Tuesday, September 12, 2006

Kinsey and Race

We had a very interesting dinner conversation last night. We were talking to Kinsey about her friends at school and I forget exactly what she said, but she talked about some of the kids in her class that had different skin color and while I don't remember exactly what she said, I remember Sheryl and I looking at each other with some concern. I feel like she said something about not being friends with someone and then described him or her as having brown skin and black hair or something like that.

Like I said, Sheryl and I looked at each other with some measure of concern. We obviously know that Kinsey will make distinctions in her friends (DJ is apparently one of her boyfriends), but we hope to God that she won't choose friends based on skin color or any other visual distinctives. And that was the brilliant point Sheryl made. She pointed out how one of Kinsey's other friends had blond hair and another one had red hair and how that made them different, but not better or worse than someone and the same thing with the color of the skin. Kinsey seemed amenable to that idea.

Here's where I got a little bothered. Sheryl and I have never used racial epithets or judgements, in Kinsey's presence or out of it, or if we have it's so unconscious that neither of us are aware of it. We've never tried to judge people based on appearance and to instruct Kinsey to do the same. To hear a judgement based on the color of skin is very antithetical to how we're trying to raise Kinsey. Does any one else out in blog world have knowledge of studies about this kind of behavior in kids? I just don't want this type of behavior or attitude to become prevalent in her.


Rachel Keller said...

I was on the other end of this dilemma last year when my kids went to an inner city school and I had to explain some interesting terms to my kindergartener. This year, my youngest son has already had the lesson about who has brown skin and who has yellow skin (I had a slight problem with that one)and how we like each other without seeing the color of their skin.

I think that in teaching our kids that we are all different and we have to like each other no matter what color someone else skin or hair or eyes, etc are, we are making them NOTICE that there are differences and stigma's. Until the episode last year, my kids never noticed that there were different shades of people. People were just people.

DJG said...

Unfortunately what you say or don't say is no longer the main influence in your child's life.

However you can let them know how you feel and what God expects....just remember to do it often as their contact with their peers is a constant.

Anonymous said...

Phil, I have a funny but poignant story. You may have heard me tell this, but for the benefit of your readers...
Last year, my now 4-year old daughter, her younger sister & I were playing at a public park. MC was in this huge sand box playing alone. A car pulled up and it was a black family with several kids. They immediately swarmed the area MC was playing in and she sort of sat back and watched them (not playing herself any more). Finally, they all warmed up to each other and started playing and talking.

Meanwhile, I'm standing there with their dad chatting, and MC stands up and SHOUTS, "Daddy, I decided I like black people now!" Thought I was going to die. I had to explain to their dad that the only contact she has ever had with a black person was negative, so in her mind that was what all black people were like. Now, she and I had already had several conversations about this, similar to what Sheryl was saying to Kinsey, but she still had a negative impression of black people. Fortunately her park experience changed her mind.

The conclusion I came to was that I have done my child a great disservice by only exposing her to people who for the most part look exactly like her.


Thomas+ said...

Hey Phil,

I agree with Daren's comments about exposing our children to people who are different.

This hit us the hardest about a year and a half ago when our elder daughter, who was going to a basically all-white school, made a comment about all dark people being poor. I asked her why she thought that. She pointed to our refrigerator.

We keep pictures of all the children we sponsor through Compassion and World Vision on our regrigerator. They are all dark skinned and poor. We also have a partnership with a ministry in East Nashville, where most everyone is dark and poor.

So, in an effort to expose our children to poverty, we also "taught" them that poor and dark skinned go together.

Since then, they have made a very good friend at our church who is dark-skinned.

Children pick up cues like this. We live in a racist society, a society in which stratification exists. Ignoring it will not work. Pretending that we don't notice people's skin color will not work. We have to actively oppose this force of evil. And we have to have plain and direct conversations with our children about race, racism, and the horrible history of our country in the way we have treated, and continue to treat, people who are not white.

elizabeth said...

Well, stink!! I just left a long comment that got erased! Maybe that's a sign. Anyway, thank you for this post and thank you, Daren, for your comment about the importance of exposing our children to people who look different. So important!

Justin said...

I think everyone, no matter how racist you are or not, we tend to group with people that look like us.

When I was two, we were in the mall and a black family walked by and I said "Look a Cosby"

Needless to say, that was an awkward moment for my folks.

Gandalf Mantooth said...


That's a start. I suggest you check out some of the blog communities that deal with topics like this, probably a lot of people have this question, more than you think.

Malia said...

A couple years ago we were at O'Charley's with Sweetpea and she was coloring on her kid's coloring book that the restaraunt had provided. There were four characters in the book, a black girl, an asian boy and a white boy and white girl. We noticed that Sweetpea had circled all the character's except for the black girl whom she had "X'ed" out. I remember David and I looked at each in very a confused sort of way. The way I imagine you and Sheryl looked at each other during dinner. So we asked Sweetpea why she had "X'ed" out that particular character. At that time in her life she couldn't really explain herself and about all we could get out of her was that the character "looked" different from the others. (Of course this begs the question why didn't she "X" out the asian boy character but that explanation would prolong this already long comment.) We spoke with her very seriously about what she had done and why and that we don't make judgements about people based on their skin color.

But like Daren said, Sweetpea really only knew white people. Our church is mostly white, her then school (associated with the church)- really mostly white. Those were her two main social circles. Those and her white family.

Since then she's been exposed to a more diverse community and seems to be understanding that people are people, and are to be respected, regardless of their skin color.

Boys on the other hand are yucky!

That Girl said...

My nephew, then 4, and I were in Burger King one day and my nephew said, "There goes another one! I don't like black people" I was mortified and when I got him home and down for his nap, I called my brother at his job. He said to ask Rusty if he liked Michael Jordan or Scottie Pippen best and then to remind Rusty that they are both black people. I did that and the next day, Rusty came in and said, "I found out I love black people." "Oh really, how?" I replied... "Mama told me." I wish it were that easy to solve life's issues!

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