- I hate my hair/skin/eye color/eye shape;
- I’m not cool like FILL IN THE BLANK, s/he has the “perfect” hair/skin/eye color/eye shape.
Tag Archives: race
Today my son asked me to name all his friends who are brown. He claimed he could only name one. I actually started to name all his friends and family members who are non-white until I realized that wasn’t really what he needed to hear. Instead, I talked to him about what we should look for in a friend – and color wasn’t one of the criteria.
My criteria are simple: kind, smart, fun, interesting. That’s kind of it. I don’t care about much more than this – and these are criteria that all my friends, white, brown, black, Christian, Muslim, Jewish, Republican, Democrat, Independent, Phillies fan, Yankee fan, Orioles fan, vegetarian, carnivore, reader, non-reader have in common.
Sometimes kids ask us questions and it’s hard to know what they need to hear in response. I have been guilty of over-talking MANY topics with my son: race, how babies are made, politics, why he should try new foods, my reasons for not subscribing to Club Penguin for him, and on and on.
The truth is, sometimes he doesn’t need all that (most of the time he doesn’t need all that), but sometimes I need to look past the question he is asking to the question he needs answering.
I got a really great opportunity to talk about my experiences as a Peace Corps Volunteer in Burkina Faso, West Africa today. My son’s first-grade teacher and I have been planning it for a while, but it turned out even better than expected. All four of the first-grade classes (and their teachers) joined me and the school librarian in the library for a 40-minute presentation on Africa.
I showed them photos of the house in which I lived, the teachers and administrators at the school where I worked, and even what our village market day looked like.
The kids’ questions were hilarious. Several tried to convince me they have a camel at their house or that they have owned a pet monkey!
This was my third time presenting in one of my son’s classes – I’ve been doing this since he was in pre-school – and this was definitely the best. Not only am I getting more comfortable about what information will most interest them, but I’m also better attuned to how certain answers to questions can be interpreted.
For instance, when I talk about the kinds of foods people eat in Burkina Faso, the gross-out factor for 6 year-olds raised on Kraft mac n cheese and pizza is high and that makes me feel like I’m disrespecting the Burkinabe people who were so kind and welcoming to me when I lived there. Now, I downplay those kinds of things.
The best question I got was from a little girl who asked me if everyone in my village was brown. It was a great opportunity for me to talk about how the children of the village reacted to me, a German/Irish-American with very light blue eyes and straight blonde hair.
To be frank, the little ones were TERRIFIED of me. I looked like no one they had ever seen – probably ghost-like – and they screamed if I got too close. Over time I wore them down with my charm, but in the beginning they wouldn’t even let me touch them for fear that my white skin would rub off on them!
It was a great teachable moment because, although my son’s school is very diverse, he has had run-ins with kids who “don’t like brown people.” As a Burkinabe-American, my son is dealing with things at 5 and 6 that I didn’t have to address until I was 22 years old. He is my little hero and I’m glad I got the chance to help open some eyes about the kindness, culture, and warmth of the Burkinabe people I knew. And to reinforce the fact that our skin color is one of the least interesting things about us as people.