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Talking to my child about race *help*

post #1 of 24
Thread Starter 
So... this thing came up over the weekend.

Irishmommy and her family visited. Sat afternoon we were on a crowded subway and our 7 y/o DD's (both white) were chirping away like magpies. I hear my DD ask her new friend "So, what skin color do you like?" In about the tone of voice you would use to say "Do you like the slide or the swings more?" Irish's eyes got big (as, I assume did mine..) and she said "Did I hear what I think I heard?" I said... "I think so." At which point my DD repeated the question... and added... "You know... do you like the lighter kind or the darker kind?"

I leaned over and interupted her and introduced a new topic. I'm pretty sure no one heard, though someone may have. No one reacted. It was loud, as it often is on the train.

So... I'm at a bit of a loss. We live in a very mixed neighborhood racially... her school is whiter than our neighborhood but still quite mixed. I've never seen any indication from her that she is assigning value to the racial differences she sees, but I'm not sure, obviously.

I'm not sure how to bring this up with her. I'm very unsure how to explain to her that it's not really okay to have preferences like that...

Any help gratefully accepted.
post #2 of 24
Quote:
Originally Posted by kama'aina mama View Post
I'm not sure how to bring this up with her. I'm very unsure how to explain to her that it's not really okay to have preferences like that...
I think it's OK to have a preference. DH prefers the look of lighter skin and I prefer the look of darker skin! What is not OK is to pre-judge someone b/c of your preference or discriminate against or not want to be friends with someone b/c of race/skin color. But as far as a 7 year old goes, it may be innocent as preferring the color green over blue? They may not really be noticing race, but my kids are very young so I have no experience with this.
post #3 of 24
I would think of it as being the same as, do you like blonde, brown or red hair? Blue eyes, green, or brown eyes? She's noticing phyiscal differences, but probably not assigning value judgements on them, just preferences.
post #4 of 24
Agreed. I think that it's ok to have a preference and it's ok to notice a difference. What's not ok is to think that the outside tells you anything about the inside. I think that at this age, this was a question born from simple curiosity, not budding racism.
post #5 of 24
I agree with the pps. I doubt she is really assigning a value to the colors, just stating a preferece like "My favorite color is pink, whats yours?". When I was about that age I had both white and black friends and once told my mother that when I grew up and had kids I was going to have one of each. I guess it just struck me as a good compromise at the time.
post #6 of 24
Thread Starter 
Okay... so none of you thinks that a child of color will feel hurt if they overhear two little white girls agree that light skin is better than dark skin? Because that may very well have been the outcome... and that is a huge part of my concern. Or an adult of color for that matter?
post #7 of 24
Quote:
Originally Posted by kama'aina mama View Post
Okay... so none of you thinks that a child of color will feel hurt if they overhear two little white girls agree that light skin is better than dark skin? Because that may very well have been the outcome... and that is a huge part of my concern. Or an adult of color for that matter?
I think that adults might wonder about what's going on, but anyone who has experience with kids that age will probably understand that it's a normal developmental thing for them--at least I think it is.

Two of our Small Friends are Chinese and their parents are white. One is 9 the other is 6.5. The nine-year old has always talked about how her skin looks compared to her parents--sometimes she says she likes it better and wishes her parents had skin as lovely as hers, sometimes it's the other way around. From what I've observed (and I'm with this kid and her friends a lot), it doesn't seem to bother anyone when she talks about it, and her friends seem to be in about the same place in terms of their various skin tones.

The 6.5 year old doesn't seem to think about it much, yet.
post #8 of 24
Quote:
Originally Posted by kama'aina mama View Post
Okay... so none of you thinks that a child of color will feel hurt if they overhear two little white girls agree that light skin is better than dark skin? Because that may very well have been the outcome... and that is a huge part of my concern. Or an adult of color for that matter?

I agree with Kama'aina Mama.

My mixed DD has a preference for light skin and hair. From day one we have let her know that it is NOT o.k to voice this, especially in public. She has stopped, but she will give darker people a certain look. DD has ODD/ADHD, so I know that she can't treally help it, but that doesn't mean that I don't correct her behavior.
post #9 of 24
I am totally with the other posters on this. But I feel the same way you do. Just because the little girls mean nothing more than "I like pink with sparkle polka dots" other people won't hear that. And I think 7 is old enough to explain that.

Our son is 6.5 and he's recently noticed skin color. We talk about skin color at home but I told him that talking about skin color can hurt some people's feelings. If he has a question and wants to talk then we can talk at home.

He's okay with that, but I think it's because his sister is sensitive to her hair. She has blond curly hair and is constantly getting comments from strangers. She HATES getting comments and frequently responds "Stop talking about my hair!"
post #10 of 24
I think Kama is right to be concerned.

That doesn't mean that it's not developmentally normal. But a lot of things are developmentally normal and still need to be redirected.

It's not even completely about someone overhearing the conversation. It's also about what a child internalizes. We're already pounded with images that light/white is better, and we do have to be careful about how that bias affects our children.
post #11 of 24
Quote:
Originally Posted by Missy View Post
I think Kama is right to be concerned.

That doesn't mean that it's not developmentally normal. But a lot of things are developmentally normal and still need to be redirected.

It's not even completely about someone overhearing the conversation. It's also about what a child internalizes. We're already pounded with images that light/white is better, and we do have to be careful about how that bias affects our children.
ITA . . .

Remember the whole Black doll experiment? (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ybDa0gSuAcg)

I think children internalize certain things/assign values unconsciously or passively and as parents, it's our job to be on the lookout to make sure they are internalizing and assigning correctly.
post #12 of 24
Quote:
Originally Posted by Missy View Post
That doesn't mean that it's not developmentally normal. But a lot of things are developmentally normal and still need to be redirected.
Oh, definitely. And I see that my post doesn't address that, which is the sort of thing that happens when I don't think through things all the way before posting.
post #13 of 24
It's good for kids to talk openly about color. And good for us to talk about it with them. Better that they hear an open discussion with us than a mean spirited conversation with someone else.

I like to start out by talking about diversity, which is infinitely broader than the color of someone's skin. We talk about how everyone we see looks different from everyone else and has different interests, and how precious and amazing that diversity makes the world.

I think that makes an especially good jumping off place, becaus eit also encourages them to be proud of themselves in ways that they differ from their peers, and to accept differences in their peers more readily.
post #14 of 24
Quote:
Originally Posted by kama'aina mama View Post
Okay... so none of you thinks that a child of color will feel hurt if they overhear two little white girls agree that light skin is better than dark skin? Because that may very well have been the outcome... and that is a huge part of my concern. Or an adult of color for that matter?
Of course they might but the OPs concern seemed to be more that the girls were assigning racial value to a simple (from their point of view anyway) question about what color do you like best. I just don't agree with placing more weight on their question than necessary. My son feels bad when all the girls at park play together and he isn't included but if two little girls on the bus said "I like girls better than boys." would we be making a thread about it?

It goes without saying that part of parenting is helping our children understand what is appropriate and that it isn't nice to say things that hurt other people's feelings. I wouldn't encourage the discussion and would try to steer them onto another topic but in the absence of any other signs of my child "valuing" one race over another I would chalk it up to "kids say the darnedest things".
post #15 of 24
Quote:
Originally Posted by BunniMummi View Post
Of course they might but the OPs concern seemed to be more that the girls were assigning racial value to a simple (from their point of view anyway) question about what color do you like best.".
That is the OP.
post #16 of 24
I do think there is a need for concern or atleast awareness. My dd is 5 and has already had these conversations because she is one of only to children of color in her class. She came home asking what color she was? Kids even people try to place her in catagories. Both dh and I are black, but with incredibly diverse heritage and it shows in our kids.

So this is how I dealt with it. Not directly with conversation, but through example. We went to the library more often and I deliberately picked more books with children of color, POC and from around the world. And also mentioning the beauty in what we were seeing.

So while people say it's ok to have preferences; I would make sure your dd has opportunities to discuss other colors in a positive way. Sometimes preferences develop because there is a lack of exposure to other options. But exposure can at the very least encourage a healthy respect for differences. No need for a big politically correct talk at that age. But your example of exposure goes along way. Mom thinks those cornrows on Lisa look beautiful. Mom said that the lady's sari is beautiful. Does this make sense?
post #17 of 24
Thread Starter 
Thanks Yinsum. That does give me a good bit to work with.

When she was a little younger I loved Ezra Jack Keats and a few others for simply being regular stories about kids who are of color... as opposed to say, Ruby Bridges which is specifically about her being a child of color and the civil rights movement. Anyone know of a good book or set of books, early chapter book style, about Pw/oC? A Junie B Jones or Magic Treehouse type that isn't totally blancita?
post #18 of 24
Quote:
Originally Posted by kama'aina mama View Post
Thanks Yinsum. That does give me a good bit to work with.

When she was a little younger I loved Ezra Jack Keats and a few others for simply being regular stories about kids who are of color... as opposed to say, Ruby Bridges which is specifically about her being a child of color and the civil rights movement. Anyone know of a good book or set of books, early chapter book style, about Pw/oC? A Junie B Jones or Magic Treehouse type that isn't totally blancita?
Here is a list that I started with http://www.scils.rutgers.edu/~kvande...nLit/afro.html

You do have to be cautious. While many of the books mean well there are some my 5 year old is just not ready to tackle. But I guess that's with any book (parental editing).
I not only look for Black images, but images from all around the world. http://www.lib.msu.edu/corby/educati...ticultural.htm
post #19 of 24
Thread Starter 
Wow! Gonna take me while to sift through that. What a great couple of reaseources. Thank you!

If anyone else has specific recommends I'd love that too. And while I have no problem with stories about the civil rights movement, slavery, any historical stuff, there is a big part of me that is looking for stories that are just kids stories, here, now... and just aren't all anglo or 95% anglo with a token asian/hispanic/black friend.
post #20 of 24
I don't know about the correctness of what I'm going to suggest, but it's what I think I would do if it came up with my ds. I think I'd say, With a red dress I like dark skin and dark hair, yellow dress, too. With a black dress I like light skin and red hair, and when I wear my purple dress I think I'll put on my green sparkly skin and no hair at all!

I don't know what a 7yo would say to that, I've never had one, but I think it would break the ice a bit and allow me to say something like "oh, look, we're 3 stops from home" and then we could have a more serious discussion about how people might be misunderstand us if we talk about preference for skin color in public, and how since we can't really change our skin, and the people inside are so unique regardless of color, it's best to find the beauty in all of them so we can be open to enjoy the person without prejudice.

I think it may not be a good idea to introduce a taboo over discussing skin color, since that could actually reinforce the sense that race is a Big Deal. But I don't see any way around the fact that people who overhear could be offended.
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