Beyond Color

AHF Recognizes Black History Month
During February, we will feature a series of blog posts focusing on Black History Month. Please join us in the discussion and comment with your own opinions and tales.

Written by guest blogger, Cynthia Martin, AHF’s program and development assistant

I still recall my first awareness of an African-American person at around age four. Miss Liza Jane had on a bright, colorful calico print dress. I don’t know which impressed me most, the dark color of her skin or the bright colorful dress. I was obviously awestruck and voiced my curiosity like any normal four year old would do. My mother politely told me that Miss Liza Jane was a “colored lady.” I liked Miss Liza Jane and thought about her often after that first meeting. But imagine my surprise when the next time I saw her, she was wearing a plain, dark-colored dress. I spoke aloud to my mother, “But she’s not colored anymore!”

Quite humorous, but it proves that while children may be curious about different races and cultures, I believe they are not naturally racist. Racism is taught through societal and/or parental influences. I am glad my parents taught me to love other races and cultures at such a young age and in the midst of a society that thought differently in the 1960s and 1970s. One particular life lesson my parents taught me still stands out in my mind today. All of my friends and I were planning to go roller skating at a local rink. That is, until I invited an African-American friend of mine from school to join us. All of my friends deserted me, the skating plans were canceled, I was called all kinds of names, and my parents received hate calls from the other kids’ parents. Whew! What a moral crisis for a 10 year old! Although I don’t recall exactly what my parents did or said to handle that particular situation, one thing was certain, I did not succumb to the societal pressures from other friends and my love for different races and cultures remains intact. My parents’ lesson has carried me beyond fourth grade and into today’s global society where I have “colorful” friends from all over the world: Thailand, Russia, Germany, Mexico, Ethiopia and India.