Last week I picked up my five year old daughter from school, strapped her in her car seat, and, as she usually does, she started chattering about whatever was on her mind.
On this particular day, she was chattering about some of the different people she encountered at school, and she described them by saying their name, telling me about the color of their skin, and then based on the color of their skin whether or not she felt comfortable talking to them. The word, “NO!” exploded out of my mouth. We then had a conversation about how people have different skin color depending on where they are from, and it has nothing to do with whether or not we should be friends with them. We need to decide who we want to be friends with based on how they behave and how they treat you. She hung her head in shame, and I knew she was thinking about what I said, and I know we will need to have many more conversations like this.
Where did this come from? Up until a couple of months ago, she never noticed people’s skin color. When she would tell me about her day and the other children she played with, she always described them in terms of their behavior and how they treated her. When did she start sorting people based on their race? I know exactly where it started…when she learned about Martin Luther King, Jr. at school. It was impossible to teach her why Martin Luther King, Jr. is so important without explaining racism.
Interesting, huh? In learning about the man who declared, “I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character,” she learned to judge people by the color of their skin.
Now, is she racist? Does she think that because she has white skin that she’s better? Not at all. I know she didn’t mean any harm, and she is very loving and welcoming. And, you know the studies that were done years ago when an African-American child was asked to choose between a black or a white baby doll, and they chose the white one? Well, my daughter’s favorite Disney Fairy is Odessa, and she loves the Disney Princess, Tiana…but she also loves all the other fairies of Pixie Hollow, as well as all the other princesses.
Oh, I long for the innocence of when she didn’t see color, but now she does, and I pray that she will see the varied colors of people’s skin as beautiful.
This puts me in mind of another incidence of Idle Chatter in the car. I was giving my friend a ride, who happens to be African-American. I found it so funny when she blurted out, “I’m so tired of being around white people all the time!” I laughed out loud, and she said, “Oh, Rebecca, I didn’t mean you.” I consider that one of the best compliments I’ve ever received. She didn’t consider me white. She considered me Rebecca.
Idle chatter from my daughter. Rambling thoughts from me. Dreading the conversations when she learns about the holocaust and she realizes it could have been her, just because she has one Jewish grandparent. Sigh… God, give me wisdom, and fill my mouth with the right words.