Talking To Kids About Race

Talking To Kids About Race

“Why is my daddy brown?”

My three year old daughter is noticing skin color.

I knew the day would come when she would, I just didn’t think it would be this soon.

When Yara was born, people pointed two things out to me:

My daughter was black.
I wasn’t.

There were sideways glances in the grocery store that led to awkward conversations in the checkout line.

“Are you the nanny?”
“No, I’m her mom.”
“Aw, did you adopted her?”
“No, I didn’t.”
“Are you sure?”
“…um…yes…”

While I was pregnant, after seeing I was accompanied by a black man, someone asked me if I had been raped and needed “help getting away.”

After finding out that I gave birth to my daughter and didn’t adopt her, people have taken their children to the other side of the room.

I’ve been asked why I preferred black men over white and how I could betray my culture.

To some people, I’m only a statistic. Another white girl left alone by a black guy, another single mom raising a criminal, another uneducated girl giving birth while still in high school. To some people, my daughter will only ever be a stereotype, set up for failure by me, her teen mother.

Not true. Statistics come from numbers, not stories. Stereotypes come from headlines, not active living. It took months for my unaware heart to harden against the comments, the looks. I don’t guard my heart out of anger, but for my daughter’s sake. Lashing out in anger will get me nowhere, and what would that teach Yara?

But persevering with patience, grace, and courage will shine a light. It took my teacher to send me a postcard in the mail, after I dropped out of high school in shame, a teacher who believed in me as a human and as a mother, to give me faith.

My soul aches for mothers, aches for our babies, who are being raised to define difference as degradation. My heart is broken for our beautiful city being crushed by the tension of racial segregation.

I was raised to know see people by their hearts, not by their skin. I suppose that’s how my sweet Yara came into this world. But I wouldn’t change it because I want her to experience life the same way. Never do I want my sweet daughter to feel unwanted because of the color of her skin. Never do I want her to feel that she is unworthy of her dreams. Never do I want her to be isolated or somehow “less than.”

And to answer her question, “why is my daddy brown?” I say, “yes honey, he is. He was born that way. Mommy was born white. You were born both brown and white. What color you are doesn’t make you Yara. Your heart makes you Yara.”

James McBride, the author of The Color of Water: A Black Man’s Tribute to His White Mother penned his wise mother’s words – ““I asked her if I was black or white. She replied, “You are a human being. Educate yourself or you’ll be a nobody!”’ Yes, you are a human being. We are human beings. We are mothers with common goals for our children. The goals don’t change due to the skin color.

The world we live in is going to fight me, us, every step of the way, but guess what? Yara and I are overcomers. Together.

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This is us.  She’s my hero.

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7 Responses to Talking To Kids About Race

  1. Erin November 16, 2015 at 7:56 am #

    Thanks for sharing!! My husband is mixed and had similar instances. This might be a fun book for Yara (https://www.facebook.com/mixedmom/)

    • Melania
      Melania November 16, 2015 at 10:53 am #

      Thanks Erin for the book idea! I will check that out! 🙂

  2. Kaitlin November 17, 2015 at 11:57 am #

    My heart was aching reading what you’ve gone through…it’s a sad but sobering eye opener to the world that we live in; a place we claim to have moved passed blatant racism nut in reality it is just constantly swept under the rug. We need more voices like yours and mama’s like you! Yara is lucky!

    • Melania
      Melania November 17, 2015 at 12:18 pm #

      Hi Kaitlin, I agree with you about issues being swept under the rug. And thank you for your kind words!

  3. Sara November 17, 2015 at 7:44 pm #

    I have mixed kids. Three of them. When people ask me about them, I respond with aren’t they beautiful! God sure knew what he was doing!

    • Melania
      Melania November 18, 2015 at 11:34 am #

      That’s a lovely response! 🙂 those kids have a good mom!

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