Thursday, December 10, 2009

Defined By Color or Celebrate Color?

MaryKatharine Ham (who I adore) has a post at the Weekly Standard Blog called "NYT Creates Separate But Equal Holiday Gift Guide for People of Color." Here she says:

Here's the link to the original, in case you'd like to offend one of your friends or relatives by proclaiming via painfully stereotypical gift idea that the only thing you know about them is their skin color, and you assume that it defines them at the exclusion of all else.

From a hip-hop and rhythm-based toy line to black designer clothes, this section is for those "of color." I'm afraid I didn't have the same reaction to it as MaryKatharine. I don't think it's about giving a gift that says the only thing you know about them is their color. I think it is a gift that says you celebrate their color.

When I shop I am always on the lookout for unique gifts that suit my friends or family. If I find something perfect 6 months before their birthday, I buy it. I admit when I am looking at black art or sculpture and I see something wonderful, I think about which black friend would like it. Recently a black girlfriend of mine renewed her marriage vows with her husband. I wanted to find some sort of wedding sculpture. I found a few, but they were obviously of white people. I never did find one that looked specifically like a black couple, but I did find one that couldn't be distinguished white or black. It was a woman and man embraced in a wedding dance. It was beautiful and perfect, so I bought it. I wanted something that reflected who they were, and their skin color is certainly a part of who they are. A sculpture that was obviously of white people wouldn't have seemed right at all.

I know that some people are put off by blacks celebrating their heritage. Wearing African dress or naming their children African names. But I have never understood why. I love the dresses I see at my church. We have a diverse congregation. Many Indian families wear their traditional dress. Some African Americans wear theirs. It's all lovely to me.

MLK asked us not to judge someone by the color of their skin, but the content of their character. But he never said not to celebrate the color. Why should we be offended that some gifts are geared toward people with color?