1. annie says:

    July 22, 2013 at 8:27 pm

    Any ideas of what you think is age appropriate? We’ve talked about when my mom was a kid that people with darker skin weren’t allowed to do various things and they were treated poorly just because of their skin color. L’s response was pretty much that that sounds nuts, and then he was concerned about whether his Grandma was treated badly b/c of her skin (she’s white). It was an interesting conversation. We haven’t talked about slavery yet.

    I’m also a little unsure of what we should go over in terms of hurting other people’s feelings in his kinder. He is exposed to many more Asian- and Latino- than African-Americans in our daily life now. I’m a little worried he’ll say something offensive out of pure ignorance, and I’m wondering if I need to discuss some basic manners about race?

    And then, what are basic manners around skin color — never bring it up? Say only kind things about it? I don’t think he even cares about the way kids look these days, but you never know. I can definitely imagine kids comparing skin color, then deciding theirs is “best” out of pure kid “I’m awesome” logic. I mean L and his friend had an argument over whether beads, God, or oxygen were the “best thing ever” the other day — they come up with weird stuff.

    Anyway, any thoughts on any of this?

    • says:

      July 22, 2013 at 10:34 pm

      Hey Annie, I think that since you’re a biracial family, these topics will naturally come up eventually. At this age, the only thing I’ve really spoken to Annika about is skin color. I wanted to make it a topic that was okay and allowed in our household. She brings it up a lot! It comes up in conversation naturally, when we see black people, how they remind her of her family on Toyin’s side. It comes up in artwork. Just tonight she drew a picture of me with brown skin. We talked about how it would be cool if we had the same color skin.

      Other than telling her about Trayvon Martin, I haven’t told her about any other racist topics like slavery or any of the other topics I mentioned in my post. Not yet. I will and I know I will. But right now I’m just setting the stage for those topics by making race and skin color an available topic of conversation, with purpose.

      As for worrying that he will inadvertently offend somebody at school, I don’t think you should worry about that. Kids will talk about it and he will not likely say anything outright offensive since I’m sure he doesn’t hear those kinds of things at home.

      I could be totally wrong, but I’d guess it’s possible that he is going to be on the receiving end of some comments. I’d guess that your children are going to get the, “what are you?” question at school, since they aren’t easily defined.

      The only thing that occurred to me to prep Annika for (possibly) going to public school was to tell her that people will call her black, not brown, as she has always referred to herself. We just started talking about that a couple of months ago, and she still forgets. When she was little, I decided that I would let her define her own skin color and she has always called herself light brown. But I figured she needed to know that other people would call her black. I haven’t even touched on African American yet, since she’s technically African, she will likely not realize there’s any difference.

      • annie says:

        July 23, 2013 at 5:43 am

        Thanks, Martha. I appreciate your perspective. As with a lot of parenting, sometimes I feel vey unsure I’m even covering the required basics. I’m sure school will bring a lot more information with it, and more opportunities for discussion. The thought of what he’ll say if someone asks, “What are you?” is making me chuckle. Good point.

        • says:

          July 23, 2013 at 9:37 am

          Annie, I feel unsure all the time too. I feel very unsure about the race talks, but I know that I have to plow ahead. It’s pretty important to both of us that Annika grows up with a sense of what it means to be black in the U.S. as it can affect so much of her life, from career, to dating and friendship, to just plain safety. It sucks to have to think about it. And it’s even harder since I didn’t grow up thinking about it very much.

  2. says:

    July 23, 2013 at 9:28 pm

    What was hard for me to know what to do with, was when my son was maybe four, and he came home saying “I don’t like that girl because her skin is dark.” Freaking out on him would not help, since his grasp of what “because” meant was extremely shaky at that time so I didn’t know what he was really saying anyway. I was just so upset to hear that sentence come out of his mouth! But I tried to stay calm and still get the message across that what he was saying didn’t make any sense, it’s okay to like or not like someone for how they act, their skin color has nothing to do with it.

    I felt like I was late to the educating I should have been doing already! Despite reading lots of books with people of color, making sure we go to places in the city where not everyone is white, and his first favorite teacher was an African-American man with dreds. It’s not enough, white parents of white children really have to tackle it head on to counteract what the kids are going to pick up from their culture.

    (Or even just because kids make up strange rules from their experiences, like his insistence at 3 that no women did construction work, because the construction crew he befriended in our neighborhood was all male and those were the only construction workers he know.)

    We started talking about slavery and civil rights not long after that, using stories about the Civil War as a jumping-off point. It’s a big concept for a little kid, but he could understand how appalling it is to kidnap someone, keep them as a prisoner, hit them if they don’t do what they’re told, and separate them from their family. Now the challenge is to bring that into the present day, so we don’t inadvertently teach him that race issues are all in history…

    (If I said anything clumsy or clueless in this comment, someone feel free to smack me in the head, figuratively.)

    • Martha says:

      July 23, 2013 at 10:18 pm

      Hey Skye, thanks for your thoughts. My daughter (who is biracial) has had a hard time differentiating between white kids, boys in particular, because, as she said, they had the same hair. I think it’s awesome that have realized that his education needed to start sooner, rather than later.

      What I learned from my daughter in that conversation was not to bring our own thoughts about race and racism to the table, because, like you said, they have their own childlike logic. It was probably easier for me to see it because we’re looking at it from the opposite point of view. In fact, I was kind of amused by it. It made me think of the way people used to say “they all look alike.”

      Bringing it into current history shouldn’t be as difficult as you might think. Check out some black publications for current topics. The Root is a great source for having up to date conversations about race today. Theroot.com

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