When I held my newborn baby for the first time, I delighted in everything about her. Her ten little toes, impossibly cute ears, and the reddish-orange fuzz covering her head. Strawberry blonde, like my dad and brother! If you’d told me at that moment that my daughter’s hair “didn’t matter,” I would have chucked a bedpan at your face.
Of course it mattered!
Wouldn’t every proud grandparent with a phone full of pictures agree with me?
I don’t love my daughter because of her hair. The color will probably change over time, and I will love her whether her hair is red, brown, or purple! But her peach fuzz is a part of her, even if it’s just a small part, and everything about how God made her is good.
God looks at all of us the way that I looked at my newborn, though His love is bigger, stronger, and perfect. He looks at my freckles and smiles. He looks at my best friend’s big, brown eyes and smiles. He looks at our straight, wavy, curly or kinky hair—and He delights in every single strand on every single head (Luke 12:7).
In other words, when it comes to our skin, God’s not colorblind.
Skin color matters because God made it!
I’ve always thought it sounds disingenuous to say “I don’t see race” or “I’m colorblind when it comes to race.” Unless you have a visual impairment, you see skin colors. You see facial features or hair textures that indicate race or ethnicity.
You might think that skin color only matters to bigots. The rest of us have no reason to think race is important, because we don’t use race to decide how decently we will treat someone.
But skin color does inherently matter. God made our skin and hair, and declared them to be good, just like everything else He created. He gave us a world full of rainbows and gardens; why would He want us to pretend that we can’t see the spectacular colors He’s made?
Furthermore, God made us in His own image. It’s one of the profound mysteries of creation, a foundational truth. When we ignore, dismiss, or even deny people’s skin color, we’re editing imago dei, the image of God. We’re choosing which parts of a person to value and honor.
The world tries to devalue imago dei, the image of God.
In college, one of my Black friends cut off her straightened hair to grow out her natural hair texture. Callie styled, moisturized, and shaped her hair everyday. It was glorious!
But people told Callie that her new hairstyle was ugly, sloppy, and unprofessional. She received constant, brutal criticism for letting her hair look textured, for letting her hair look…well, Black.
It would be insulting to tell Callie that her hair doesn’t matter. God looks at her hair with joy, just the way I looked at my newborn’s strawberry fuzz. And Callie had to defy a million comments telling her otherwise. She insisted that she, too, was made in the image of God—no hair treatments required.
Differences aren’t shameful or dehumanizing.
Maybe we’re afraid that if we acknowledge differences, we won’t see people as fully human. But it doesn’t dehumanize someone to see them as Black, because there is nothing bad or inhuman about being Black! Or being white, Asian, indigenous.
Differences aren’t degrading. You can treat someone respectfully and equally while still acknowledging a part of their identity that may be very important to them, as it is for my friend, Callie.
I won’t confuse my daughters by pretending that racial diversity doesn’t exist when it’s right before their eyes. I won’t teach them to ignore different skin colors as if they are something shameful.
I’m showing them that we should celebrate and honor the bodies that God gave us:
Yeah, your Uncle Caleb is really tall!
Grandma’s hair is short and silvery.
Yes, Aunt Ayesha has brown skin, isn’t it pretty? Your skin is pink-ish, and that’s pretty, too!
Context matters, of course: a stranger at the grocery store probably does not want to chat with my toddler about his skin, but I can get a sense for what family members are comfortable with. We also talk frankly about skin colors when we read books and look at pictures together. We thank God for giving people so many wonderful colors, sizes and shapes.
Scripture teaches to use words carefully.
Language is tricky. It takes lots of work and intention to love people with our words instead of hurting them. And Christians are commanded to be even more specific and considerate with our words, not less!
Instead of saying, “Race doesn’t matter,” we can say “People of all races and skin colors are welcome at our church!” Instead of saying, “I’m colorblind (with race),” say, “I try not to make assumptions based on race.”
Truly, we are beautifully and wonderfully made! In His eyes, every part of us matters.
Want to read more?
While this article doesn’t specifically discuss the language of “being colorblind,” it’s a highly relevant analysis of Critical Race Theory written by a Liberty University assistant professor.