Friday, June 01, 2007

Was the Sun in Your Mother's Belly?

How would you explain race to a 3 year old?

How would you reply if a fair skinned child held their forearm to yours and said, "We're different. Your hair is black and mine is yellow,"?

A fellow Pinay raised this scenario to me and I have been thinking about ways to explain skin color to children.

I do not have children (yet), but I believe that I would embrace the opportunity to explain the whole big world (hopefully a globe would be accessible), and point out that different regions of the world have different people with all sorts of different plants, lands, lifestyles, food, and people. Indulging in the rich excitement of difference, I'd explain the gifts of difference and the gifts of commonality.

Children are underestimated. They witness violence, have fought in wars, and are relied upon to sometimes raise other children. I don't believe that simplifying or calming a potentially complex question does any good.

This child, who held her white arm to my friend's brown one asked, "Was the sun in your mommy's belly? My mom said that's why some are darker than others."

Cute. But that doesn't get the job done.

1 comment:

  1. when I was 15 working in day care, a 2 year old said "Did you know you were black?" while I was changing his diaper. I said "Yes. What color are you?" amidst the horrified stares of the other providers. He said, "White." I asked a series of color questions about other people and items in the classroom. Then I asked him why it was important to know colors and he said "because they are all so beautiful." I said, "Yes, there is beauty in difference." Later he rubbed my arm and said "You are beautiful."

    My theory, little children are just trying to learn about their worlds. We have to do the best we can as adults to teach them to see the equality and beauty in everything and the way to restore balance in those things that are horrible and unequal. We cannot punish them for what their parents or society may have taught them no matter how jarring.

    My mom calls moments like you describe "signficant cultural events" and she endures the stares of white children regularly, smiling at them, and engaging them in conversation even when it results in them bursting into loud frightened tears. The humiliation others feel at the contrast between my mother's generosity and a child's learned behavior has to inevitably lead to discussion and hopefully change for many.


Hey there,
Before you leave a comment, just remember two things:
1. You are taking responsibility for a public comment
2. Anything that resembles racism, homophobia, classism, ableism, or anything based from religion, citizenship, or ethnic bias - don't bother commenting, you'll be deleted.