Talking about Race

It is very interesting to try to talk to a two-year old about race.  M has a truly embarrassing habit (for me and S anyway) where he calls every black man by the name of one particular student he knows.  I am talking men of quite variant skin colors, heights, facial hair statuses, etc.  So, we’ve started to talk about it.

And…it is awkward.  I try not to bring my baggage to the conversation.  I don’t want M to absorb that which I have been trying to unlearn all my adult life.  I want to feed his natural curiosity, while also avoiding the stares that come when he is overheard saying, “Is that so-and-so?” within earshot of people who know who he is talking about.

He is still not so articulate that I can’t play it off a little.  When tonight he asked if a student had black skin, I said loudly, “He is wearing a black sweatshirt.”  His comment did start a great conversation, however.  I told Milo that people’s skin comes in lots of different colors.  Some people have skin that is dark and beautiful like coffee or chocolate and some people have skin that is white and beautiful like the clouds.  I also told M that he can always ask us any question he has about anything, but that it is rude to make comments about people’s skin color or hair or clothing in front of them.  I think that was my way of trying to protect people from what could be painful comments.  It also part of teaching M empathy since we never know what might a trigger for someone, be it their weight, the color of their skin, their ethnicity, etc.

I am grateful to have the opportunity to talk about race with my boy.  One day, he will know the history of this country and he will know about oppression and the long climb to liberation.  Right now, he just loves people and wants to get to know them better.  I can roll with that.
-Betsy

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2 responses to “Talking about Race

  1. heh. i get asked a lot at the girl child’s school why i’m not the same color as she. jerry was asked by a 2nd grader once if her tasted like chocolate. we have worked very hard with our kids to understand that they are not defined by their race, nor should they define others by the color of their skin, shape of their bodies, or based on personal beliefs. it’s a hard row to hoe for sure. i hope that it makes them better people. marriage equality has even come up this past year and thankfully it didn’t phase the kids at all. people marry other people because they are in love. i love the age of curiosity… not so much the public commentary that follows… hehe.

  2. Yea, this can’t be an easy conversation, I am not looking forward to having. But, you post reminded me of the time, this last weekend when my niece told me I looked like I had a baby in my belly. Nice. The things kids say right?!

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