in Things that make you go "hmm"

31 Flavours of People

One thing I really appreciate from my mother is that from an early age she taught me to think of skin colours as flavours. She didn’t refer to people as black or white (which they never actually are) but as peach-skinned, or chocolate-skinned, or coffee-skinned, or honey-skinned, or vanilla-skinned… everything was a flavour.

This wasn’t just a quixotic whim, either. This approach was from the highly intelligent woman with a background in political science and sociology, who taught me at age three or so to deconstruct TV commercials and distinguish the product being sold from the means used to sell it. (This gave me a head start in thinking like a marketer, which wasn’t really her original intent, but I’m still grateful for it.)

Part of the brilliance of the flavourful skin strategy was that it made every human hue desirable–just like when you’re a kid you can’t decide which ice cream flavour you want, because they all look good. And by always talking in terms of subtly different shades of pigment, it avoided putting people together in crude classifications. When you think in terms of tints and tastes, you don’t group people together as “black” or “white” any more than you would think of “relatively tall people” as a group. The only thing that coffee and chocolate flavours have in common is that they’re delicious together–but then so are vanilla and coffee.

Did it work? Apparently my first crush was on a girl in the neighbourhood with milk chocolate skin. Causality? Early onset chocolate addiction? Who knows.

But I can guarantee that when you start thinking this way, the whole constructed concept of “race” starts to fall away.

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