Sep 28, 2010

Color Blind.

Rarely do I ask something of you on this blog.

(Crickets, crickets, chirp, chirp.)

Okay, okay, I did once ask for help on how to potty train a child.
And I did once ask for a heapin' helpin' of new recipes that my family would eat.
And I did once ask for opinions on a hairstyle.

But I would like to go on record now as sayin' that you people were no help! No help, whatsoever.

So see? Its like I've never asked anything of you, ever.

So let's start fresh, shall we?

I need your help. Or at least your opinions.

Here's my tale:

Yesterday I am sitting in the dentist office with Remi. (Was there ever a moment of doubt in your mind that this would NOT be a Remi story? I mean, really.) She is there to have a "sugar bug" removed from her teeth. In all honesty, it was a cavity, but her dentist called it a sugar bug and so that's the phrase I'm going with as well because it doesn't make me feel so much like a bad mother who has give her children too much freedom with candy as it does some poor unsuspecting victim who found out a bug crawled into her kids mouth one night and decided to live there. Yes, both of these are tragic, but in the second option I'm not to blame.


Yesterday as I am sitting with Remi in the dentist office and she is quietly watching a movie the cutest little boy you've ever seen pulls up a chair beside her. She is instantly intrigued. Because as fate would have it, this little boy is...

(And herein lies the problem)


Even I don't know what the correct thing is to say anymore, so how can I expect her to?

All I know is she is completely and utterly smitten with all things Princess Tiana. Well, guess what people? Princess Tiana is...


In our house, it doesn't matter what you color you call her, lovely is what she is. And she is! She can sing and dance and Remi wants to be her for Halloween, but the AG and I are thinking this might be a hard thing to pull-off.

But I digress...

So as Remi is making a new friend very fast she begins to comment on the color of his skin.
"Look at your arm, your arm is black."
"No, my arm is not black."
"Yes, it is, look at it! Its brown like Princess Tiana."
"No, its not."
"Yes, it is. You are black and I am white."

And it was just about then that the only sweet black lady in the room looked at me with complete and utter disgust in her eyes. "Oh my Lord, do you hear what she's saying to him? She's telling him how he's black and she's white."

Pray, Melissa. Pray.
No, pray harder Melissa.
And faster. Pray faster, Melissa.

And so with all honesty I looked at her and said, "Well, in our house Princess Tiana is our favorite princess and she's black. So to be perfectly honest, Remi is having a little problem understanding why she has to be white."

And given my quick response, my God-given gift of gab, not to mention my astoundingly pleasant personality I seemed to diffuse a rather awkward situation. Thankfully. But it won't be the first time I run into this, I'm sure. I have two kids. And for better or for worse, they are white. And yet they go to school or they go to church or they eat at Chik-fil-A or they go to the movies with kids of various colors all day every day. The subject is bound to come up again. And so how do I handle it? How do I tell a child she is wrong for stating the obvious? But then again, how do we continually state the obvioius without eventually hurting someone's feelings?

If they're overweight, do we tell them?
If they limp, do we remind them?

Not in my house we don't. But I am having trouble finding the line on how to celebrate differences while respecting boundaries and all at the ripe old age of FOUR.

As I sat for a moment listening to Remi talk to him I was proud of one thing, never once did I ever fear that her words would be anything but kind. Being a different color or a different size or a different nationality is not a dealbreaker in our home. You are treated equally and with respect. She worships her daddy who has never spoken unkindly of any color or race. And for that I am most thankful.

On the way home I asked Remi, "Baby, maybe you shouldn't have told him he was black. I'm sure he knew. Why would you want to say it out loud?" And as only the innocence and beauty of a four year old can she said, "What's wrong with that, mama? If I saw someone who was pink I would just have to tell them, 'you are pink and you are sooooo beautiful.'"

And she would be right.


Givinya De Elba said...

What a sweet thing she is. My own little one was overjoyed to see some (possibly Malaysian) people at the park one day. He has Ethiopian friends and an Ethiopian sponsor child - he loves hanging with people from other cultures.

So it was great that he shouted at the top of his lungs and he ran to me, "Mum! Dark-skinned people! There are dark-skinned people over there!!!"

How was everyone to know he was delighted? I don't think they got that. It might have been my imagination, but I thought that I was getting some dirty looks.

Melissa said...

We've run into something similiar in Belk's. Emily and Lauren both pointed out that the woman next to us trying on shoes was brown. They were just making an observations. So, I just agreed with them. "Yes, she is. That's the way God made her." I later told them that it wasn't polite to single people out like that because we don't want to hurt their feelings. Frankly, I'm not sure why that would hurt someone's feelings, but it's the overly sensitive culture we live in.

MBush said...

We live in a predominately "white" area. There are some cultural differences but it is not the norm. My brother-in-law is black though (and that is what he calls himself, black) and explained to me that *most* black people do not mind when children notice they are's in the parents reaction to what they say. We do our best to make sure that when our children notice differences in others, be it skin color, size, hair-dos, or anything else, that we say aloud to them how they are the same, or beautiful, or special in God's eyes they are. We have NEVER run into someone who was (or stayed) offended after we commented with our son. AND let me tell you, he is one observant and vocal little man!
Keep up the good work, there is nothing wrong with noticing differences and beauty in others!

Jennine said...

Long time lurker, first time commenter...I just had to tell you that this is the sweetest thing I've read in a very long time.

This world is a better place with your daughter in it.

You need to put a gold sticker on your parenting chart.

God Bless!

Sissy said...

After living in Alaska in the 80s, where everyone was pale, we traveled through Alabama in 1985. We went to an outdoor public pool and (I was 8, mind you) and I said "Mom, those are the blackest people I have ever seen!" I think 80 pairs of eyes swiveled my direction. It was a moment.

There just isn't anything to do. It is hard to explain to kids that there are things that maybe we just don't say. I don't know why we aren't supposed to say things, but it's just not done, right? Sticky, sticky.

Faith said...

First off, comparing a black/brown/AA person to a handicapped or overweight person is a bit offensive as if there's a "problem" with being a different color. Also, it is NOT a good thing to teach our children to be color blind. Teaching them to look past the brown skin(or any different skin color) at this age is to teach them there is something "wrong" with having brown skin and noticing the difference. No one has the same skin color! We are all different colors of brown/tan and there is nothing wrong with noticing that. Instead, celebrate the beauty of God's ingenuity of color, talk about how beautiful brown, black, yellow, tan skin is. Talk to them about how God may have made us different colors but he made us all the same with feelings, thoughts, emotions, desires, etc. There is much to be said about celebrating differences and yet recognizing that we are all human beings and created by God to show His beauty.
In the instance you stated in your post I may have said something like, "Yup, his skin is brown. Isn't it beautiful? Your skin is tan and beautiful too, isn't it?" It is a tricky thing to teach but I think ignoring the difference is the worst thing you can do.
Blessings, Faith