Monday, November 7, 2011

The Colors of Us

Last week my son and I started reading a book called The Colors of Us.  This book was recommended at a fantastic talk I attended recently that discussed racial perceptions in children.   We were given a nice list of books to get some good conversations going around the house. And off to the library we went.

The thing is, though, my kid seems to not notice physical differences between people besides, unfortunately, weight. (Believe me, this has definitely been commented on loudly in public settings. "Mom, is that lady having a baby?!', child says as he points to a woman who is likely no less than 70 years old with a bit of a belly. "No, kiddo, I don't think so.")  No, my child is a relatively non-visual kid.  So some people might find it strange that I'd want to point out differences to a kid who seems happily "colorblind."  I'm of the opinion that if I don't start the conversation, someone else will and that conversation might not be so positive.  I want to be proactive. And I also think that the idea of colorblindness is nonsense, to be quite honest.

The woman who gave the talk I attended quoted a statistic that 75% of black children have talked openly about race in the home by the time they enter kindergarten and only 25% of white children have. I'm not sure where she got her stats but, honestly, that stat on white kids struck me as high. Maybe I'm pessimistic about white people and racial conversations, but I'm glad the stats show that someone, somewhere is having them and I want to be sure that Josh is comfortable talking about this and is taught healthy attitudes and language from a young age.

Do I have all the answers? No. But I want him to know from a young age that this is a good thing to talk about, that there is deep beauty in the differences he sees.  Or doesn't see yet, but will.  Do I know what I'm doing? Not necessarily. Do I feel completely confident that everything I say is being said correctly? No. However, I'm hoping to continue my own education in this area even as I educate my son rather than letting fears or misgivings keep me silent. It's very likely that his little brother or sister will not share his ethnicity.  I'm excited about that but I also know that that means another type of education that I need to be ready to provide, for both my children.  Transracial adoption is not meant to be trendy. It's hard stuff. It will mean many more racial conversations in our family than in the average white family.  I look at that as a positive thing.  So many of us who are white have the option to not think or talk about race - we don't have to because it feels like it doesn't affect us. But people of color do not have that option.  For many, their race is a very real part of who they are and it affects what their day looks like.  If we bring a child into this house who is not white, I want to be ready to help that child understand that there are still systems and structures and people out there who will judge him based on the color of his skin, that this country is still amazingly far from racially reconciled.  And I don't want my children to know only the hard stuff, but also that white isn't "normal" and that the "colors of us" are all beautiful and unique. 

So we will continue read this book and many more like it. It has already led to some fantastic conversations about his own race and background and it has changed how he is coloring his coloring books.  To be honest, it's pretty boring to always use that peachy color when you're coloring in people, anyway. Branching out in our crayola box has added a lot of fun to art time around here.

I look forward to more ways to figure out our world together.  

3 comments:

  1. You should pick up some of these:

    http://www.crayolastore.com/product_detail.asp?T1=CRA+52-080W&.

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  2. Yes! Praise Jesus! Brava! and Amen!

    aaaaaand cross post? *grin*

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  3. Jon, thanks, that's a fantastic link. I am planning on stopping at Michael's today. And Katelin, of course!!!! I have a feeling a lot of that might happen this month for both of us!

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