Image found at: http://www.valleyadvocate.com/blogs/gallery/175/colorfulchildren.jpg
My mind has been whirring as I reflect on the interracial friendship “issue” that my daughter recently encountered at a local beach. Ugh. I definitely think that I allowed my personal baggage to interfere when I responded to the little girl’s question about whether or not my daughter was black and the little girl’s comment that my daughter’s hair was very, very short. I in no way want to burden my daughter with my issues. However, I also don’t want her burdened with other folks’ issues. I truly believe that the little girl was curious and learning how to explore difference. Yet, too many times it feels that majority folks don’t train their children on the best way to go about it. They are allowed to ask, say whatever comes to their mind because “they are just children” after all. Well, some of those questions, inquiries, comments, statements, etc. can be offensive. I think it is imperative that we as parents be the vanguard to teach our children that they will encounter people who are different than they are and that the best bet is to first develop a relationship with people without bombarding them with questions. Plus, if you really have to know, ask your Momma first! Just my opinion. What do you all think?
I love the fact that the blog is opening up conversation about this topic. One of my girlfriends from New York had this to say:
“I also wanted to share something that Part 1 reminded me of. It made me wonder when I learned the social construct of calling myself “white.” I was visiting my parents recently and found an old blue book from second grade (the contents of which were very amusing!) Anyway, one of my stories was a description of myself and I described myself as having peach skin. I’m sure that’s because I always used the Peach Crayola to color pictures of myself. It’s funny though, because it’s actually a more accurate description.”
Yes, we all are on a journey of self-discovery and learning about those around us. I hope that this is a safe space for you to share your honest thoughts and opinions. Please chime in! J
Photo by Hamed Masoumi / Image found at: http://change-production.s3.amazonaws.com/photos/wordpress_copies/race/2010/08/blackwhitefriends.jpg
This past weekend, my daughter and I had some fabulous bonding time at the beach. Plus, I was happy to see my daughter making a new friend at the beach. As I mentioned in my last blog (http://tropie7189.blogspot.com/2011/07/beach-bonding-and-interracial.html), all was going well until my daughter’s new friend whispered, “Are you black?” We addressed that and I thought the conversation between the two of them would return to sea snails, sand and cartwheels. Not quite.
My daughter recently got beautiful cornrows in her hair and I put them into a little bun in order to protect them at the beach. Like most girls, my daughter loves to play in hair patting her bun, taking the bun down and putting it back up again. My daughter was in the process of taking down her bun at the beach when her new friend, within earshot of my daughter, leaned in and said to me, “Her hair is really, REALLY short”. Oh my goodness. I tried my best not to grit on the little girl (sorry, that is IN there and I had to work to suppress it) and said, “Actually, her hair is quite long and very, very curly.” I hate the fact that I felt compelled to add in the fact that my daughter’s hair is long. Ugh, there I go again falling into the myth that length is a proxy for beauty (http://tropie7189.blogspot.com/2011/06/long-hair-myth-thanks-frenchie.html). But, it’s true. My daughter has a head full of long, thick, kinky hair and I bristled when the little girl referred to it as “really, really short”. Images of pickaninnies and headscarfed mamies floated through my head. Gosh, this stuff is potent.
I think that the two incidents (asking if my daughter was Black and then stating that her hair was really, really short) compounded and made racial identity highly salient to me. However, I might have responded differently if my daughter hadn’t been there. I might have asked questions rather than making comments. However, my own internal issues coupled with my protective Mommy nature kicked in and I felt that I needed to defend my daughter. How would you all have handled this?