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Friday, November 2, 2012

The World in Brown and Blond

There has never been any doubt in my mind that one of the values I want to stress upon my son is looking beyond social labels. I want him to look at people as people. And I really really want to delay the time when he has to face preconceived notions about different social groups.
I also make race a non-issue in our daily life. Just not important or worth mentioning.

A few months ago my little one surprised me when He said: "Mom, I am blond , but Adam* at school is Brown". It caught me off guard. And here is the conversation that followed:

Me: " Yes he is. He has a different skin color, because God loves colors. He created the rainbow, and all the flowers, and He gives humans different colors, because He loves to see a rainbow of people when He looks down from heaven."

S: " Yeah, You are blond too. But you have brown eyes. And Daddy and me are blond and we both have Blue eyes"

Me:" Really? I like to think of me as a little blond and a little brown. I think I have both colors mixed in me." ( I then showed him my arm next to his)

S: "No Mom. You are blond with black hair and brown eyes. I don't have blond color here in these crayons. So I'm going to draw you orange"

Me: "That sounds good. I think orange would be good for me. I don't have to be blond."

Well, obviously for him his friend at school is brown as Lightning McQueen is Red and Thomas the Train is blue. He is just trying to describe his world the best he can and he looks for differences. But the exchange got me thinking. It came to show me that ignoring certain issues can be just as damaging. This child has never been told at home that people come in different colors, yet he notices the variations. Maybe I should have a strategy to address racial differences in a positive way. Because if I don't I'm sure there will be plenty of people and situations out there giving my child the wrong messages.

This morning Sam told me he wanted to invite his favorite friends from school home and asked me to try to contact their parents to set a play date. He said he wanted to invite Ellie, Adam and Ben*. And he added: "Adam has different skin than mine, but we are good friends". I said: "Of course honey! We choose friends for how well we play with them. Not for their skin color"

I hope he is getting the message. I know he will ultimately get it first and foremost by the way I act and react to people and situations.

How do you have (or not) the race conversation at home? What do you tell your kids about it? At what age did they start asking or noticing racial differences?

* I changed the kids names, since their parents don't know about them being mentioned in this blog.

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