Jen over at Diagnosis: Urine is talking about race today. She is pondering the hills and valleys of moral and philosophical parenting. She has a daughter who is 6, maybe 7 now, who is wondering why only black people have a month dedicated to their history, and why white people haven't done enough good things to earn a month of their own yet. I'll admit it, I laughed. It wasn't just cute and funny, it was beautiful. A child's innocence is innately beautiful in my eyes.
She also has one of her twin boys who doesn't think he likes dark skinned people. She is really worried about this. Honestly, I don't mean to make light of her concern, because I've been there. It was several years ago with my oldest child. He went through a phase where he became acutely aware of the differences in people and what attributes made him unique. It started with outward differences, and progressed to wanting to learn about his heritage and all of the different cultures it is comprised of. It was very stressful and scary for me as a parent at that time though. The fear that I had somehow screwed up, and that my child wouldn't be the loving, accepting child I wanted him to be.
One of the differences between my situation and Jen's, is that my son disliked white people. Now, I want to point out that this period in time was immediately after 09/11 and my son, a mere baby (four year old) at the time, took a lot of shit at the Baptist school he was enrolled in at the time. He and my neighbor's children (their last name was Abdullah) all took a lot of shit. They were made a spectacle of during a speech from a visiting pastor, trying to explain to the children at school what happened on 09/11 and why it happened. The situation, like many when race and prejudice become involved, was a cluster fuck.
My husband and I stressed that it wasn't okay to judge other people. Care about the person, not their skin/hair/eyes/Gods...show respect, but, let your heart guide your emotions. In short, we did the best we felt we were able to do to explain the situation...and then we backed away. We outlined what our expectations for his behavior were, and assured him that he could feel whatever it was he was feeling as long as he stayed within our expectations of good manners and respect. After a couple of months, his fascination faded. He doesn't remember it now, if he does he gives no indication, and his own friends are a group so diverse that I am certain we did the right thing.
My own feelings about race were influenced by my parents. I remember being at the zoo as a child and seeing a black man kiss a white woman, I remember how uncomfortable it made my mother. I remember feeling from my mother's reaction that there was something very wrong about it. It is easy to think of my father's roots. The Southern Baptist stronghold his family came from. The very thinly veiled prejudice against dark skinned people. My parents always said the right words (almost, always) but, words can have an emptiness about them. I ended up marrying a Muslim from Iran.
While I won't lie and say that it didn't hurt to hear my son say that he hated me because I was white. I will say that nobody ever told me that parenting would be easy, or that I would ever have all the right answers. I'm glad that time has passed for us. I'm grateful that I have that badge on my motherhood sash, because I learned from it, and I grew from the experience...just like my son.
Tell me how you dealt with this situation with your own family. Let me know at what age you encountered this issue. I'm curious. I want my children to make their own decisions. I want them to grow unfettered by their mother's beliefs. I want them to believe in the principles they choose to be guided by and to know why they believe in them.
Send your hate mail to me, and your encouraging words to Jen.