As I was sitting in the family room with Mr. President #1 and Mr. President #2 watching a recorded episode of American Ninja Warrior, both Presidents were jumping up and down chanting, "Beat that wall! Beat that wall!" As I'm sure you can tell by now, both of these little guys are obsessed with this show, haha. There aren't a whole lot of shows I let them watch outside of the usual Sprout, Disney, and Nickelodeon superhero cartoons, but a little friendly, family competition [we all choose our favorite competitors] every once in a while never hurt anyone. Anyway...when the gentleman competing on the show finally made it up the wall and finished the obstacle course, Mr. President #1 jumped up and screamed, "Yes! He did it! He's my favorite!"
I wasn't paying too much attention to the television, so by the time I looked over to see who this guy was, there were several contestants on the screen, and I didn't know who Mr. President #1 was jumping up and down for. I walked over to the family room and said to Mr. President #1, "Who? Who is your favorite? Which guy are you talking about?" Mr. President #1, with an annoyed look on his face and the palms of both of his hands turned out, looked over at me and said, "Him, Mom! That guy right there; the brown one!" I just looked at Mr. President #1 and said, "Okay!" But I really couldn't help but think, "Here we go with these Crayola colors again!
"By this time, Mr. President #1 was just done answering my questions (you know--like how our little people expect us to already know everything they want and need in advance...), but he stopped on his way up to his room, looked over at me and said, 'My friends don't have colors, Mom. They have names!'"
We're all over the color spectrum when it comes to people in this house. But I have to admit that Mr. President #1 has evolved a bit over the years. I started out as the color yellow, became the color peach for a while, and now I think I'm just light brown; according to Mr. President #1, that is. But I digress...It took a little while for what Mr. President #1 said to me about the "Brown one" to sink in completely, but I just couldn't help myself. I walked back over to the family room and said to him, "The brown one? Is that how you classify your friends too?" By this time, Mr. President #1 was just done answering my questions (you know--like how our little people expect us to already know everything they want and need in advance...), so he stopped on his way up to his room, looked over at me and said, "My friends don't have colors, Mom. They have names!"
I was floored. I could not believe Mr. President #1 had just said that to me. But then it dawned on me...that was probably the most intelligent thing I had ever heard. He was so right! None of use should be defined by color; we should be called by our names. I remember sitting in the kitchen at work one day, and my colleague started talking about Lisa. Now, there are several Lisa's in my office, but they all have different jobs. Long story short, she made it a point to say to everyone, "You know, WHITE Lisa!" Now why couldn't she have used her last name, or even her title? Why did she have to go there? This is exactly my point--why do we always have to be called out by color?!
"If it were left up to the children, they probably could care less who is yellow, peach, or light brown; they probably would just want to enjoy one another and be in the company of other children who share their same interests."
Mr. President #1 reminded me of a very important and valuable lesson that day: how we as parents take advantage of the innocence of children, and just allow them to become inendated and infiltrated with our negative thoughts, beliefs, and all of the unnecessary and inappropriate things we constantly say in front of them about race. If it were left up to the children, they probably could care less who is yellow, peach, or light brown; they probably would just want to enjoy one another and be in the company of other children who share their same interests.
Let's do ourselves and our children a favor. Let's stop teaching our children to identify their friends by color. When your son tells you he really loves to play with Jack, don't ask him if it's the BLACK Jack or the WHITE Jack, just go with it. And if you must, use Jack's last name or some other characteristic to identify him. Stop brainwashing your kids. Let them learn to choose friends based on their character, generosity, and how they are in the inside, not by what color they are on the outside. I'm convinced we all have our own racial prejudices, but the best thing we can do for our children, is to keep those prejudices to ourselves.
Now let me clarify something really quickly. Children most-definitely see differences. A child with long, smoothe, blonde hair and light-colored skin can obviously see the difference from another child with long, coarse braids and dark-colored skin. But my point is this: Although these children are able to see differences, they don't have a single idea about race! Children self-identify by their names, gender, and other familiar characteristics, but these ridiculous racial notions come from US! Just the other day, I watched the newly released The Jungle Book movie with Mr. President #1 and Mr. President #2, and the biggest thing we took from the movie was that we can be friends with just about anyone, regardless of what he or she may look like. Teach your kids the basics and be there to help them understand why we don't all look the same, but most importantly, teach them the power of love and acceptance. Let's do this together!