I’ve told this story many times, but the first time I told it was in a white affinity group. The prompt we were asked to reflect on was to describe a time we recognized our own, or someone else’s race. Immediately an image of my mum looking at me very seriously popped into my head - an image that has been seared into my soul.
I am 6 years old.
It is the mid-1980s and I live in a small rural Ontario community where the only people of colour I see are on Sesame Street or through the car window when we drive to my great-aunt’s cottage at Kettle Point First Nation.
I am in Toronto riding on the subway with my mother and younger sister. I am sitting beside my mum looking at all the other people on the train. There is a Black woman sitting near us with her baby in a stroller. I turn to my mum and ask "Mum, why do all black babies look the same?" My mum asks what I mean, and I try to explain that white babies each look different, but black Babies all look the same and I don't understand why.
My mum bends over and looks me right in the eye, and in a very serious voice says, "Lindsay, you are not looking carefully enough. Each baby, no matter their colour, is just as special and different as you."
That lesson has stuck with me for 35 years because of how seriously my mum took the question, how seriously she answered me, and that she turned the task of looking harder, and looking deeper, back on me.