Tuesday, January 8, 2008

to a preschooler, it's all black and white

6 comments
 
When a mom's out for the count, a mom's out for the count.

And kids just seem to know when to kick us when we're down.

I had a bazillion appointments yesterday. And all I wanted to do is go home and hug my daughter.

And hug her I did.

Then, out of nowhere, she says, "Mom, why do people have different skin?"

Different skin?

"Amara, what do you mean?" I questioned.

She explained that there's a girl at her school with skin that's a different color.

I sighed. I never thought I'd get hit with the race question this early in childhood.

How would I answer? My head hurt as it was. I couldn't think of a good answer that a four year old would comprehend.

Then eureka!

"Amara," I began. "We are Filipino. So you and Mommy have a different colored skin than Daddy because he's German. God made us all different so we can learn about each other."

"Ohhhhh. That's why there's girl at school with brown skin," she responded.

"Just like you, Amara."

"Nooooo! Mommy, I'm white."

I stopped dead in my tracks. Those words hit me like a dagger to the heart. Like I wasn't having a bad day as it was.

I have no problems with Amara being half German and half Filipino. But when she has to check off a box on a government form, she has to cross off Asian.

And when people meet her, even though I think Amara looks like Dad2Amara, everyone laments how she looks like me, a Filipino.

She has gorgeous thick black dark brown hair. Her skin is olive. And she loves her rice!

She is not white.

She's brown like me.

And with that I started beating myself up, thinking I was some sort of racist.

But I just want Amara to be proud of her heritage!

Then I realized that to Amara - it is solely about black and white. Skin color is such a cut and dry issue for kids.

But I know it won't always be the case.

How do you describe other ethnicities to your kids? How do you instill pride in their heritage?

cross posted on Filipina Moms

6 comments :

  1. Well, when Amara becomes a teenager, she will embrace the fact that she is biracial.

    So you shouldn't worry about her now because she'll come to appreciate who she is in the long run.

    -Carla (Your cousin from San Diego)

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  2. our guys have always seen themselves as a stirred up mix of me and dad. But wait til she realizes that the FLESH colour crayon or market in crayola boxes don't exactly match her skin... we have had to search for markers that match real skin colour!

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  3. Lucky for us we are close friends with half-Pinoy, half-white couples so it's always been perfectly normal for our kids to consider themselves "half." I also explained to them about the whole "mixing" issue by illutrating it with watercolor paint (as in, "Check this out guys. See, if you put half the red and half the white, you get pink! You're the same way, half Asian and half white!") I'm sure they haven't completely gotten it yet but it's fine for now -- they accepted my explanation.

    Now how about this as a question from my 4-year old DD: "Mommy, how do you make a person?"

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  4. Carla wrote: So you shouldn't worry about her now because she'll come to appreciate who she is in the long run.

    But it's good to lay the foundation now. Harder to disabuse them of the fact that they're not really this or that at 16 than at 6.

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  5. Sweetie hasn't asked these questions yet. But when she does, I want to be ready... I want her to grow up to respect other cultures and see people for the words they use and their actions... not their skin color, clothing labels, etc.

    ReplyDelete
  6. It really is a weird issue for little kids! They don't see it as a cultural or genetic thing... they just see skin color as a COLOR, same as hair color or eye color! I have a family that is full of diversity...My nephew is half-Mexican, and I am Italian with dark features, and when my nephew was small he was known to try to arrange who would sit where by "brown skins" and "White skins" in the family! Plus his mom is now dating a guy who is half-Korean, and my 4-year-old niece loves to say, "Mommy's boyfriend is black!"It doesn't seem to mean anything to them when they're that young, yet!

    ReplyDelete

 
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