Kaleigh Somers has been both a devoted reader and friend for nearly a year now. I have watched her grow as an individual and as a writer throughout these months and I could not be more proud of her, for the young woman she is and the young woman she will continue to become. I admire her greatly for her raw honesty when it comes to the "sometimes hard to talk about" subjects and I am honored to feature her here on As Simple as That. Please do check out more of her writing here. Oh, and Dear Kaleigh-- my favorite is red.
Driving home from New Jersey last week, I had a crazy thought. So crazy I actually started laughing at myself. Out loud. In my car. Windows rolled down and the heat pouring in on all sides.
Maybe I should start passing out bags of Skittles to racists on street corners. Picture the five-foot-tall white girl with a laundry basket full of the sugar candies like Santa Claus with his Salvation Army donation bucket. That's what I'm going for.
Don't you worry. I won't be so bold as to smack a stereotype onto the passersby in the hopes of nailing the ones who need the message most. No sir.
I'll wait to hear bits of conversations that fly past me, because nobody notices the Weird Girl With The Skittles. Nobody covers their mouths as they rush by on all sides with shopping bags and strollers, toddles and teenagers. They talk as if I am deaf, a fly on the wall who speaks another language.
I've heard it before. Just last weekend, I heard the exchange between two women sitting outside a bar on a Saturday night, discussing the boys they brought home.
I'll hear it in their words, because you cannot hide something you feel strongly. Racism becomes a part of you. It envelops the way you see the world. The way you speak and the people you speak to. The words you use and the tone in your voice.
It's not just a noun. A word to label the less-than-open-minded. It's a mindset. And I hear it all the time.
My grandmother slips and calls all the Hispanics in her town Puerto Ricans. She starts talking about skin color and how it correlates to place of residence like we're mapping this world into carefully organized sections.
Like we're not bleeding into each other. Our love for each other ebbs and flows until we wake up in love with someone because of the way they act rather than the boxes they check off on census bureau surveys.
This is what I'll tell anyone who gets a bag of Skittles:
"Taste the rainbow."
I know, I know, it sounds sleazy. I don't mean it like that.
"Have you ever had Skittles?" I'll ask them.
And if they have, I'll ask them their favorite color. Everyone has a favorite color Skittle; mine's green.
But when you think about it, it's kind of ridiculous. They all taste pretty similar. They're all filled with sugar, all made in the same dark factories.
And us, humans, we're made of the same things. We're all 70 percent water. We all pump the same blood and breathe the same air and use the same organs.
I'll wait for the weird look that'll inevitably follow when you try to pair candy with philosophy. Trust me, I know. My friends don't understand me, either. "Imagine a bag of Skittles all one color," I'll say. "Like that one time when M&M's had a promotion and if you got the bag with all green M&M's you won a boatload of cash."
It's not like that, though. In real life, nobody wants the bag with all orange Skittles.
We love variety. That's why there's variety packs of Lance crackers and Frito Lays chips and Hershey's Miniatures.
We don't know what we're missing, having a bag full of one color. A world full of one race. A town with one standard for beautiful.
Because here's the kicker: Every heart beats the same. Every. Single. One. The colors, they're just for show.
Maybe I'll even customize the message based on who I'm talking to. Like personalized therapy sessions on the shoulder of the highway, me giving out free candy and them rethinking everything they've ever known about Different. Different skin. Different birthplace. Difference cuisine. Different words for the same thing.
I'll give Tropical Skittles to the Northerners to reconnect them with the scorching South and Sour Skittles to the Southerners to reconnect them with the less-than-sweet North.
Crazy Core Skittles for the tame ones. Wild Berry for the cautious. Ice Cream and Smoothie Skittles for the lactose intolerant. Chocolate Skittles for the Plain Janes.
Maybe I'll start taking special orders for people who want to save themselves from prejudice. Until people started lining up for a dose of Open-Mindedness or Bravery.
Until the first thing we do when we shake someone else's hand isn't measure the color of their skin against our own but ask them one question:
"What's your favorite color Skittle?"
Kaleigh Somers blogs at Rewriting Life, where she tries to keep happy, heartfelt and hopeful. And she wants nothing more than to discover all the beautiful, good-hearted people in this messy world.