As I watched Macklemore & Ryan Lewis’ performance at the Grammy’s on Sunday evening, a different line that you would expect, in their song Same Love, hit me.
the complexion of your pigment
Yes, I’ve heard Same Love a handful of times, but hearing this line made me stop and think. Pigment has always been an uncomfortable word to me.
As many of you know, I am partial albino, meaning I only have pigment in different parts of my skin. The areas where I am missing pigment, my skin is as white as snow, or powdered donuts (when I’m ashy), or clean fresh socks. You get the point.
So why has pigment made me feel uncomfortable? I was always different, people continuously stared; I made others feel uncomfortable because the spots on my legs and stomach, and my white hair was new to them.
My biggest fear going different places and trying new things is not because these adventures are thrilling and the unknown is unexpected. My biggest fear is explaining to people why my hair is white, what partial albino is, and that I don’t have a contagious disease. The conversations, the stares, the comments.
However, just like Macklemore is singing about hope for marriage equality and equal rights, I have experienced the hope in the world a great deal lately. There is hope.
Here is why:
1. Although questions sting and make me feel uncomfortable, it is a moment of education and opportunity. I have a chance to make them feel more comfortable with people who look, or act, different. I have an opportunity to answer a question, so in the future they will know the answer. Kids are the best because they have a genuine curiosity. They are asking because they want to know why they don’t have it. Please understand, it hurts a lot less when people ask versus pointing, staring, and whispering about something unusual. People are asking. It’s acceptable to ask.
2. People are becoming more accepting and not asking. Huh? Kali, you just said to ask and now you are saying people aren’t asking. Let me explain. I was nervous about traveling to Europe because I would be explaining myself to administration, cultures, and students why I had spotted skin. Guess what? Not one person asked me. Moving to Columbus made me timid in meeting new people. Guess what? I have been the only person to bring it up. Children are being raised in homes where differences are what make you, you and there is no need to ask because that’s just who they are.
I had seven job interviews at the beginning of January. Telling future employers why my hair is white is typically the numero uno item on my checklist I want to scratch off because I don’t want them to think I’m a crazy, wild woman dying my hair all sorts of shades. Well, every time I brought it up the responses were accepting.
How awful of me to assume people think person A with dyed hair can’t be a professional educator who changes students’ lives. How sad of me to think I need to justify my appearance.
The world is changing and unfortunately I wasn’t changing with it. I was still ashamed. But, our world has hope and I am discovering its’ beauty.
I encourage you to reach out to others more. Whether their pigment is different, they are missing an arm, or they have different views, find out why if you need to, or just simply accept who they are. Take an opportunity to learn, or teach.
A few pieces of advice when reaching out:
1. Don’t assume. Two questions I get daily 1. Do you know who Rogue is? Did you get in a fire? Yes and no. When you assume and ask a yes or no question, you are missing out. I don’t want to be associated with X Men and every time I think about being burned in a fire, I cringe. Be open and ask an open-ended question Do you mind if I ask why______? This makes me feel as if you are asking because you actually want to know more about me.
2. Allow questions. Although I’m not a mom, I have one piece of mom advice. Let your kid’s ask questions. Don’t palm their mouth in the grocery aisle or respond “that’s rude” if they blurt it out. They are simply verbalizing what they know and see. They truly can’t develop unless they get educated answers. The more aware they are, the more accepting they will be.
3. Don’t sympathize, empathize. First, make sure you know the difference between the two words. You don’t need to feel sorry for someone who looks unalike or has a disability. I’m happy with who I am. Yes, I have struggled, but haven’t you? Offering sympathy makes me feel like a lesser person. Emphasizing makes me I believe I can trust you because you have pushed through tough times as well.
Every time you get outraged with our government, your students, your family, etc, find the hope.
There is hope.
A friend shared this story with me, another example of hope in our world.