I’m not really ready to explain the concept of race to my child. I’m sure that she’s heard other people talking about “White” and “Black” – especially having an extended family that is multi-racial, race is talked about openly, fluidly, and without abashment or shame. However, I’m still not ready to really sit down and explain to her all the ramifications of race.
Of course, that doesn’t mean that other people aren’t, as evidenced by the man who, on Father’s Day, took the time to inform my MIL that she should be “proud of her son and his family” and that “if everyone looked like that beautiful little girl, America would be a better place,” and that he thought it was just wonderful that a “What are you, Italian?” guy was married to such a beautiful woman.
And he hasn’t been the only one to point out her “perfect skin tone! I mean really, it’s just perfect!” or her “so good she-must-be-half-White” hair. ”Her Daddy White?” people ask us all the time when just the two of us are out. Yup. We’re in that 15%. I’m sure that Petals has soaked all of this in – as she has so much of the world – though she didn’t say anything about it at the time.
Petals: “Mommy, I’m White.”
Me: “What? Where are you White?”
Petals: “My shirt is white. And a little bit pink.”
Petals: “But my legs are brown. Like Mommy’s.”
Me: “Yup. Do you like your brown legs? I love my brown legs. They get me where I need to go!”
Petals: “I love my brown legs… Daddy. Your legs are WHITE.”
The Boy: “Yup. White and hairy.”
On another note – I’m also not ready to explain religion or sexuality. She just knows that some of her grandparents say prayers at night and blessings over food. She knows how to act in a small church, and she knows how to shout “Hallelujah!” from a stage. She’s getting the hang of finding the matzoh at Passover, and I’m sure that she’s heard other people in the family talking about Heaven – but again, she hasn’t talked to me about it yet. (Well, she did ask me if I knew Jesus – but I don’t think she was proselytizing, I think she wanted me to read the children’s book her great grandmother got her for Christmas.) I know that she knows and loves straight and gay couples, and though I’m sure that people have talked about “gay” and “straight” in front of her, I’m not sure how much of it she “gets”.
Petals: “Mommy is a girl.”
Petals: “Like me. But Daddy is not a girl. He’s a boy.”
Petals: “And he’s your man? Do I have a man?”
Me: “Nope. Do you want one?”
Petals: “Umm… no. Maybe Saturday.”
Me: “Well, you don’t have to have a man if you don’t want one.”
See, I want diversity to be a part of her everyday experience. I want her to know that it’s okay for her to find her own way, and that it’s okay for other people to have a different way than hers. I’ve taught too many students who flip out at the idea that someone else does something differently than they do. We’ve had conversations about who in our family likes milk and who doesn’t – or who in our family has long hair or short hair, and how they like it.