How My White Heritage Unintentionally Made Me Blind (And Books to Open Young Hearts and Minds)


The Reality

We all are drawn to things/people/experiences that bring comfort to us. No matter what stage in life we are, we seek out familiarity. We like to be included. We enjoy fitting in, seeing others who look like ourselves and to whom we can relate. And when you see mostly others who look like you in your realm of comfort, it doesn’t seem like anything is “off”. It is normal. It feels normal. Nothing is out of place. Well, this was the reality of my life for the first 35 years I lived it. I am white and grew up primarily in white neighborhoods with *mostly* white friends. (Caveat: My best friend at the age of 9 was actually a brown skinned boy who lived in the same apartment complex as mine. But at that age, all we really cared about was running and playing, picking blueberries in the ditch behind our apartments, and eating until our bellies were full. We weren’t focused on the color of our skin as being a barrier.) As I went through school, I knew plenty of brown skinned people, but never again had a super close friend of a culture different than my own. Again, in the most honest spirit I can muster, this was never intentional. It just was

Change on the Horizon

In college, I came to know the Lord personally and my friend groups expanded — both culturally and spiritually. I came from being raised in a home where I was told I can have all the brown skinned friends I’d like, but I’d better never marry one, to  longing for a godly man as a husband no matter the color of his skin (and thankfully God provided one . . . and yes, his skin is brown!). My beliefs changed. My heart changed. But I still didn’t see it. I still didn’t see that the world around me showcased my culture more than my brown skinned friends (and now family). I didn’t notice that all of the Disney princesses were of my culture, and (at least at the time) there were no brown skinned beauties for little girls to relate. I didn’t see that my brown skinned friends had to think differently, prepare for life differently, or interact with people differently because of the color of their skin. 

Here Comes the Sun

Then I adopted a brown skinned daughter, and my entire cultural worldview changed. In an instant, my eyes were opened and what I saw made me sad. I will be the first to say, yes, we’ve come a long way as a country. Yes, opportunities are present for all cultures that weren’t present just a few short years ago. Relationships have emerged and grown in ways that were wholly unexpected and highly needed. But I will also be the first to say, we have so much more growing and changing to do. Almost four years ago, as a new mom to a daughter of a completely different culture than my own, I had to figure out a lot fairly quickly. We don’t watch many (or any) princess movies because I don’t want her to view white beauty as the only beauty. I am careful to always remind her that her skin color is beautiful because that is how God made her . . . just as my skin color is beautiful because that is how God made me. We celebrate our God-given cultures and I look specifically for ways to champion both. She has brown baby dolls and white baby dolls. She has books that have mainly white characters and books that showcase brown skinned characters, as well as books that have both. Though, I will say, books with brown skinned characters are far fewer and harder to find. But to hear my daughter exclaim, “She looks just like me!” thrills this mama’s heart as I see her heart warm to the character we are watching or about whom we are reading.

It matters. If you are white and all of your family’s possessions/books/movies/conversations have only white characters (I understand it may be unintentional — I was there), but it’s time to change. It’s time to change if we’re going to make real change. Let’s introduce our children — all children — to different cultures now. Encourage them to read/watch movies/have friends of a different culture than their own. You don’t see it because you haven’t experienced it, but it’s real. And the need for this is real. You can be a part of the long-awaited and ongoing solution to healing years and years of hurt. You can honestly make a real difference.

What Can We Do Better?

So here is a start. I am sharing with you a few books that have really impacted our lives and that teach truth to our children. I hope you’ll pick one up today and start reading it to your kids. Start the conversations of naturally including others who don’t look like you, who don’t talk like you, or who didn’t grow up in the same neighborhood as you (that advice is meant for everyone). Genuinely seek others out and build relationships. I know how much it would mean even to this mama’s heart who longs for a different world for her children than our present one.

The first book I’ll recommend is one of my absolute favorites. I was at a play date with a fellow foster mom when she told me about God’s Very Good Idea by Trillia Newbell. She had a copy on hand and I immediately fell in love with the message it relays. I think you will, too. 

My sister-in-law gave our daughter Whose Toes Are Those by Jabari Asim one year for her birthday (I believe. But mom brain sometimes doesn’t get those details exactly correct. ;)). We still LOVE reading it and our daughter loves to point out her toes and count them as we go along. 

My husband just recently stumbled across When God Made You by Matthew Paul Turner this Valentine’s Day and gifted it to our daughter. To see her eyes light up every time we read it is just heartwarming. It’s a fun, whimsical book that speaks SO.MUCH.TRUTH in the most delightful ways possible. 

Any of the “I AM” books are just wonderful. But I Am Rosa Parks by Brad Meltzer has been one of our favorites. We’ve read it many times over and, I’ll be honest, even shed some tears many times over. It’s well written and portrays the truth exactly as it happened. It also ends with the hope for the change(s) to come. 

Little Humans by Brandon Stanton was recently recommended to me — although I haven’t had the opportunity to read it just yet. It did come HIGHLY recommended, however, so I’m adding it to this list. 🙂

And last, but not least, The Snowy Day by Ezra Jack Keats. As voiced by one of my most trusted literary friends, this book is simple, yet deeply moving, as you get to walk through a sweet story about snow from a child’s perspective, along with really colorful and pleasing pictures. 

What other books can you add to this list? I’d love to hear your input!


    • Thank you so much, Kristin!! One day at a time, we can make choices to do better and be better – I love that so much.

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