Mom, we’re white, right? I’m white?
A photo of the boy who questions.
I’m not black, right?
Yes, honey, your skin color is white.
So you’re white, too? And Dad? And Max?
None of his questions were in the least bit negative or judgmental. He just didn’t know he had a label until this past January. It was confusing.
Oh! But Coppi is black! he said.
This is our dog. He’s seven years old now and weighs 84 lbs. The dog washing place calls him jumbo.
He sure is, sweetie. He’s also a dog.
So we’re a mixed up family! he realized with a big smile.
He likes being a mixed-up family. So do I. Once upon a time I was in a relationship with a guy from El Salvador. He moved to the United States when he was 13 years old and spoke no English. Around the same time one of my sisters was dating a guy whose mother was Brazilian. And my other sister’s boyfriend was Peruvian. It was exciting and interesting and fun to explore unfamiliar cultures and meet their families and think about who I was in a novel context.
I was a little heartbroken when all of these relationships ended, but it is what it is. I headed off to become a Peace Corps Volunteer in the Dominican Republic and to learn a whole other kind of Spanish than that to which I was accustomed to hearing and speaking.
Practically immediately I fell in love with a white guy from the Midwest.
Life is unpredictable. It remained exciting and interesting and fun.
I love my family. I believe that as a community, both nationally and internationally, we are slowly, painfully evolving toward something that may resemble an inclusive, equitable space for men and women from around the globe to live, work and play in safe, kind, and loving places and spaces where they can thrive, learn and grow.
At least pieces of our culture are evolving. Others are not and it is troubling.
My son’s queries around “whiteness” and “blackness” took place mostly during Black History Month. The kindergarten read books about the Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr. and Rosa Parks and suddenly the city buses that drive by our house took on a new meaning. We attended the 2013 inauguration of President Barack Obama in Washington, DC, conducted on Martin Luther King, Jr. Day. It was one of the most powerful experiences of my life.
Race and ethnicity through a child’s eyes came up again today, and we talked about our “samenesses” along with our differences. Coincidentally, I also read this passionate post about a Cheerio’s commercial depicting a biracial family and the bitter and racist comments it has received. I could not write a single word more honest or relevant about this issue, but do check out this post. It is a compelling account of why the Cheerio’s commercial is important.
We have so much work to do.
Lately when I do not have the answer to a question or a problem, I ask my five-year-old for his opinion.
Do you remember when we were talking about people who look different from other people, like they might have short or curly or long hair, or tall and short people, and people with different skin colors?
Ok, well, what do you think that all people – all human beings – have in common? How are we all the same no matter what we look like?
He thought for a minute.
We all have skin. We all have hair. We all have boots (?). Well, actually, people have different boots.
What else is the same?
Um, we all have houses.
I guess not everyone.
He taps his chest, and says in here.
Hearts. We all want to be healthy, too. And we have clothes.
Feeling better, I decided to ask my three-year-old about differences.
Sweetie, you know how some times people are different? Like some people have short hair and some people have long hair?
So do you think it’s ok for some people to have short hair and other people have long hair?
No. It’s not ok.
It’s NOT GOOD!
No short hair. I don’t like it. NO.
I decided to cut my losses while I was ahead. Let’s hope my three-year-old doesn’t run for office anytime soon.
Have a great day, readers.