When I was little, you’d probably have found me in my room playing elaborate games with my dolls or with the rest of the kids in our road, riding our bikes like we were part of some international biker spy gang. It was marvelous – that feeling of running and playing without a care, the only worry we had was being forced to say goodbye when the street lights came on.
Did I notice that some of my friends had a different skin colour to me or that my absolute favourite doll (Bobby) was “black”? Obviously I did. I’m not freaking blind you know. But did that matter? Not a damn.
My parents tried their hardest to instill in us that we shouldn’t be treating people differently because of their skin colour. And so we didn’t. In fact I didn’t even know that racism was a thing until I experienced it first hand.
We went to a public school in our neighbourhood that was open to all – even though it was in the early 90’s. I made friends with people that had different cultural and religious backgrounds and a wide variety of skin colours. Those relationships were formed because we had something in common, we laughed together or it was just who we gravitated towards at the time, it had nothing to do with any of our backgrounds.
It wasn’t until Grade 3 where a fellow pupil persistently and tirelessly started calling me nasty names based on my skin colour, that I found out what being racist was all about and how much it hurt to be on the receiving end of those senseless words. It still brings this weird feeling of dread to my tummy just thinking about it. Back then it made me so ill that for a long period of time I just stopped going to school altogether.
Normally in situations like this it’s easy to take the same approach as the perpetrator. To retaliate with the same hurtful words or harmful actions is more natural to our inherent human nature than to stand up against it.
I could have taken that stance all of those years ago but what is that going to solve? Thankfully with the help of my family and teachers we worked it out and instead of it having a negative effect on how I approached “colour” moving forward, it did the opposite.
8 Years ago on this very day, I married my best friend. One who has loved me despite my flaws, my all to frequent moods swings and the fact that untidiness is my natural gift. And I love him for his random sense of humour, how much he values time with our kids and how we can be our “real” selves with each other. Together we have weathered the storms of parenting three children, moving house, death of parents and just the everyday trials that sharing life together brings. There is no one else that I would choose to do life with.
Did I notice that he has a different skin colour to me? Of course I did. But do I care? Not a damn!