As a child of the ’70s, I was raised by loving parents to be “colorblind”: to not see race, to treat everyone as simply “human,” to see everyone as a child of God. When I became a parent, this attitude stuck with me. My spouse and I worked to be sure our children were in diverse communities and knew people of many backgrounds, but we didn’t fully grasp the disservice and harm we were doing by continuing colorblindness as a stance toward race.
When my sons were in elementary school, I read an article that challenged what I thought I knew about talking about race with my white children. It told how historic inequities continue to impact people of color, especially Black people, in the United States. It detailed the ways enslavement, Jim Crow and structural acts of violence have impacted family systems for generations.
That was when I realized that I knew better and needed to do better. That was when I discovered the idea of not just being non-racist (read: colorblind), but being anti-racist (read: active in recognizing and dismantling systems of oppression).
As a Christian parent, we taught our children to treat others with loving kindness and used that as a barometer to measure our behavior. Hitting your brother with a truck, for example, is not an act of lovingkindness. This worked well for small children, and I see this reflected still in my teenagers’ behavior.
However, loving kindness is not the only Christian value needed to become anti-racist. In fact, one of the guiding principles I have used to work toward anti-racism has been John Wesley’s maxim of doing no harm. I realized that when I made declarations to our children about everyone being equal and loved in God’s eyes but did not identify the ways in which we are still unequal in terms of rights, access and safety, I was doing harm.