In today’s world offenses are easy to find. Way too easy. As adults we have to be very careful of what we say to others and even how we say it. Or we can so easily make someone feel bad for their ethnicity, gender or sexual orientation.
But what about when our kids don’t know this?
Kids tend to say what’s on their minds. When I was dating my husband, his niece often came to me and pointed out, “You’re brown!”. At the time I worked in a childcare center and knew this was often a shock to young Caucasian kids.
I’ve known since moving to Canada and becoming a minority, that there are many who look at me in an odd manner. Some look at me in shock. Often time this happens when I visit a small town where I am the only black person. Some look at me in fear. Often time Caucasian babies that see me (especially if I’m the first black person they’ve ever seen), cry in fear. I’ve gotten used to it and grown to expect it.
For my kids, they’re mixed with black and white. And I’ve always thought that mixed kids are so beautiful- they could never suffer racial discrimination.
But since starting elementary school, my daughter Esperanza, has had two times when someone has said something unkind about her appearance. One time it was about her big curly hair. Another time it was about the color of her skin. Both times it was said with aversion.
My daughter came to me and said, (let’s call her Didi), “Didi said she won’t play with me because I’m brown”.
She said this in a state of confusion, as we walked home from school while in the midst of numerous parents walking their kids home. It was awkward. I could feel the other parents watching to see my reaction.
I didn’t want to make a scene. So I said calmly, “Well, the color of your skin is not something you can change. So that’s not a very nice thing to say.”
When we got home I called the school and asked to talk to Esperanza’s teacher. I let her know what was said and explained that my concern is that, we had a similar issue happen the year before with another child, concerning my daughter’s big hair. I didn’t want her self esteem to be shaken because she believes it’s bad she looks different.
The teacher was shocked that this happened in her class. She assured me she would have a talk with the student and parent.
I was annoyed to know that my daughter was going through this in school. It’s not something I expected honestly. I mean, she’s not “black” like me. She still has light skin and with a simple flat iron, her hair can look as straight and silky as any white person’s. I never believed a mixed person could go through discrimination as blatantly as I have.
In a few days I got contacted by my daughter’s teacher, who explained that Didi’s mom was crushed to hear what her daughter said. She was apparently in tears apologizing for her daughter’s words and actions. The teacher went on to explain that Didi does have a cognitive delay which causes a struggle with inclusivity. It is something the teacher and parent are aware of and working on.
My heart went out to the Mama of this child. It wasn’t her fault her daughter said this unkind thing to my daughter. And truly this incident helped the parent and teacher address the issue with Didi. It helped her understand how she had hurt Esperanza’s feelings. This was a learning and growing opportunity.
According to the teacher, she explained to Didi, “What if I told you, I didn’t want to play with you because you have blue eyes?” This helped Didi realize what she had truly done to my daughter.
Esperanza came home today with a card from Didi. It said she was sorry and asked for forgiveness. Esperanza also told me that Didi spent all day playing with her and asked her to be her best friend. This made my heart soar.
Esperanza’s teacher contacted me and asked that if Esperanza has any further problems with Didi to let her know. I told her that because Didi and her mom are trying their best, we can be patient for any future times we may encounter similar issues.
I asked Esperanza if she forgives Didi and she said, “Yes, but only if she doesn’t do it again”. And I said, ” Actually we can be ready to forgive Didi again and try to be her friend again.”
Kids are constantly learning and growing. I believe they need these moments to make mistakes and be taught how to be better people. Have you ever encountered a similar situation such as this? Let us know at firstname.lastname@example.org