Do you remember this post? The one where Jena sees no difference between herself and a dark-skinned cartoon character? Well, I think she sees the difference now.
You see, Jena goes to a very diverse school. White, Black, Asian, East Indian, mixed race, etc, etc, etc. Three of the kids in her class are bi-lingual. One is tri-lingual. And those are only the most obvious differences.
And for the past two years Jena's best friend has been African-American. And Jena has insisted that they are "almost sisters".
She had never seemed to notice differences in race or ethnicity, never blinked an eye at physical differences. Except tattoos. She's always been obsessed with tattoos. Since before she could talk. Lord, help us when she gets older.
So imagine my surprise when on the ride home from school (and yes, the best conversations happen in the car), she asked me if I knew that Katie* had "different skin".
Now in these instances, I prefer to play dumb, and let her tell me things in her own words.
Me: "Really? How is it different?"
Jena: "It's brownish"
Me: "Oh, so just the color?"
We sat quiet for a few minutes.
She then proceeded to tell me the color of every kid in her class. Keep in mind, she knows nothing of the different "races".
So, according to Jena:
Katie is brownish.
Another child is grayish-yellow.
Another is yellow-ish gray.
One is brownish-yellow.
Another is blackish-brown.
Her skin is silvery.
Another's is silvery whitish yellow.
When she finished, I felt compelled to intiate the next part of the conversation.
Me: "Isn't that awesome?!?"
Me: "God made everybody, and He made us all different. People come in all different colors, and isn't that beautiful how He did that?"
Me: "I just think it's amazing how we can all be the same, because we're all people, but we can all look different. Isn't that cool?"
Jena: "Mommy, did you know there are people out there who don't like brown skin?"
Shocked into silence for a second. Wow, this conversation got really serious, really quickly. Never thought I'd have this conversation with my 4 year old. Realize I need to gather my thoughts and respond quickly.
Me: "There are?!? Why?!?"
Jena: "They wish they could rub the brown skin off until there's just blood."
Shocked by the graphic nature of this description.
Me: "No way! Why would anyone want to do that?!?"
Jena: "I don't know"
Me: "Me either"
Jena: "I think they're mad because they're skin is different"
Me: "Well, that's silly. God made everybody, and God only makes awesome, beautiful things, so if He made someone a different color, that means they have to be beautiful, just how He made them."
Me: "So those people shouldn't be mad at the people with brown skin, they were just born that way. If they wanna be mad at someone, they can be mad at God!"
Me: "I'm glad everyone's different. It would be boring if we all looked the same"
Jena: "What are we having for dinner?"
She's usually pretty good at letting me know when the conversation's over.
It never dawned on me I'd be having a conversation on such a serious topic with her until she was much older. But I'm glad it did happen when she was young enough that we can be intentional about our approach with her.
Let's be clear: racism is taught. And it will not be taught, or tolerated, in our home. Period.
As always, thanks for checking in!
*name changed to protect the innocent
** inspired to write down this true story after reading this post on another blog