It drives me crazy when I see white women raising their Black children to be “color-blind.”
As the Black daughter of a white mother who prepared me for the world by talking about race and racism, I can tell you that you are doing your children a disservice.
— Imani Gandy (@AngryBlackLady) May 15, 2018
I remember the first time Kick directly identified someone’s race. It wasn’t long ago. I’d waved to a neighbor through the window while we were having breakfast and she asked who I was waving at.
“Mr. M-, honey. He’s out in his yard.”
She turned, waved to him, and asked, “He’s a black man, right?”
“Right,” I said, trying to within three seconds identify if her intonation implied she thought this was a negative, something to be afraid of, something to mock, that would need to be corrected. It sounded neutral, a descriptive, the way she’d say the baby next door was a boy or Grandma has brown hair.
She’s been around families of any number of races and ethnic backgrounds since she was born, and while she’d noticed differences — that man is tall, that woman has curly hair — she’d never before asked if someone was black or Hispanic or Asian. We’ve read books about Rosa Parks and Ella Fitzgerald and Maya Angelou, about Frida Kahlo, and most recent children’s books include depictions of children of color, though fewer of them as protagonists than they should.
It’s not enough that she has a diverse environment and lives and learns with students of all races, when in our house we’re all so Caucasian as to be nearly transparent. There are still conversations to be had, about why Rosa Parks couldn’t sit at the front of the bus, or why people were mean to Maya Angelou, or what we are protesting next Saturday, or what someone down the street said to someone else.
White parents don’t get to be lazy about marking and honoring the differences between people, not when so many people use those differences to divide. Not when kids notice EVERYTHING, all the time, including how we talk about people of other races when we think they aren’t listening.
That morning, Kick was attacking her toaster waffle with gusto and I’m not sure was paying much attention to my subsequent explanation that Mr. M- has a skin color people call black even though it’s more of a dark brown, and we have a skin color people call white even though it’s more pink. By the time I got to the part about how skin color can be passed down in families sometimes but not always, she was off playing with My Little Ponies and I was basically lecturing to the cats. Race Conscious has good advice but it doesn’t always track with a 4-year-old’s attention span.
What talks do you remember having with your parents about race, and what did they tell you?