When I was a little girl, I played with Barbies, imagining they were all sisters. I gave them the last name Jewel. There was Ruby—a Christmas edition doll whose red tulle dress was three times bigger than she was. Ruby had a blonde updo and was very fancy. Emerald was more down-to-earth than Ruby. She wore normal clothes and had chestnut hair. Sapphire was my favorite, though. She had blonde hair like me, and she was the fun sister who rode in the red remote-control Barbie car with Ken more often than her sisters. I only had two Ken dolls, which resulted in epic love-triangle drama. Then there was the baby sister, Skipper (I kept the name from her box), who was shorter with long blonde hair and an upbeat attitude, despite her sisters’ moods.
Occasionally, my mom got down her doll case with her old Barbie and 60s-inspired clothes for me to play with. Vintage Barbie had tan skin, a brown bob hairstyle, and she never seemed like the kind of lady who’d enjoy riding in Ken’s red convertible. I spent hours playing with the Jewel family on the floor in my room. I smile, remembering my childhood imagination and how even then, my love for color emerged in the naming of my dolls.
But none of my dolls were black.
I never thought about why until I had a daughter of my own.
My daughter’s skin, hair, and eyes are darker than mine.
She was born in China and adopted into our white American family.
This picture of my daughter when she was three is one of my favorites. She gathered all her dolls and lined them up for a tea party. I sat and smiled, reveling in the joy of having a daughter and doing girly things. Looking at my beautiful Asian-American daughter sitting with her dolls of various skin tones, the moment stood still.
My daughter helps open my eyes to color—deepening my awareness of how we view shades of the skin, which also reveals hues of our hearts.
I’ve never resonated with the phrase “I don’t see color.” Because I do.
Colors reflected in everything around me are one of my greatest pleasures.
The warm ethereal hues of the sunrise.
The brown, gray, and white fur of a bunny, blended in such a way to camouflage her in the field of wildflowers.
The intricate design of yellow, black, and white on a butterfly’s wings.
The deep blue of my husband’s and sons’ eyes.
The rich brown of my daughter’s eyes.
Color is breathtaking to me.
Yet, the color of George Floyd’s skin caused his breath to cease.
Words fail for what my heart feels.
I process life and faith by writing, but I laid my pen down to listen and evaluate my heart and life.
My pen remained motionless for several days because of…
- Fear: “Will my words cause further pain for my black brothers and sisters?”
- Discomfort: “What will my words reveal about my thoughts or attitudes lurking in the shadows?”
- Pride: “What will people think of me and my words? Will I be misunderstood?”
- Confusion: “Where do I begin? How do I form words from a place of authenticity and empathy?”
I recently found and followed Danielle Coke (@ohhappydani) on Instagram. Her creative illustrations and faith-based messages help me to see better. Regarding diversity and seeking justice, Danielle says, “Perfection is not a prerequisite to participation.”
I picked up my pen because crafting words is how I shine light in the darkness. It’s how I fight the enemy’s lies about God, about myself, and about others. Writing is how I continue to “work out my salvation,” as the scriptures say, delving into different (and difficult) facets of my faith. I’m praying through what I’m learning about the complexities of race. This process is imperfect. I’ll mess up, just as I make mistakes in parenting, marriage, and relationships. Despite my imperfection, I will participate as God leads (thank you, Danielle, for the nudge).
A tea party of dolls may seem trivial, naive, or silly to foster a conversation about race. I humbly say there is so much I don’t understand or know about what different ethnicities have endured and continue to carry. I’m so sorry for the pain my white race has caused and how I have been apathetic to this complex issue (I’m listening, learning, and praying).
I write about a tea party because it’s what I do know. I love that my daughter has a Mulan doll who looks like her. I also love that Tiana, Moana, a black Barbie, a brown-haired Barbie, Doc McStuffins, and Anna & Elsa are at the table too—and there’s room for more—just as there’s room in my heart and life for more diversity.
When I read books to my daughter, she looks for girls with dark hair, then says, “She looks like me, mama!” I nod yes.
We have an innate desire to find ourselves in the story.
To connect with the big picture.
To be seen.
If we believe all people are created in the image of God…
If we follow Christ’s example of loving and serving our neighbor…
If we offer ourselves to God, who works in us to fulfill his good purpose…
Then we need to not only welcome people of all colors into our lives, but we need to seek diversity and learn from a spectrum of beautiful people God has placed here for his glory.
One day, we who have received the crimson grace of Christ will sit at a table comprised of the most stunning mosaic of people ever seen. Until that day, I want my life to reflect God’s love of color.
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