June 10, 2020
talking about race
Me: Baby, do you notice any differences when you look at your friends?
Aimee: Hmm . . . No, I don’t think so.
(At this point I’m thinking I have to put this in a context that she would understand. So, Disney Princesses, it is.)
Me: Okay, how about Elsa? Do you notice any differences between Elsa and you?
Aimee: Yes! She has yellow hair.
Me: Anything else?
Aimee: Yes, she has ice powers and we don’t.
(I laugh because this is genuinely hilarious)
Me: That’s true. How about Anna?
Aimee: She has brown hair and I think that’s it.
Me: How about her eyes?
Aimee: They’re green.
Me: Yes they’re green and how about yours?
Aimee: Mine are black.
Me: Your eyes are beautiful and brown. How about Moana?
Aimee: Moana’s hair is, um squiggly.
Me: Her hair is wavy, yes! She has beautiful wavy hair and you have beautiful straight hair. How about Tiana?
Aimee: Oh, she has a green dress.
Me: Yes, she does! It’s a very nice one. Anything else?
Aimee: (She hesitates while thinking) Well, I guess her skin is a little bit darker than mine. What’s the color of my skin, mommy?
Me: Maybe it’s beige like the beige crayon in that book, remember? (The Day the Crayons Quit. She loves this book)
Aimee: Oh yeah, beige!
I then explain to her that she, mommy, Ellias, and daddy, have physical features that are “Asian”. We come from Asian ancestry. Many questions ensued like, “What is Asia?”
I struggled when trying to explain this next part, because I wanted to select my words carefully. I told her that when she grows older, that some people may make fun of her, say mean things, or treat her differently just because she looks different than they do.
I told her that there will be people who say mean things either to her or to her friends about the color of their skin or the way they look but that it’s not okay and she should feel free to stand up to those people by saying that they aren’t right.
I realize that our little conversation about racism may be reductive and simple, but, it’s a start. I’m starting somewhere, even if it is imperfectly. I know that as she grows older, the conversations about implicit bias and the horrors of racial divide will deepen, and become more complex, but I need her to know that she can engage with these issues, and feel confident if she ever finds herself at an impasse in what she believes.
She is four years old, and has always been perceptive, observant of others, and compassionate. Children understand and retain so much more than we give them credit for, and if you’re wondering whether or not they are too young to talk about race, they’re absolutely not! The most harmful thing to do as a parent is to ignore the conversation of racism altogether.
Embrace Race (@embracerace) is an amazing organization dedicated to raising a generation of children who are thoughtful, informed, and brave about race. Visit their website for tons of educational resources:
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