Monday, September 3, 2012

If I Could Scream A Message, I Would Say, "KIDS DO NOTICE COLOR!"

Miss E is now in her second year of preschool.   On her first day, I was the teacher's helper.    On three occasions, I overheard a race-related conversation involving four year olds.

Let me begin by saying that I'm so tired of hearing white adults say that race doesn't matter, that we shouldn't put emphasis on race, that we shouldn't talk about race.      CLUELESS.  It's easy to say race doesn't matter when you are the dominant race---when you live in a happy White bubble.   I sure enjoyed the bubble before I became a mother to two brown babies. 

When I express my concerns or ask questions about race (mostly diversity), adults always lower their voice a bit and say, with confidence, that kids don't notice or care about race.

They may not care much about race, at the preschool age, but they DO notice color.  

Example 1:   I supervise the little girls going to the bathroom.   A little white girl looks at Miss E, then at me, then back and forth again, before asking me, "Are you her Mommy?"  I say yes.  Little girl wants to ask more, changes her mind, dries her hands, and leaves the bathroom.    I thought, for a second, should I state that moms and babies don't have to "match"?

Example 2:   I'm sitting on the rug next to my daughter while the teacher reads a story.   Next to Miss E is a little white girl, followed by a little black girl.    The white girl next to my daughter asks me if the two brown girls are sisters.  I say, "No, but they are the same color."   

Example 3:   I'm walking my daughter out of the school for the day.  I overhear one mom tell another, "My son came up to me and said there is a black girl in his class.   We are working with him on this."  (Meaning, I suppose, that he doesn't need to state differences, race, or something along those lines).  Mom doesn't realize that I'm the mom of one of the black kids in the class.    I wanted to tell her, "It's OK to talk about race.   It's ok that your child notices color.   Don't shy away from talking about it!"

Three examples in a three hour period.

Yup, kids notice color.

Yes, you should be willing to talk about race with your children.  

You should encourage honesty.

You should embrace diversity.

You should not project racial insecurities onto your children.

BURST the bubble! 

 

4 comments:

Gaby said...

Oh, I know! A big hung up for me is when people are describing someone and they lower they voice as they whisper: I have a co-worker who is **black** (whisper, whisper). As if the word black is a cuss word or an offensive word or a dirty word. When I've asked about it they tell me it's because they are afraid black people within earshot will be angry with them for using the term. So then I want to say, well, if YOU find it offensive use African-American, then instead of whispering. But the fact is, I think most black people, or at least my black friends, are not offended by it. Is that just my friends? Am I missing something here?

celsden said...

I think you would enjoy the chapter on race in the book "Nurtureshock" by Po Bronson. It talks a lot about how, if we're not talking regularly to our children it actually makes the race problem worse as children will naturally segregate into racial groups. A really interesting read.

Angela said...

That is so funny my Hubby and I have adopted a biracial Son and out of the blue we were driving and he said Mommy Miss Ashley is brown. That is his preschool teacher. I said yes she is. He said Mommy I am Brown too and so I said yep and Mommy has white skin. Then he said yep but Daddy is Brown just like me ;) Daddy just has a tan and my lil man is 3 :)

marcia said...

My 6 yr-old adopted daughter is so confident in her brown skin that she helps educate her peers unknowingly. When her friends (who are mostly white/peach skin like my husband and myself) draw pictures and include her in the drawing, she does not hesitate to point out when they fail to color her skin brown. I'm sure it creates dialogue between her and her peers especially as they get older. Thanks to her, I have positively reprogrammed how I color pictures too!

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