Posted by the prisoner's wife On 9:13 PM
Today my son and I were enjoying the freedom of our summer break and decided to walk to the bookstore. Since I’m trying to get the munchkin ready for preschool, I choose to use our walk as a teachable moment about colors. As we passed some flowers growing in someone’s yard, I asked him to name the colors.
“Purple mom! Das purple!”
“Good, and that one?” I said pointing to a white flower.
“That one’s white,” I said.
“White,” he repeated.
Then he said something that caught me off guard.
“What’s her color?”
My son pointed to a fair-skinned Latina that passed us on the street, and I didn’t really know how to answer. “What’s her color mommy?” He asked again, a little annoyed I didn’t answer him the first time. Silence. I was silent. I mean, how do you break down race and ethnicity to a three year old?
“She’s wearing black…her shirt and pants are black,” I scrambled to answer him somehow.
“Oh,” he said and kept walking.
Our walk to the bookstore and our conversation made me think about the influence, or rather lack of influence, race and ethnicity have on little kids. They are not born knowing or recognizing any differences between themselves and others—we teach them that. They are not aware of any of the cultural connotations, prejudices, and stigmas attached to different ethnicities—that’s all us. So how do we talk to our kids about the diverse world in which we live in such a way that teaches them to appreciate everyone’s uniqueness?
Every since Obama was elected, people have been talking about “post-racial” America, an America that has finally shed its racial prejudice and has achieved a sense of colorblindness. Honestly, I don’t buy it. Sure, America has elected a Black man as the president, but that doesn’t mean we are over our history of systematic racial oppression. Just when we’re ready to say we’re “post-racial,” racism rears it’s ugly head in the form of Rush Limbaugh, or the elderly man shooting up the holocaust museum, or some other lurking presence forcing us to take a long look in the mirror and confront this country’s racially divisive past (hello hollow slavery apology). Despite all of our strides, we have not moved beyond race…and shouldn’t’ have to.
In order to live peacefully as a body politic, you do not have to pretend our differences do not exist. We do not have to blind ourselves to our cultural, racial, and ethnic markers that help make up who we are---we should celebrate them. Pretending something doesn’t exist, is still pretending.
When I think of the blood of my ancestors—the Africans brought here so long ago, my Native American great-grandmother, my Belizean grandmother, my southern mama—each of these things, have shaped me into the woman I am. To sweep that aside under the guise of colorblindness would be akin to suicide. It would mean I’d have to give up myself in order to fit in. And that’s not a choice I’m willing to make.
No, in order to truly ascend above our past, we don’t have to be post-racial, we need to be ourselves.
And be okay with that.
Parents, how do you talk to your kids about race?
Do you believe we are in a “post-racial” America?
Or is that even a good thing?