.

    To say “blacks this” and “whites that,” you set up dangerous stereotypes. You take away the agency of individuals, regardless of their heritage. Yet when I was attending teaching college, it seemed to be dogma that I was an oppressor and could not be any other due to my northern European ancestry.

    As long as people identify with their religion or skin color or ideology more than they do with their humanity, we’re still screwed.

      1. Your transparent, candid, ‘cut-to-the-chase’ posts encourage me Troy. Thanks brother.
        Keep Looking Up

  3. Some of the racial labeling stems from geographical locations and certain customs. In America, we’re wired to cause an uproar over every little event and/or situation (major or simple). In my eyes, people should see color, but respectively not shove one’s culture down the other’s throat.

    To me, I think that’s the bigger issue, and race is a form of clout (aside from police brutality and injustice killings towards certain demographics).

    1. Hi. Thanks for the comment. I totally agree that some have used skin color to justify all manner of oppression and intolerance. Those of us who are “white” need to approach American history with lots of humility. Arrogance gets in the way of many being the best Americans they can be.

      1. I appreciate the way you’re able to speak similar language as myself just through the comment! Thank you very much!

  4. It always disappoints me how much people’s color/gender is used to categorize and stereotype that person. There are people who somehow “know” everything about you before striking a conversation, simply by looking at you. I think this is one way we fail as a civilization.

    1. Right. My point in all this is that seeing color is actually silly. We’re all a blend. We’re all members of the same human family. When we paint with a broad brush, we end up making many “painting” mistakes. Thanks so much for your comment.

  5. Someone told me that nobody is born racist; we are just taught so or learn from environment

    I think racism exists due to how obsessed we are with difference. And also because of the culture and preferences. We just want everyone to be the same as everybody else and view anything different negatively

    Why can’t we focus that nobody is the same, but also the same? We may have different skin colors, but we may also have something in common with them, besides being human race. Like hobbies, perhaps?

    1. You ask a marvelous question in your comment. Why do we seem to focus so much on our superficial differences rather than emphasizing our commonality? You, my friend, have put your finger on THE PROBLEM. How do we educate people to see things in the way you’ve suggested? Thanks so much for getting to the heart of the matter.

  6. Great post. Thank you for so clearly stating the importance of the rainbow in real life. Please stay blessed as we all learn together how to love our neighbors as ourselves.

    1. Thank you. I hope we are trying to learn this. Recently, I’m feeling a little disappointed (and a lot disgusted) because it appears a large number of folks are more interested in learning how to despise their neighbors. I hope this can be undone. There are lots of good people working on bringing people together. I wish them luck!

      1. Blessings, friend. All the luck in the world, for us to keep on coming together. Hope you keep writing here with your insight and intelligence!

    1. Yes! Yes! Yes! I have written elsewhere that the largest problem facing humanity is that there aren’t enough really good critical thinkers out there. I suppose this is what happens when we don’t hire the best teachers, pay our educators very little, and treat education, as a whole, as if it’s an afterthought. The chickens have come home to roost. Thanks so much for saying something so true and powerful!

  7. I don’t believe there is such a thing like race, we are the one who categorize individuals into boxes. I prefer to be call black than color, because I feel is washing my color skin. I identify myself as a black woman.

    1. I tried to belittle the idea that we can even put people in these little boxes of “white,” “black,” and “brown.” We are not caricatures. We are complex people. And why focus on color anyway? A smarter society would focus on what’s going on inside the individual, as Martin Luther King pointed out. We all should be able to think of ourselves how we wish. For example, I self-identify as a “citizen of the world” because I have lived elsewhere and don’t “belong” to this one country called America. I actually never even think about my color. Maybe that’s because I’m “white” and white folks have the privilege of forgetting they are white. Thanks so much for sharing your story.

  8. Every ethnicity, cultural identity, and nationality should be a matter of pride, never of shame. We all belong to a more important group, the human race. Every nationality, ethnicity, and cultural group has individuals of intelligence, integrity, accomplishment, and beauty, as well as those who lack these attributes.

    In the US, as well as in many other countries, we profess to believe in equality, but many discriminate against and oppress their fellow citizens. It’s time we got over racism! As the old country song says, “Everybody’s beautiful in their own way.” My niece is married to a man who is African American/Chinese. Their three children are beautiful, bright, and a credit to their upbringing!

    Thank you, Troy, for sharing your story and for generating a discussion of this important and timely topic. All the best to you and your wife! <3

    1. Thank you, Cheryl. You said everything so well in your comment that I have nothing more to add. Why we get stuck of seeing the “surfaces” of people and ingnoring what’s going on inside of them is a mystery that I guess I’ll never unravel. Thanks, again.

  9. “If you tell me that you’re against doing critical thinking (about any subject), I’ll tell you that you’re making an argument in favor of ignorance and stupidity.“ That is so true! For ANY topic!

    1. Absolutely, James. As someone who was raised to think critically and teach others how to do so, I totally refuse to give way to those who think we need to think with our “guts.” We digest food with our guts and use our brains for higher level, intellectual matters. People who are afraid to ask questions–to question everything–are the worst kind of cowards. Thanks for the comment.

  10. I agree with everything you say which is exactly why I am against teaching/promoting CRT. Why would anyone want too make a to-do about skin color! My grandchildren have friends of another race. Why would I want any school to start pointing out strengths or weakness to them based on the color of their skin. I don’t want that. So why CRT? Your title say it well – Pointless Overthinking. Thanks for coming by my place today.

    1. I would argue that Americans don’t fully know their history or the hardships that people of color do face and have had to face. Critical race theory is not about seeing color; it’s about recognizing that many of our institutions see color. If we are being honest with ourselves, America has a dark past. Of course, we have done wonderfully selfless things too. But we need to be aware of how race shapes our thinking (even when we aren’t consciously aware of it) and how certain groups of people have been treated unfairly throughout history. Why weren’t certain things not taught to me when I was a child studying American history? I grew up in Texas and “white” people didn’t even know what Juneteenth was all about. A nation cannot be strong and healthy if it doesn’t know itself, warts and all. That wasn’t an accicent, was it? That means some folks in positions of power wanted us not to think about race. We have to correct that now. Thanks for your comment.

  11. ‘I’m more of a pink man with lots of beige mixed in.’
    Troy, this is such a bold and heartening statement.
    Skin color has been given way too much importance.
    Though the color white signifies peace and purity, when it comes to the skin, it becomes an authority.
    And I have seen that racism exists on every level of skin color. The darker the shade, the more bias and ill-treatment. Even shades of brown skin are racist towards darker skin tones than them. What’s the logic, what’s the need, what is the benefit? It’s more of an ego trip and the desire to assert superiority. Can’t say when will this end. Because there’s also a lot of silent racism, buried deep in redundant thinking and closed-mindedness.
    The situation is gradually improving. But then there are so many other points and topics that promote bias and hatred. It’s tough to see an end to all of them. Humans are looking for ways to torment and be tormented.
    Thanks so much for sharing this. 🙂

    1. Psychologically, perhaps this is because, as you’ve said, “color white signifies purity,” which gets translated subconsciously by the logical unit of brain into “black as a symbol of impurity.”

      This is the reason, what makes me “inhuman”, for I do not associate human-made significances to what that is not but only that Nature implicates. And so I could never weigh white w.r.t. black, could never grow prejudice, for my heart is not fertile enough for it.

  12. Howdy Troy!

    When I lived in Kenya, I went with a group of recent arrivals at my place of work to a used car lot to buy a car. You pretty much had to have a car in Kenya. Every Saturday people would bring their cars to a specific vacant lot and try and sell them. There were hundreds of cars and hundreds of people there. I know a thing or two about a car, so I split off from the rest and started looking. I was looking at a car, and the seller says to me, “I know you. You came here with that black fellow.” I found the remark startling and I wasn’t sure how to respond. I looked at his face and he seemed sincere. Other people nearby hadn’t reacted to what he said. So, I smiled and replied, “They’re all black.” He laughed and told me that he meant the really dark skinned fellow and pointed to George the person assigned to help us. In that instance I realized that when everyone is the same “color” you begin to see variations in hues. The only people considered black were people with really black skins. Then I recalled hearing terms like high yellow and red to describe black people in America. To the car guy, he wasn’t necessarily black because his skin tone was too light.

    It also occurred to me that much of the world can talk about skin color without getting hung up on whether what you’re saying is racist or not. It’s crazy not to talk about skin color. It’s the single most visible physical trait any of us have. What’s crazy is not being able to figure out whether what you’re saying is demeaning or not. That’s the crazy part. And, that is what a lot of white people in America can’t do.

    I noticed the color of your skin is a perfectly human thing to do and something no one can avoid. It is part of all of our realities. To not deal with reality, is to be crazy, you know.


  13. I didn’t grow up in the U.S. but I have lived here for almost 7 years. I grew up in Costa Rica, and I come from a family of Anthropologists and Teachers. I really value education, and think access to quality education (for my future children, and for everyone) should be a priority in everyone’s mind (and a right, not just a privilege). A few years ago, I was at work and the topic of race and racism came up. This was a few years ago, and like I said, not having grown up here, I was much less familiar with the background of racism here in the states. I am still constantly surprised at how PRESENT racism is in the U.S., and it makes sense that it’s a sensitive topic for many given the violent history in this country. In our conversation, I (naively) said: education is the answer! Kids need to be taught proper history, and they need to learn that these terrible things happened, so we can all learn and move FORWARD from it, and stop making the same old mistakes. –One of my coworkers replied sayind: Well, where I’m from (somewhere in the south, I can’t remember) it’s actually illegal to teach that kind of thing. — At first I thought he was messing around LOL but of course, everyone confirmed this was true. Like you mention in your blog, some people are AGAINST learning about topics, or learning ways of thinking that allow to mitigate racism. I DO believe still that THAT is the root of the problem.

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