Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Why is he black?

We were walking through Costco today, the boys sitting next to each other in those wonderful two-seater carts, when J-Man asked, "Why is E black?"

I paused for a moment.  Then I asked, "What do you mean?  What part of him is black?"  because he was wearing a black coat and my kids will sometimes say a person is the color of their clothes.

J-Man touched E's cheek and he touched his hand and he said, "He's black all over." 

So as we walked through Costco, I said, "His skin?  It's really brown.  It's like chocolate."

"Chocolate?!" E piped in.

"Yeah, chocolate," I said.

And that was it. 

I'm trying to get this right, people.  I feel the weight of not screwing it up.  I'm a white gal raising one black son and one half-black son and I don't want to fail them in that. 

I have a book called I'm Chocolate, You're Vanilla and it's about raising black and biracial children in our society.  She goes through all the stages of development and how they correlate to our awareness and understanding of race and ethnicity.  So at this age, she says kids don't know about race.  When they ask about skin color, they aren't asking about race.  When J-Man asks why E is black, he has no concept of the "black race," he simply wants to know what color E's skin is.  E's skin is brown, not black.  And so that is what I tell him. 

And I hope I'm doing it right.  All of it. 

I'll be honest, it's intimidating to raise a child who is a different ethnicity than you.  There's such responsibility that comes with that.  I want my boys to grow up confident in the way they look, proud of the cultures they were born into.  I want them to feel like they can fit in anywhere; with black people, white people, and everyone else.

So today I taught my sons that skin comes in different colors.  I taught them that E's skin looks like chocolate.  And we love chocolate in our house!  So today...maybe I took a small, simple step in teaching my kids about race.  Because what I've gotten from that book is that those small, simple steps make all the difference.

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