C is for color, or the lack thereof

I got interested in the issue of skin color – well, always.

I’m finding this a little weird. Because of my skin color, some of the Daughter’s friends don’t believe I am black, or African-American if you prefer (I don’t), so they don’t think she’s part black.

Her first set of friends are first- or second-generation sub-Saharan Africans, so I sort of get that. But I’ve been getting the same message from her American black and even American white buddies.

In fact, we were all at a play at her school this spring, the fourth iteration of Lion King I’ve ever seen. My wife and I were sitting a dozen rows behind the Daughter and her friends. At the intermission, she and one of her friends came back to where I was seated. She specifically pointed to my hand, pointing out the variated skin tone. “See, he’s darker there. He just has this skin condition.”

As I’ve noted before, the condition is called vitiligo. Incidentally, Chuck linked to Why you don’t say what you shouldn’t say to people who look “different”, including those with vitiligo far more severe than mine. Also see vitiligo queen and Artist Creates Dolls With Vitiligo.

When I was diagnosed with it, I was extremely cautious about going outside, so paranoid about developing skin cancer. I was much paler than I am now. In fact, there were black and white pictures of me from 2010-2015 and I do not recognize myself.

My forehead is somewhat darker, but, as you may be able to see, the top of my head is still lighter, and thus much more vulnerable to sunburn or worse.

I got interested in the issue of skin color – well, always. My mom was very fair, my father much darker, and her family was not pleased when they were courting, I’ve been told. Colorism does exist in many cultures.

And when Roseanne Barr made an offensive tweet about former Obama aide Valerie Jarrett, Barr’s defense was that she didn’t know Jarrett was black. Her racial identification was well-reported, but also obvious to my eye.

Of course, race in America has been complicated in what is now the United States only for about four centuries. This is interesting to me: They considered themselves white, but DNA tests told a more complex story.

For ABC Wednesday