The events that have transpired over the last couple of weeks have really caused me to examine my own heart. People can go back and forth about the politics of everything, but it really comes down to– are we harboring prejudice or hatred in our hearts? And if not (hopefully not), what are we going to do to make it all better?
I don’t know how to fix something hateful in another person, I can only control my own feelings. But after watching and reading what African-Americans, my fellow Americans, have to say, I’m realizing that racism can be felt and expressed in more subtle ways.
A small but persistent memory has nagged at me all week. Growing up in a predominately white area, I only had one friend in school who was black. She was also one of the sweetest people ever, truly.
It occurred to me this week that phrases like “you’re the whitest black girl ever” and the like were used to describe her sometimes. I can’t recall if I ever used that phrase myself, but I do know it was said. And I never realized it until now but, wow, that must have been so hurtful.
I mean, imagine being told that just because you were kind and smart and raised well, you couldn’t be the race you actually were, but must be a, what, superior race? One that is more commonly associated with all the good things as opposed to who your skin says you should be? I’m certain no harm was INTENDED by anyone who would’ve said this to her, but nevertheless I’m sure it must have hurt.
So how can we spark change?
As a mother, the greatest impact I can have on change is raising good people. A huge part of doing so is to lead by example, so of course this doesn’t exclude me from making an effort for change elsewhere. But any mom will agree that our children are the biggest responsibility we have, both to them personally, and to what type of person we send into the world.
So I’m sharing a craft I did with my kids yesterday to open up the conversation of race. I realized I’ve never done it before. And again, we live in a mainly white area, so it’s not like they get a ton of exposure to other people and cultures on a daily basis.
Rainbow craft to talk about race
It’s pretty straightforward, so no step-by-step today. We just made rainbows (although my 2-year-old went in a more abstract direction). Instead of using the usual rainbow colors, we used ones more similar to different shades of skin.
The visual aspect seemed to have a strong impact on my 4-year-old. When we were painting I asked her which color matched our skin? She pointed to it. Then I pointed to the darker shades and asked if she had ever seen someone with those skin tones.
She said yes, but it’s weird.
I was honestly taken aback when I heard her say that! But at a 4-year-old comprehension level and little exposure to anything different from her, I guess it shouldn’t be too surprising her initial reaction is that different is “weird”. That’s when I realized we can’t just assume how our kids process stuff.
Yes, little kids don’t care about color, that’s a learned habit. And I have absolutely no doubt that she’d be just as excited to play with a black, Hispanic, or any other child as she would a white one. But would that stop her from thinking it’s weird that person is darker than her? Maybe not.
It was meant as an innocent statement, but it opened my eyes to how we have to be intentional with our kids about EVERYTHING. So I explained to her that God made all of us unique, and that includes the color of our skin. Like a rainbow with all drastically different colors, we are all beautiful and belong together.
We’re all colors in the same rainbow
I reminded her how brown was her favorite color to draw with, as demonstrated by most of her rainbow paintings. “So, wouldn’t that be a beautiful color on someone’s skin too?” She agreed and said, “yeah I do like people with that color skin now, I love that color”.
There’s obviously so much more to being inclusive than just “liking” the color of someone’s skin, but for her little 4-year-old heart I think it was good. She has no concept of why someone would dislike another person for how they look. Once she got passed the “different is weird” thought, there wasn’t really anything else to bother her about it.
As the kids get older I know we’ll have to have more in-depth conversations. So I will commit to reading more and understanding better, both for myself and for them. Ultimately I will keep teaching them to pursue the unconditionally loving heart of Jesus.
In addition, I’ll be adding more diverse books to our collection. We’ll be reading more about loving everyone equally, as well as just books with awesome colored main characters!
Here’s our shopping list if you want to check some out for yourself:
The Colors Of Us by Karen Katz
We’re Different, We’re The Same by Bobbi Kates
When God Made You by Matthew Paul Turner
I Am Enough by Grace Byers
The Skin You Live In by Michael Tyler
All Kinds of People by Shelley Rotner
Chocolate Me! by Taye Diggs
A Kids Book About Racism by Jelani Memory