Thursday, April 21, 2011

Race Relations

I'll never forget the day Katie found out she was white. She was in kindergarten, learning about the Civil Rights Movement and Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. She came home railing about the injustices African Americans suffered at the hands of White People. She went on and on about the White People - she couldn't believe that anyone could be so ignorant! So cruel!

And then I sat her down and broke it to her gently: "Honey, we're white."

She was devastated. All this time, she thought we were beige. What a disappointment!

My liberal sensibilities take enormous pride in that story. Each time my children prove that people can indeed be colorblind, or that being different than us is something to be envied, I almost break my arm patting myself on the back. Just this week, Julia said "Mommy, some people are brown, and some people are just plain. We are just plain." Do I get points for that? A sticker for the car or something?

Then, just about the time I am feeling all United Colors of Benetton, they say something that makes me do the big arrrooo? Scooby Doo face.

Julia was playing with her friend A-, who has apraxia and a limited vocabulary. A- was trying to communicate something to Julia, but it just wasn't getting out. Julia says "It's okay, A-, we all talk differently," (awww, isn't that sweet?). She continued, "I talk like a Mexican!"


And just now, playing Barbies with another friend - Julia hand her an African American doll in a Sleeping Beauty dress and says "Here's Sleeping Beauty." The friends says "That's not Sleeping Beauty, she's black." To which Julia replies "She's not black. She's white!" Which leads me to believe that Julia has no idea WTF her friend is talking about.

If 10 is the age where I have the sex talk, is 4 the age where I have to tell my kids they're white? Is it a rite of passage, where they get a yoga mat, a cable knit sweater, and a copy of the How to Be a Honky Handbook (see: Stuff White People Like for more gift giving ideas for such an occasion)?

I think I'll hold off for awhile. I'll let Julia live in a world where she is just plain, and the shade of your skin is no more important than the color of your hair. Where Sleeping Beauty can be black, and Julia can be a Mexican. Why not?


  1. I remember our oldest determining race/color by what people were wearing. As in 'it was the blue man" or "that green lady." So we're at a Christmas parade and after 90 minutes sitting next to a couple of African American ladies, we all stood up to leave. One of the ladies held up her blanket which was black, to fold it. She stretched across her body to begin folding and our oldest says "Hey, you're black!" We were mortified, but the woman kindly replied, "Yes, yes I am." It was night, but everyone could see we were "red."

  2. This is a conversation my parents overheard between Caleb (my nephew) and Clay (Caleb's friend) about Caleb’s love life:

    Clay: Caleb, do you have a girlfriend?

    Caleb: Yes. Her name is Trinity. She’s black.

    Clay: {horrified} She’s black? You can’t marry her.

    Caleb: Why not?

    Clay: ‘Cause you’re white and she’s black and if you marry her, your babies will be Mexican and you won’t be able to talk to ‘em ‘cause you don’t speak Mexican.

    Caleb: {horrified} Really? But I really like Trinity.

    Clay: Well then I guess you need to learn to speak Mexican . . . . . .

    Recounting this story has given me a laugh on more than one day . . . . . just thought I’d share.

  3. Isn't it funny how much it doesn't matter to them, and how they don't have any problem talking about it? LOL