Diversity Day

"Mommy, look at the brown boy!"

As a transracial family in a very Causcasion county, we hear some interesting comments like this, especially from other preschool-aged kids. This week, we heard on two different occasions. No biggie: it is perfectly normal for a child of that age to notice color. I mean, they are just learning colors and pointing it out is just an observation. I am NEVER offended by children making such comments. In fact, it can open up great learning opportunities for kids to understand adoption, difference, etc.

However, one of the circumstances this week was kinda awkward. A little girl pointed to Jafta, and this was how the dialogue went:

CURIOUS GIRL: Mommy, do you SEE him!?! He's brown!

MORTIFIED MOM: (clearly embarrassed) Honey, be quiet.

CURIOUS GIRL: Mommy, do you see? Do you see that boy?

MORTIFIED MOM: Sweetie, BE QUIET. Be quiet right now.

CURIOUS GIRL: But mommy, look! He's brown.

MORTIFIED MOM: (now angrily) If you don't stop saying that right now, I will give you a spanking.

I totally get where this mom is coming from. I can imagine doing this myself, in another setting. But think for a minute what this interchange communicated to this little girl about "color difference". What message did this well-meaning mom unintentionally send to her daughter, and to my son, who was watching the whole thing?

Avoiding the topic of race can be one of the biggest mistakes parents make in raising healthy, race-concious children. Shaming, igoring, or avoiding your child's comments on race can send a strong message: racial difference is SO bad and SO embarrasing that we can't even talk about it. (Kinda reminds ya of how some families deal with sex, huh?).

So how should someone react? I don't know the perfect way. Perhaps a Diversity Day, like on The Office? Okay, maybe not. I know that race should be a continuing conversation, and we may fumble through it awkwardly, and we may not have all the answers. Again, kind of like the sex talk.
But let me tell you about the other interchange that happened this week:

A little girl pointed to Jafta and said, "You're so brown". And my husband said, "Did you hear that, Jafta? Say thank you."

And he did. With a big grin on his face.

7 comments:

  1. Such a better way to look at it. Funny how things like this can make so much sense but when we're caught off guard, in the moment, we sometimes act like complete twerps.

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  2. I love that episode of the office-- so awkwardly funny.
    I also love your husband & son's exchange at the end of your post! What a sweet way to deal with a potentially difficult issue!
    Thanks for your encouraging words over on my blog too. :)

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  3. A little twist on this from the mouth of my 3 year old...
    well, background first of all...
    He has always been in multi-cultural situations. This is something very important to us as a family. His daycare, our church, our playgroups, etc. have made it possible that he doesn't even seem to notice color, economic status, etc. Maybe someday he will, but for now he has taken to pointing out the white people...
    how funny, since we happen to be white. He'll say things like "look mommy, look at that white girl over there, what does she have?"
    I have no idea where this came from but I'm diggin' it.

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  4. Thank you! I loved your post. It is so important for us to have healthy dialogue with our children about many topics. The more we talk to them and allow them to talk to us, the more our children will crave and embrace diversity.

    My beautiful chocolate babe has often talked about her own brown skin in a negative way. When my son was born she very innocently commented, "I thought he was going to be brown, like me". I was crushed, because I knew she was crushed.

    We have since talked many time about how there are many things (not just skin color) that make people different. And different is beautiful. She loves wild hat and mismatched socks. We are celebrating Mismatched sock day on the 25th of this month. Trust me, it will be blogged! She invented the holiday, so we could learn to embrace diversity!

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  5. This is my favorite story ever. When Mike read it a while back, he cried his eyes out.

    You guys are phenomenal parents.

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  6. I know myself well enough to know that if I were THAT Mom, the people pleaser in me would be off the charts freaking out. It is really good to read something like this and step back and think about how there are so many moments that we have teachable opportunities with our kids that we may brush aside so that we do not appear a certain way.

    I hope that makes sense.

    I also LOVE Mark's words to Jafta. Such an amazing dad.

    Ali

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  7. I had a similar situation as I was meeting a new friend for a playdate. She is black. We ran into them before at Target. Easton says, "Look mommy he is brown." as he points to her son. All I could say was "yes he is" She did not hear him. But I was mortified. After I walked away I said to him, "God made us all different and we all have different color skin but God loves us all." I did not scold or chastize him. I want him to know we are all different. He is curious but I also don't want to make him feel bad. What is the rt answer or is there one? The reason I freaked was I did not know if she was the type to be offended.

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