When we were at the figure skating championships on the weekend the kid turned to me and asked why the brown boy was wearing nothing.
In fact he was wearing a short of a vest with dark and light brown that closely matched the tone of his skin.
“He’s black, love, and he’s is wearing something, just watch when he gets on the ice.”
She was just over two years old the first time she pointed out that a little boy standing in front of us in a line had brown skin, but that his fingernails and lips looked like hers. I had a moment of panic, wanting to say exactly the right thing, glancing at the boys mother, wondering what she was thinking.
I went with agreement and no more. Yes, the little boy was black but they still have things in common.
The fact is that I grew up white in a majority white place. From Kindergarten to Grade 8 there was one black boy and one black girl in my class. Until I got to Grade 7 I’m fairly certain they were the only non-whites. When I got to high school suddenly there was a world filled with other cultures, people speaking different languages in the hallways.
Growing up white, being surrounded by white culture, I’m still not sure what is appropriate for me to say, what I’m allowed to ask and how to teach my daughter respect for and curiosity about other races and cultures.
She’s growing up privileged – White, middle class – she should know, she should understand differences and work on helping to change things, and I’m hoping that knowing there is a difference but believing it shouldn’t matter is one way to start.