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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
I know this is a sensitive topic for some.. and if anything I've written is offensive (I mean, obviously, besides what I quoted dd saying) please correct me, but be gentle! I really want to do the right thing here.

I know its normal for this age to start noticing differences in skin color, and its normal to comment on observations.. but man, I really want to go back to "that lady has a big tummy! Does she have a baby in there?"

I have NO IDEA where this question came from... a few weeks ago she asked, completely out of the blue, "are all black people bad?" Of course in my head I'm screaming NOOOO how did that thought even enter my baby's brain?! I told her no, that everyone's body (instead of skin.. any time I say anything about skin she gets really confused and doesn't seem to know what it means, lol) is a different color. The color of our bodies is usually the same as our parents' bodies. People who live in different parts of the world are different colors. Then we started talking about her aunt, who just came back from living in South Korea for 2 years, and had also recently visited (and sent lots of souvenirs and toys for the kids!) I told her that where Aunt Tara lived, almost everyone's skin is kind of light brown, and they have black hair. And if we went there to visit, we would be the ones who looked different! Talked about how people would probably look at her blonde hair a lot because they don't see people with blonde hair very often. It seemed like a fairly positive conversation overall.. and seemed like the end of it. She's definitely played with kids of all shades of skin at the park. She's very social/outgoing and the instant she gets to a play ground, she's going to look for any girl who looks close to her age and invite them to play! And we live in a pretty diverse area.

Yesterday was the worst though :( We're moving into a new house tomorrow, and last night we were over there painting. I went exploring through the backyard with ds for a bit, and there were some kids playing outside in their driveway. They said hi, the older girl (6-8?) was saying she had a 1 year old baby brother inside. I chit chatted with her a minute, like, oh yeah? He's (ds) 1, but in a couple weeks he'll be 2. I have a 4 year old girl inside. And she pointed to her sister, "she's a 4 year old girl!" very cute, I said something like, oh, thats awesome, I should go get her to come out and meet you guys. So.. I went back and got dd, asked her if she wanted to go meet some kids who are outside playing, get your shoes on. She said "I don't want to play with black kids!" (she'd seen them out there playing earlier) ACK! Totally unprepared! I'm trying to stay calm.. don't react.. but holy crap, caught off guard?! I have no idea how I should have handled that. I really think she was just kinda in an ornery mood.. just trying to push buttons, ya know? A couple minutes later she said she DID want to go meet the kids and wanted her shoes. Okay. So we start walking through our yard toward them, and once they were in our line of site, "I SEE A KID! There's a black kid!" it was in a more enthusiastic tone, not negative. I don't think they were quite in hearing range. I don't know what the right thing to have done.. but I just took her back inside :( That comment was more embarassing that she shouted it out like that, but it wasn't really that bad itself.. and if it had *just* been that I might have shushed her with a "why don't we find out her name and call her that instead", but after the previous downright rude (and thankfully private) outburst I was sort of in panic mode.

So.. I'm just trying to figure out the right way to open up conversation here. Check out some books at the library that show a variety of families and read them to her? In a few weeks we have the folklife festival here, which is a big multicultural event with lots of music and food.. that would be fun to go to, and would be a very diverse group of people. But of course, that is more "culture" event and this isn't a "culture" issue its a "skin color" issue.. and those are not the same! What I DON'T want to do is start talking to her about "its not nice to shout out what color someone's body is" because that sends a message that there's something shameful about it. Which is pretty much the opposite of my intention. Any advice welcome.. and please be gentle.. if I've already said something wrong..no flames! I'm here to learn, and to respond better next time! And fix any mistakes if I've made any, Any good books I should check out?
 

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That's a tough one mama.

Have you talked to her about appropriate words and not appropriate words?

My DS just turned 5 and though I haven't really dealt with anything to that extent, DS has been introduced to what constitutes appropriate vs inappropriate language.

It might help if you were matter of fact about it and not put too much emotion or show a bit of neutrality? I think sometimes the kids pick up on our emotions and reactions that their way of analyzing why it garnered such a reaction would be to do it over and over again. Not really because they're malicious but they're just trying to figure out what caused such discomfort?
 

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I was going to just link to a book we have that my kids have enjoyed - The Colors of Us by Karen Katz, but reading the reviews I don't want to get flamed for it! Soo... I will add the caveat that the characters are not developed in any way and there are things like the italian man has skin like pizza crust.

It isn't perfect, but it relates well to a small child's sensibilities. It is a good little book for matter of factly stating that lots of people we know and care about have different colors of skin and it's good to appreciate the beauty of the difference. It is in no way a cultural awareness book. And if you don't like skin tone related to foods you won't like it. :) BUT, I like it because it's cute and it gets a positive conversation going about skin tones.

Tjej
 

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Discussion Starter · #4 ·
I just came across ''all the colors of the earth'' and the reviews are good! I'll check if our library has it and place a hold if it's not in.
 

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Thats not unusual at this age. Honestly. She isnt going to grow up to be raciest b/c she has a few moments of not wanting to play with someone of a different colour. Kids at that age are looking for commanilties. They build relationships built on somethign that they percieve to have in common with someone else.

Keep talking to her about why peoples skin are various colours. That colour has nothing to do with someones heart or brain. Maybe find something that they have in common.
 

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mama i think you need to get to the bottom of this. it might not be a race issue at all.

find out why she said that. if she heard it from some friends and is following the rule then yes of course it becomes a race issue.

however it could just be she has been accidentally hurt by a black child and is now making that statement. i have seen that happen many times.

seriously i wouldnt really talk to her about any of this. experience is going to show her otherwise. seh will have black neighbors and she herself will be able to see if her beiefs are right or wrong.

we mostly lived in the midtown area of our city. dd has had many, many different kinds of families she has grown up with. i have noticed now that things that shock other children is not a big deal for her at all. in fact when there was this catty gossip going around the playground where one of the kids saw his female neighbour kiss another female neighbour, dd was the only child that shrugged and wondered what the big deal was. so girls kiss girls. hadnt you heard about that? dont you know what a lesbian is?
 

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Do you watch the news with her around? Even if she's not actively watching, she could still be picking up the racial biases/stereotypes. Certain tv shows are also really bad about feeding stereotypes. Either way, find out exactly why she thinks all black people are bad. Maybe it was as simple as she overheard someone say that and was simply asking you if it was true (not that she believes it).

I would make a point to tell her that no, not all black people are ______. Just like not all white people are __________, or Hispanic people are ________...etc. Everyone is different, and you should get to know someone before deciding whether or not you like them. Also, don't react negatively when she says things like that because you're basically telling her that what she's saying is true and not to talk about it. kwim?
 

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That is super embarrassing, for sure! Has she spent much time around people of different races or is this pretty brand new to her? Maybe it has just come as a surprise to her that people have different skin tones, not so much that she really doesn't "like" people of different races. Regardless, this is really common for many kids at this age. I'm a social worker and have heard all sorts of wild comments from kids in the 4 and 5 year old age range, including from African American kids commenting on other African American kids skin color. Is your DD in childcare? Is it possible she is getting some sort of negative messages there or from someone else she spends time with? I would really want to unravel that more if that is how she is coming up with this stuff, but my guess is it might just be a newer thing to her or something that she is just noticing and she wants to check in with you and see what your comfort level is. If you are positive, she will probably come around pretty quick too.
 

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Discussion Starter · #9 ·
no tv except videos/dvds. we listen to talk radio in the car, lots of political stuff. I have no idea if there was anything she might have heard.. sometimes i'm tuning it out. no childcare, she goes to the kids program at church, so thats about the only time she'd be around other kids and NOT me or dh. I think we definitely messed up with our reaction to "i don't want to play with black kids".. sharp intake of breath, dh and i staring at each other in horror, sputtering, giving each other the "omg she said WHAT, what do we do, what do we say?!" look. I think I need to try and "start over" by giving her other opportunities to say something/ask questions (like reading books showing families of all different skin tones and such) or like what was mentioned, help her find common ground, "The girl in this book loves to play with her dolls, just like you!" "Those kids have cool bunk beds!" (right now she's obsessed with her new bunk bed, lol) or whatever.. does that sound good? Oooh, another idea, this should have been obvious. My uncle is black, so I have some biracial cousins. One has a 5yo little girl. They've met and played together at a family reunion, but it was when she was only like 2.5. But I bet I could find pictures from the reunion and we could look at them together. She loves looking at pictures and since there was a decent amount of black/half black cousins/2nd cousins at that reunion, it would probably be great for her to see in the context of "this is OUR FAMILY!" I can do this without even saying a word about skin color, just sitting down together looking at pics and telling her people's names, like she loves to do anyway.
 

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Quote:

Originally Posted by LiLStar View Post

we listen to talk radio in the car, lots of political stuff. I have no idea if there was anything she might have heard..

possibly esp. after obama's birth certif. and osama issue.

she goes to the kids program at church, so thats about the only time she'd be around other kids and NOT me or dh.

possibility there too.

I think we definitely messed up with our reaction

"messed up" is a pretty strong phrase. be kind to yourself. you did not mess her up for good.

help her find common ground, "The girl in this book loves to play with her dolls, just like you!" "Those kids have cool bunk beds!" (right now she's obsessed with her new bunk bed, lol) or whatever.. does that sound good?

i would show her those books, but reserve the comments. they are kinda leading her in your direction. i would sit with her with the books through the months because i notice they notice different things over a period of time. but dont force the issue i'd say.

Oooh, another idea, this should have been obvious. My uncle is black, so I have some biracial cousins. One has a 5yo little girl. They've met and played together at a family reunion, but it was when she was only like 2.5. But I bet I could find pictures from the reunion and we could look at them together. She loves looking at pictures and since there was a decent amount of black/half black cousins/2nd cousins at that reunion, it would probably be great for her to see in the context of "this is OUR FAMILY!" I can do this without even saying a word about skin color, just sitting down together looking at pics and telling her people's names, like she loves to do anyway.

BINGO!!!! great idea. the bolded part is the wisest decision. also note she will be playing with her neighbors.
dd was that way with 'fat people'. i know my school teacher C friend is v. strict and lectures dd so dd might have got it from her at 4. when she told me she didnt like fat people i asked her if that meant she didnt like M another child friendly friend who was also overweight. she had to think about it and later changed her mind and said she doesnt like C. that's when i once again reminded her (we kinda stopped when seh was 3) that words sometimes hurt more than a slap.
 

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i think that what's happening is pretty normal (not good, just not unusual). Remember the CNN pieces on children displaying bias about skin color?

and these were kids from parents who self describe as liberal or not racist or even from families who were themselves black or brown.

i think part of the message from those pieces was that if it's not brought up ahead of time, children will draw some random and illogical conclusions based upon media & other messages around them.

i think the only thing you might do differently is to ask questions if your child makes comments like that.. like "why don't you want to play with them?" etc. i do agree that some of that might be shock value or to gage your response, too. there are lots of interesting blogs and articles, too, if you google "anti-racist parenting".. my MIL writes about white privilige a good bit in her work, which i think is important to teach (which applies to us, it may not to you) as well. i think the 'people colors crayons' are kind of a fun tool to use as well. it's a box of crayons that are a huge range of colors that are presumably a match for lots of different skin colors.

i just think that it is VERY difficult to navigate racism in a racist world, because your child is receiving messages that aren't even that explicit that demonstrate the lesser value of people associated with the color of their skins. any advertising that you see, frequently attaches messages to the persons portrayed that children may notice but adults are accustomed to or ignore (like white people will be portrayed as doing fun things, appear more prominantly in the images, colors are assigned different levels of perceived education, etc.) or on the news, like a pp suggested-- many shows do select to run stories about crimes committed by minorities, etc.

having a conversation instead of pretending it doesn't exist is the best thing anybody can do.. and you're doing that, so in my opinion you're approaching the subject in the best way you can!
 

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Glad to see this post. My DS is making a lot of remarks about skin color too. He is 3 and has been with a Mexican babysitter in family care since he was 3 mos old. At the sitters there is DS (white, reddish-blonde hair), a Mexican/Guatemalan/American boy, and a white/African-American girl and DS #2 who is 8 mos. DS is used to the other kids and they are referred to as his sister & brother since they have all been watched together basically since birth. All the kids are learning Spanish and English too. In the neighborhood my babysitter lives in, it is all Latino or black - he is the only little white boy running around. However, in our neighboorhood, there are mostly white and Asian kids and no black kids at all.

DS has started describing people as "that black man opened the door for us" as the store. I have told him that we don't use colors to describe people, and we can use other words or names instead. "That nice man opened the door for us." He asked me why and I said something like "there are better ways to descibe people than color." It seemed to be the end of it for awhile, but my friend who is a school counselor told me that its completely normal for kids to do this.

Two days he says - "I want you to buy me a white cell phone when I am bigger." Why? "I'm white and I like my color." Ok. (Trying not to be too suprised) "And you should buy my sister a pink cell phone because she likes pink." (She is the bi-racial child). I don't think he knows what a hot topic race can be and makes comments which are not really racial. I will try to continue to discuss the matter with him so that he continues to develop a balanced view of people.

We have tons of books and many show kids of all color, but I will also try to get a few with "multicultural" families just so he is seeing more of it on a regular basis. I am open to any suggestions of good books that discuss color or have a multicultural family theme.
 

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This can be tough. I went through a similar situation with my stepson when he was 3-4. My husband is Indian, I am white, and my stepson decided he hated white people for about a year. It was a difficult year, and there really didn't seem to be much we could do to stop him. He eventually outgrew it. There is a Sesame Street book I like called No Red Monsters Allowed. In the book the blue monsters don't want to play with Elmo b/c he's red, but then one blue monster speaks up and says he likes red monsters and the other blue monsters realize red monsters are fun to play with too. Good luck!
 

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Quote:
Originally Posted by Mom of 2 boys View Post

Glad to see this post. My DS is making a lot of remarks about skin color too. He is 3 and has been with a Mexican babysitter in family care since he was 3 mos old. At the sitters there is DS (white, reddish-blonde hair), a Mexican/Guatemalan/American boy, and a white/African-American girl and DS #2 who is 8 mos. DS is used to the other kids and they are referred to as his sister & brother since they have all been watched together basically since birth. All the kids are learning Spanish and English too. In the neighborhood my babysitter lives in, it is all Latino or black - he is the only little white boy running around. However, in our neighboorhood, there are mostly white and Asian kids and no black kids at all.

DS has started describing people as "that black man opened the door for us" as the store. I have told him that we don't use colors to describe people, and we can use other words or names instead. "That nice man opened the door for us." He asked me why and I said something like "there are better ways to descibe people than color." It seemed to be the end of it for awhile, but my friend who is a school counselor told me that its completely normal for kids to do this.

Two days he says - "I want you to buy me a white cell phone when I am bigger." Why? "I'm white and I like my color." Ok. (Trying not to be too suprised) "And you should buy my sister a pink cell phone because she likes pink." (She is the bi-racial child). I don't think he knows what a hot topic race can be and makes comments which are not really racial. I will try to continue to discuss the matter with him so that he continues to develop a balanced view of people.

We have tons of books and many show kids of all color, but I will also try to get a few with "multicultural" families just so he is seeing more of it on a regular basis. I am open to any suggestions of good books that discuss color or have a multicultural family theme.
I disagree with telling children not to describe people by their color. It reinforces (or introduces) the idea that there's something wrong with being that particular color. Instead I would just say something like, "Yes, wasn't that nice of him?" and leave it at that.
 

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I haven't read the replies because I wanted to respond first.

As a multiracial child I used to do this too. I never that I can remember actually said "I don't want to play with a black/white kid" but I did go through a phase of asking obssessively why I didn't look like either my mom or my dad. I wanted to be like a zebra so I could have black skin and white skin and not the weird caramel color that no one else I knew had. And I was about 4 years old, too, when my obssession with skin color was at its peak.

I have a 3.5 year old and we are a culturally blended family, so although he is Dominican/Puerto Rican/African American black/Dutch/Scottish by blood, he is also exposed to my DP's culture (Mexican/Costa Rican) since we have been together most of ds's life. This culture thing is his current equivalent of the race thing. (We are all some shade of brown or another, so I don't think that color registers with him too much right now, although it used to when he was around my mother, who is very dark, and my father, who is pasty white.) So sometimes when we are in public he will say the most humiliating things i.e. in a Mexican restaurant he loudly announced "I don't want to eat this Mexican rice. I'm Puerto Rican."
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We do tell him that making comments about people's culture/race/looks in general is not polite and hurts feelings. But I don't dwell on it.

I woulod venture to say that it is partly the age, because I have seen it happen with friends' kids too (kids who were friends since babyhood suddenly becoming divisive over skin color) and I went through that phase myself. And the other part is that if she figures out that it gets an epic reaction from you, it makes it that much more fun to keep going on about it. This would probably be why my ds has been singing a made up song about buttcracks all day....it gets a stellar, world class reaction from me, every time. I just can't help it! I would bet that if you just say "it's unkind/impolite to say things like that" and then carry on, she will quit. If you aren't modeling that attitude at home or taking her places where people are that way, then I highly doubt that she means any of what she says, and it's not something to worry too much about.
 

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Did you ask her why she feels this way? Maybe something happened. If a boy picked on her and she said she did not want to play with boys....I think you would work on the situation for what it is and get to the bottom of it. If you are not teaching racism in the home, then she must have gotten these ideas from some place. If a kid with red hair picked on her, she might not want to play with red haired children. Skin color is just a physical description so if someone happened to her by someone who is black, she might be relating that all people with black will do that.
 

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Quote:
Originally Posted by Lisa1970 View Post

Did you ask her why she feels this way? Maybe something happened. If a boy picked on her and she said she did not want to play with boys....I think you would work on the situation for what it is and get to the bottom of it. If you are not teaching racism in the home, then she must have gotten these ideas from some place. If a kid with red hair picked on her, she might not want to play with red haired children. Skin color is just a physical description so if someone happened to her by someone who is black, she might be relating that all people with black will do that.
well.. it's possible. however, i think the expression of exclusion/fear/contempt of someone who is different can also result from lack of exposure to that person/color/size/culture, too. from some of the reading i've done, when younger children say things like this or behave that way, it's partially questioning behavior-- they're trying to categorize things and read context clues from the things around them... there's not really a way to tell, but this stuff can come seemingly out of nowhere. that's why lots of the literature suggests having very early conversations directly about skin color or whatever the issue is (i've read things about sizeism that's similar) ... so that they don't get the idea that something is wrong just b/c it's different or not something seen in one's family/church/school/etc...
 

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Originally Posted by hildare View Post

well.. it's possible. however, i think the expression of exclusion/fear/contempt of someone who is different can also result from lack of exposure to that person/color/size/culture, too. from some of the reading i've done, when younger children say things like this or behave that way, it's partially questioning behavior-- they're trying to categorize things and read context clues from the things around them... there's not really a way to tell, but this stuff can come seemingly out of nowhere. that's why lots of the literature suggests having very early conversations directly about skin color or whatever the issue is (i've read things about sizeism that's similar) ... so that they don't get the idea that something is wrong just b/c it's different or not something seen in one's family/church/school/etc...
And even better than talking about, actually exposing them to lots of different people. Not just people of different races, but different ages, sizes, cultures, social status, etc.
 
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