My 8 Year Old Daughter Was Told Her Dark Brown Skin Would Make The Pool Dirty...7 Ways to Talk About Racism with Your Child
My heart literally skipped a beat yesterday when my eight year old daughter entered the kitchen and told me that an older neighbor said her dark brown skin would make the pool dirty. I was in the process of cutting fruit for some amazing, "Belly Snatch Juice," and you can only imagine the initial thoughts that ran through my mind as I stopped chopping with the large knife.
My eyes began to twitch as I starred into the eyes of my hurt baby. My palms grew sweaty, my breathing quickened and the butterflies in my stomach were moving a mile a minute screaming, "LET'S GET READY TO RUUMMMMMBLE!"
Here's some background information. My neighbors are Vietnamese and their children are the same age as my daughter. The children play well together for the most part and they've spent hours at my home (sometimes too much time). It's summer time and they just opened their pool up. The day before, all of the children were happily splashing about, but I noticed yesterday that my daughter was talking to them from our yard. Hence, the reason I called her into the house in the first place.
I was prepared to hear that they had had an argument and that was why she wasn't playing with them. I didn't think she was going to say, "Sarah (name changed) said that I can only get in the pool on some days. She told me that her grandma said my dark skin will make the pool turn black."
None of my adult neighbors speak any English so my first thought was to write down everything I wanted to say, translate it into Vietnamese, march over to the house and deliver it with my best, "Black Girl Neck Roll." I perfected the neck roll back in seventh grade, so I knew she would get the point!
Since translation and learning how to speak the language would take entirely too long, slapping her would get me arrested, and raging about the situation would put my child on the defense...I decided to take a moment and pray. After collecting myself I decided a conversation with my daughter was both more important and productive:
1. "What Exactly Happened?"
I asked Amari about the incident and let her talk. During this brief conversation I learned that not only had the woman said this, but she had also been shooing her off of her front step. I also realized that Amari wasn't fully aware that this was also an act of racism, so I was able to get the full story.
2. "What Did You Do?"
This hasn't been our first run in with racism and I wanted to know how she handled it. I was proud to hear that Amari stood up for herself and told her friend, "Well, that wasn't nice and it's racist!"
She said that her friend agreed by saying, "I know, it's rude."
I was happy to know that even though children may grow up around racist people, racism doesn't necessairly get passed down. It was at this moment that I needed to give her point what she'd done right.
3. I Praised the Respectful Behavior
I was so proud that Amari eloquently put the woman in her place whether little Sarah decided to carry the message back to her grandmother or not. I let her know that I was happy she stood up for herself and was respectful even though the adult was not. I think it's important that children understand they have a voice and are allowed to use it in a respectful way.
4. "How Did This Make You Feel?"
I wanted to know how Amari was feeling because the lioness in me was afraid she was wounded beyond repair. No one, I mean NO ONE messes with my baby cubs, lol.
Amari let me know, "It hurt my feelings a little bit, but not a whole lot because of the last time with Gary (name changed). You told me that everyone is not going to like me because of my skin, and that's not my problem."
5. Put the Problem Back on the Person
It's so important for our children to understand that their skin is not an issue, the person spouting hate has the problem. I was elated to know that she actually heard me two months ago when we dealt with one of her classmates who said he didn't like Black people.
I also wanted to make sure that she knew that this type of hate lived inside of the individual person and was not a reflection of people in general.
6. Remind Her Who She Is
I wanted to make sure she knew who she was so this situation did not become a defining moment for her. I reminded her that if her father is a king, and I a queen then she is a princess. She is royalty. A descendant of beautiful brown skinned kings and queens from Africa and a child of the most High God. Due to the royal blood in her veins the last thing she needed to worry about was mean people who said hateful things.
7. Teach and Empower
Finally, Amari needed to know that she was not going to put herself in situations to be abused by others - even if she did have true friends living next door. I pointed out the racist behavior of being shooed off the front porch and not being allowed to enter the backyard. For now she isn't allowed to go next door, though her friends are able to play here.
l am a little nerdy, a little quirky, a little glam, with a whole lot of personality! A wife with four children and a furry puppy, there is never a dull moment.
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