I must first admit that whenever I’ve had a friend say to me “I grew up in a house without race” or “Growing up my parents never talked bad about one race or another” I always secretly doubted that person. Often I would just assume they were in denial for race was discussed in my house and I assumed my family was pretty typical.
Don’t get me wrong, it wasn’t as if race was discussed in a negative context all the time in my house; though sometimes it was.
One of the things I have been especially careful not to do is to discuss race in our home. Our home is such a blend of races, that it just seemed pointless. Additionally, our family and friends are so racially diverse that I never imagined that knowing the race of someone was ever something my kids processed; I mean they are still just 5 and 6. Yes, they know people look differently but no more different than daddy, or papa or Nanni or Granny or Auntie Fran or Auntie Sam. We are such a blend that I never imagined that they were processing difference.
My 5 year old, loves to come home and talk about his day at school and when he is trying to tell me what someone said or did, I never know the child’s name so I ask him to describe him/her. This little trick helps me to see how much attention to detail he is paying but it also enables us to work on descriptive adjectives like tall or short, fat or thin, big or small, old or young, boy or girl, etc. When I can’t figure out who it is I sometimes ask for things like hair color or eye color to help me figure out who he’s referring to. I’ve even gone as far as asking if the person was speaking English or some other language. But boy was I surprised to hear him talking about a little girl in school and when I asked him to describe her, he referred to her as White. Not only did he refer to her as White but that was the first descriptive characteristic he mentioned.
So with a puzzled look on my face, I asked him if she was white, what color did that make him…and he said tan! I went to his crayon bag and pulled out a white crayon and I asked with a look of confusion “was she really this color?” and he said no. Well then how could she be white I asked? To which he replied I don’t know…she just is. At that point, I just let him go on with this story!
But I did wonder…when did he develop his sense of race consciousness? Does that happen naturally in children or is it something he’s learned at school? I ask this because I am 100% certain that…wait for it…my children are growing up in a house with race!
And there you have it.