I knew it would happen eventually, the talk about skin color. For us it was early, when our daughter was just two and a half. She noticed her friend’s skin was brown, so that’s what we called it. We didn’t feel the need to label her black and us white. We didn’t talk about different ethnicities or cultures too much because in our eyes, we are all simply just human beings.
But this year it is different, our eldest is in Kindergarten and learned about Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. last week. And she came home after school one day and told me this:
“Dr. King was a black man with brown skin, and he wanted to change the world. But someone didn’t like his skin so they killed him. Why did they call him black when his skin is brown?”
“Well in our country there are names for different skin colors. Some people call us white, and people with darker skin black. But we are all the same no matter what color we are, we don’t label skin color.”
“But we’re not white, our skin is peach. And we shouldn’t label the color of our shirts either!”, she said as she skipped away.
Obviously she doesn’t understand the seriousness of the subject, or what really happened during the Civil Rights movement. She doesn’t know about the Trayvon Martin case, or about the race controversy in Ferguson, MO. She’s been taught that all of her friends have different colored skin, because they are from different regions of the world. I know it’s simplistic, but for this age it works.
As I spoke with my husband about this – and how we should be introducing the subject of race to our children, I asked, “Does it have to be this complicated?” This generation of parents and children is completely unlike any other. Where our parents were born in the 40’s and 50’s, before Rosa Parks bravely sat in the front of the bus, we are living in a new world. Our country is filled with people of all ages, races, religions, cultures and ethnic backgrounds. It’s hard to tell these days where a person hails from, especially here in South Florida. So why does it continue to matter?
We are in a place in our parenting journey where we all have to make a choice about how we are going to teach the subject of race. It’s important to share our history, and that in the past (and present) people are judged and persecuted for the color of their skin. But it’s even more important to spread the message of love, and that underneath our skin, we are all equals.
This is how we choose to parent, and how I choose to live. Others may not agree, and think that we are shielding our children from bigger discussions and issues, but they will learn it eventually. They will learn it on the playgrounds, they will learn it when they start watching the news, and they will learn it just by living.
Hate is learned, hate is taught…but not in our home.
We’ve always talked about it in those terms too. My kids and I have all held our arms up against each other and noticed that we, all within the same family, have different shades of skin. I think it’s a good way to introduce that we all are different and we all are similar all at once.
That is a good point Lauren, I’ll have to do that as well!
Herchel A Scruggs says
My son’s two closest friends have almost the same personality that he does. One is brown, my son is half Filipino, and the other is white. (We also say “brown” because that is how my kids see it.) Though, their friendship wasn’t “planned” based on the skin color of the boys it has been an easy example that we are all the same on the inside.
On a lighter note: my son once asked me why his feet weren’t filipino like the rest of him. He was confused as to why his feet were white and not “filipino.” He had a sock tan…it’s a good thing he didn’t notice that his little butt is also white.
Isn’t it funny how they notice such minute details?
My children have been blessed by being born into a diverse and accepting family. I love the fact that my 8 year old can listen to the “I have a dream” speech and understand it better than some adults!
Preach! That’s awesome that you are surrounded by love!
i think the title of your blog is how we “parent” on the issue… it’s kind of a non-issue because i have never really focused or seen skin color… some may say that’s avoiding the subject or ignorant but i see the person first and they’re hair color, skin color, eye color somewhere down the line… it’s just not very important to me. THEY are but not they’re “colors…”
In the area we live in it is hard to raise a child to not see the surface differences. The southern culture and hate blinded people on all sides sometimes makes it a little difficult. I often tell the kids that it’s not the color on the outside that makes people different but their point of views. I tell them to look to the inside of a person to see their nature and not base what they think on the stereotypes that they will hear all around them, not just black and white but every race. So far they are listening and treat everyone the same so apparently I am doing something right.
I can’t imagine living in that environment, and I’m sure we would have to parent VERY differently. We are in a very diverse city full of so many different cultures. I’m so glad to hear it’s working, it must be tough to navigate!
Tricia the Good Mama says
This is definitely a tough subject. I think it’s important to teach children that we are all unique and that we are all different, but we all deserve respect. I think our differences in skin color, culture, religion should be celebrated, not ignored. Clearly children can see that we have differences, so I don’t think it would be wise to teach them that we are all the same. There are lots of great picture books that can be used to teach about race. I really like “The Skin you Live In” and “The Crayon Box that Talked.” I also think it’s important to remind our children that discrimination and racism still does exist. I would like to teach my son to stand up to inequality.
Yes Tricia, we don’t ignore it. She knows that her friends have different hair and skin, speak different languages, and celebrate different holidays because of their religions. It’s just not necessary in my opinion to label everything at this young age. And we read a great book in the Magic Treehouse series that talked about racism which opened up a dialogue about the past and present. Thanks for those book suggestions, I look forward to reading them!
It is a hard subject! My daughter learned a lot about the Civil Rights Movement. I was glad her teacher talked about it. I think exposing kids to different cultural practices is a great way to help them appreciate differences.
I remember with my oldest. She was in kindergarten and came home and said that she had the most wonderful friend and her skin was like chocolate sauce. I asked her why she used that term. She told me chocolate sauce was “nummy” just like her friend. She was using an adjective to describe her friend, but saw no difference between them I loved that!
Joanna @ Motherhood and Merlot says
I love this. It makes me so sad when parents try to force their issues of hate and segregation onto their children. I think it’s a beautiful things to see children of all backgrounds playing together and learning from one another.
It is so awesome to see that our kids don’t see color. My children have never referred to a friend as black, white, brown or whatever even though they have a very, very diverse group of friends. They would come home as little ones and say I made a friend and her name is ….., and we would go from there.
As the years have gone on, we have had so many different kids walk in our door… Kids from Asia, Europe, black, white, gay, lesbian, transgender, and unknown…. They are all welcome if they are polite and respectful.
We have had to ask several “friends” of wealth and influential families to leave our house as they were rude and disrespectful. This is what we will not tolerate.
Anything else goes 🙂 And our kids know that 🙂
Yesterday my youngest said she would not be inviting a friend back to the house again and I asked why, here is what she said:
We were on Instagram mum and I was admiring a girl and her horse (my girl LOVES horses). The friend said that the girl on Instagram was not a nice person. My child asked how do you know that? The friend replied oh everyone is saying so. So my child looked further into this and said I don’t know where you are getting your facts, her account is beautiful, her words are beautiful and she lives in California, we live in Illinois. This friend went on to try and defend her statement that this girl was not nice, and my daughter said unless you have met her and hung out with her I have no idea how you can come to this conclusion. She left it at that.
I was left feeling very proud of my daughter as she told me, I will always wait and meet a person and let myself be the judge of their personality and not let someone else tell me what I should or should not like.
Again she is going by a persons insides…. 🙂
Wow, just wow.Your daughter is amazing as are you for encouraging such love and innate self confidence. Kudos to you and you should be proud!
Jennifer | The Deliberate Mom says
I love this! Yes, I choose to just share love of all people. I think there’s a time when our children are ready to hear the atrocities of history but I love the innocence of childhood and the infinite love that looks at the heart and soul as opposed to the skin. I prefer to dwell on that.
Thank you so much for sharing.
Scarlet has been learning about him in school and even had an assembly. I remember seeing Cassidy talk to her about it once and her face was so horrified. She was horrified at hate. I so agree about the innocence of children and I hate having to teach this but I also love that we get a chance to raise such thoughtful kids.