My Daughter the Racist

I downloaded & read the NurtureShock book recently, and found it fascinating. A lot of the chapters weren’t anything hugely significant or shocking, but one chapter especially had me absorbed.  It was the chapter concerning race and how we teach our kids about race.  More specifically, how we don’t teach our kids about race.

                Now, race and prejudices, minorities and the equality of all men, have always been a hobby horse of mine that I climb aboard and can go on and on for quite awhile.  So it’s been kind of a big deal to me that my kids are color-blind.  Since I don’t notice those things, and certainly don’t draw attention to skin color, my kids won’t either.  Logical, right?  I really thought my kids would absorb my color-blind attitude.  I really thought they wouldn’t notice that a black or Asian person looks different than them.

                News flash!!  They do notice. It is naïve to think that they won’t.  And if they are living in a parent created “race- free vacuum” they are quick to improvise their own conclusions.  This book says that 80% of white parents do not talk to their kids about race. They are afraid of saying the wrong thing.  I can so identify with that.  NurtureShock also surprised me by saying that having a multi-cultural setting has little to no effect on small children’s attitudes about race. 

                I was reading the book during the Winter Olympics.  So, drum roll please….Elena & I are watching figure skating… and if you followed it at all, you know where this is going.  We watched Kim Yu-Na. She is adorable. So graceful.  So beautiful.  

And Elena goes

“No, no, not her. I don’t like her at all.”

We watch Mirai Nagasu, and Elena goes

“Not her again, I’m so tired of her.”

As a light bulb flashed in my head,  I say,

“Duh my child, that is not the same person”.

  So I pressed her, and fished from her why exactly she didn’t like those figure skaters.

                And profoundly she said:

“Because I don’t like their faces.  Or their hair.”

So that, my friends, is when I was humbled to discover that my own daughter, through no fault of her own, is an anti-Asian racist.  I didn’t flip out.  It actually made me smile and think “OMW the book is right! She is totally rooting for the people who look like her.

But the book did inspire me to boldly go where white parents don’t go, and talk about race. Not vaguely as in “God loves us all the same” because kids are not going to connect the dots and realize we are talking about race if we don’t tell them.  Get over trying to be politically correct.  Get over the fear of saying the wrong thing.

I don’t have a neat and tidy ending.  But the new and improved mom tried to tell her daughter that she has a black cousin through adoption.  All in the name to bring about racial awareness, to break down those walls!

E: “No Mom she’s not black.” 

Me: “Yes, Elena she is.”

E:  ”No”

Me: “Yes”

E: “Look here’s a picture and I told you she’s not black.”

                Gene walks through the room while we’re arguing, with a peculiar look on his face, obviously thinking I’m losing my marbles for making an issue out of this.  So I let the matter drop, feeling insecure again that maybe I have lost my marbles, even if the book says we should talk about these things.  But I’m thinking that Elena’s need to have her cousin white just proves my point.

For the record, I have no fears of her being racist in the long-term. Not on my watch.

8 thoughts on “My Daughter the Racist

  1. Interesting subject.  I have never really discussed this with my children either. Other than to say that someone’s skin color makes no difference to us or to God.  And they do have a black uncle and a Belizian aunt, so maybe that helps?  Anyway, now I’m kind of curious if there is racism lurking in my kids.

  2. @appalolly – If you want to find out, just ask them. Are black people mostly good or mostly bad? Do Mom & Dad like black people?  (in the book a surprising amount of white kids agreed that their parents did not like black people while in their parents were horrified at the answers)

  3. AWESOME post.  Way to get out there and deal with the real stuff in real life and on your blog.  I thought I’d done a great job on avoiding racism and avoiding “Mennonitism” (my term, but I think you know what I mean) until just this week when Adam started saying, “Why are so many people here black?” (at the children’s museum).  I think it’s time to send him with my dad to some of the million black history museums and events I had to visit as a kid. 😉  

  4. @smilesbymiles – I know it really seems weird because they seem to not notice other races until about the 4-5 year mark.  And I think its cool that you had to go to all the black history events, I’m sure it built empathy into your world view.

  5. Hi! Just wanted to say that your writing is so funny and thought provoking at once!I went back through your posts some and read the one from last summer where you drank raspberrytea and went walking to try to induce your labor. I ’bout fell off my chair laughing.  There’s nothing better, funnier, deeper, cooler than real life. 🙂  Keep writing!

  6. great subject. we haven’t really come head to head with racism yet. kids are so honest. refreshing some time. madi was swimming with jasmine (family friend who is half black) and told her she was really lucky cuz her skin was a different color. i was horrified but jasmine thought it was hilarious. and this past weekend conrad’s were here and the little girls were bathing together and zoe asks ava “where did you get your black skin?” of course madi set her straight right away.i think instead of being color blind, i want to be color celebratory. there are such great things about different cultures and to pretend the differences don’t exist is not only silly, it’s also missing vibrant colors. just my $.02.

  7. @mLou – Hey thanks for you nice comment. I remember you from when you worked at Kings Homestead and I worked at Dutchland Quilt Patch.  Anyway, I noticed from your site that your a news junkie. Cool, cause I am too. See you around!Andrea

  8. Ok I know this is old… but I wanted to add to it.Thank you for not raising your kids to be “colorblind”.  I am a white mom with black (or as they like to say brown) kids.  I have see little kids be totally comfortable with my kids. Completely innocent  in pointing out the color difference. But older kids are always more awkward and/or rude. Its a learned behavior. Kids are curious, they want to know why things are what they are. If mom and dad dont talk about race or are uncomfortable about race then so will the kids. My kids know that God made everyone special, just like some people have big noses, some people have brown skin…. just like some people have straight blond hair, other people have black kinky hair. I watch my  very social kids (one who could make friends with a fencepost) get into a group kids and turn into little wallflowers. They are only in k and 1st grade yet they already sense that there is “something” that makes some (uneducated) kids uncomfortable. the reaction  your daughter had to the asian lady on tv… so are  the reactions of kids in real life with my african american kids. Ignorance can be painful. Btw, ask your daughter if the cousin is brown… because I have kids in varying shade of black and brown and they clearly know who is brown and who is black. Maybe thats why she was arguing.

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