Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Still so Far to Go

When a four year old Huckleberry came home from McDonald's Playland and said he was glad his skin wasn't brown because it was bad to be brown, we talked to him.  

Us: What makes you think that?
Huckleberry: A kid said so.  He said it is dirty.
Us: No, it isn't dirty.  God made people lots of different colors and it is beautiful.

Huckleberry is now almost 11 and until a few months ago that is the only conversation we had about race.  Even when we talked to Huckleberry about a sister from China we didn't talk about race.  So it was a big aha moment for me when I read, "Your children will develop ideas about race, if you want to direct those ideas, you need to talk to your children."  As a parent I knew it was my job to teach my children about God, character, and life.  It is actually a privilege of being white that we can get away with not talking about race; people of color have to talk about race in order to prepare their children for the world.  So in August, when China Adopt Talk posted these links, we started talking to our children about race.  No need to take a "way back time machine" (my husband was thrilled at Funny Daddy Blog's technical accuracy), I'll just quote from memory.

This newsweek article gave me some ideas for how to start.  
Me: "Do you think white people or black people are nicer?"
SnapDragon: "I think there are mean and nice people of both."
Huckleberry: "Black People."
Me: "Hmmmm, why do you think black people are nicer?"
Huckleberry: "Because I think there are more white people than black people, so black people must be nicer."
Me: "Huh?"
Huckleberry: "The same amount of people are nice and mean and there are more white people.  So there are more mean white people.  So black people are nicer because they have less mean people."
(He is good at math; I promise!  We'll be working on logic.)
Me: "Okaaaay, do you have any good friends who are not white?"
SnapDragon: "Lots!"
Huckleberry: "Yes.  My best friend is black."
Me: "Really?  Do you mean K?  He's from the Philippines."   
Huckleberry: "No, J.  You remember J."

I do remember J.  I had never met him (this is more of a commentary on Huckleberry's definition of best friend than my parenting, I promise!) but I remembered him.  In second grade Huckleberry got off the bus and told me he had a new friend.  His name was J and always had to sit on the bus by himself because no one liked him.  Huckleberry felt bad for him so he decided to sit with him.  I asked him why no one liked him and he said he wasn't sure.  They made fun of him because he was slow and stuttered, so he guessed it was probably why.  But he wasn't really sure because he sat with J and discovered, "Mom, he likes Zelda just like me and has a great imagination!  I don't know why they don't like him."  When Huckleberry switched schools for fourth grade he was worried the most about leaving J behind.  

We heard many stories about J, Huckleberry's bus buddy, for two years, but not once did we have him over*, and not once did Huckleberry mention he was black.  He certainly would have never referred to him as African American.  I guess we still have a long way to go, but at least we have started talking. 

* Okay, maybe this does reflect poorly on my parenting that we never had Huckleberry's best friend for two years over, but while we are still working on our homestudy let us pretend that is not true.

1 comment:

Mel said...

Thanks for stopping by the Cork Board. I must have published that #11 instead of saving as a draft. Errrggghh. Oh well. Hopefully you'll stop back on Feb. 5th when it posts!
How much longer until you get to bring your daughter home?