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Only on the Outside

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Penelope T. Carroll

ORG 506- Leadership and Diversity

July 30, 2005


Skin color is only skin deep. This is listed as number four on the top ten things you and I should know about race on a PBS website. (California Newsreel, 2003). Only ten? How would I know. As a Caucasian female raised in a small eastern Colorado town, I did not know that there was such a list. In fact, I was not taught anything about people of other races and cultures, unless it came out of a text book. People of color did not live in this town. I had no interaction with blacks until I was 18 and married and living on my own. Only skin deep. I wish I would have known then.

The ignorance on my part only bred fear. I had only the words of a beligerant father to tell me about blacks. He was brought up in the south and lived as a teen through the desegregation years. He spent his formative years thinking that race was more than skin deep. It is what he was taught. What was I formally taught? Nothing.

What I have learned through my own experiences is that people of this world are just people. We all have fears and worries, joys and wishes. I have also learned that the silence that results from the fear of ignorance needs to be overcome. "Top Ten Things Everyone Should Know About Race" should be taught to children at young ages, so that the fear is nipped in the bud. But it is not.

Children are not taught about their most obvious differences in their preschool years. Parents may mention race or skin color as an explanation to a child's seemingly embarrassing question. "Mommy, why is that boy's skin so brown?" But embarrassment should not be the result of such a question. Questions of this nature should be embraced, talked about openly and ignorances acknowledged.

Tatum mentions early in her book her son's conversations with the other preschoolers. (Tatum, 1997, pg. 32) Why is skin color different? Children notice this difference, and the scientific reason should be taught at this early age. Melanin is the reason skin color is different. The only difference between people is the amount of melanin in the skin. Then, perhaps "skin color is only skin deep" would not have to be on the top ten list of things to know about race.

Histories taught in school carry a lot of misinformation regarding people of different races. The only interaction I had with blacks growing up was in my history books' teachings that blacks were slaves. I was taught that some blacks went back to Africa upon their release from slavery. But what of the others? Did they want to be in America?

In an interview with Robert Rydell,(California Newsreel, 2003) white Americans used the World's Fair to exhibit peoples as groups, categorizing and studying them behind cages, much like zoo animals. As late as 100 years ago, using the world's fair, common Americans could make classifications and determine what race or skin color was en vogue. White Americans used these exhibits to unify themselves through skin color alone. While they were "studying" groups of races, they were not really learning the fact that cultural differences strongly outweighed any skin color difference.

To black Americans who had recently earned their freedoms through the abolishment of slavery, the studying of people of various skin colors was detrimental. It only helped to classify them as people of color, rather than as Americans. This, coupled with other sociological impacts raised in an interview with John Powell (California Newsreel, 2003.) worked to keeps blacks as a lower class of human beings, thereby creating a culture of poverty. Sociologically speaking, people with skin colors on the darker spectrum simply have more disadvantages to overcome through life.

How ridiculous this sounds when considering the United States as a world power, on the cutting edge of scientific discoveries and invention, and militarily and economically powerful. Were there no scientists who realized the simply fact that skin color is only skin deep? It was not a priority. Whites had never had to consider this fact before, and apparently was not going to consider it in the 1900s. But whites quickly created their own rules for "blackness." Powell stated, "...a white woman can have a white child [by a black man], but a black woman can't have a white child [by a white man]. "(California Newsreel, 2003.)

Discovering this through Powell's



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