Monday, January 21, 2008

What color am I?

Kenzie's daycare had some reading and activities surrounding the coming of Rev. Martin Luther King Jr Day. So the following conversation should have come as no surprise.

Kenzie: Mommy, am I white?

Me: Are you white? What do you mean?

Kenzie: At daycare, they told us about Martin Luther King Jr Day and said he didn't want to give up his seat on a bus to a white person.

Me: OH! MLK (I'm abbreviating to make this easier) didn't want anyone to have to give up their seat on a bus just because of color. But the person who actually began the refusal of giving up a seat to a white person was a woman named Rosa Parks. She was a black woman, and a white man told her to get up out of her seat so he could have it, but she refused. She also got arrested and went to jail for it. That wasn't fair. It wasn't nice. And no one should have to give up their seat - or anything else for that matter - because of the color of their skin.

Kenzie: But am I white?

Me: Well, technically, because you are Asian, the "color" you would be considered is yellow. That's because most Asians have a yellow undertone to their skin color. I will tell you one thing, you are very fair-skinned for an Asian, and many Chinese have told us so. You also have a lot of pink to your skin tone as well. But you are Asian, not a white person.

Kenzie: [smiling] Yeah! Okay. I'm Asian. But there were white people who had big banners and signs that said "Whites Only".

Me: Yes, and that was wrong. No one should be discriminated against because of their skin color. Those people did not want blacks to stay at certain hotels, or eat at certain restaurants, or drink from certain water fountains... and that wasn't right. No one should be told they can't eat somewhere because of something like race. What race you are born into is something you can't change. You are born what you are, and each of us should be judged for who we are, not what we look like.

Kenzie: Yeah. They were mean people. And that wasn't fair.

I hope she really learns this. I mean REALLY learns this. In the last year, I've seen a side of her that worries me.. and perhaps it is just a matter of time before she really begins to see that color isn't what matters.

For example, my family doctor is a wonderful doctor. However, Kenzie likes her [white] pediatrician better than my doctor, because he is white, and mine is "dark" [African-American]. I am hoping enough examples of me not judging others because of color and her seeing me interact with others of color will set some example for her. I've seen this discrimination of hers for awhile... and even though I tell her that it isn't nice to treat people this way - I am praying that more examples will make the point.

Maybe when she finally experiences discrimination against her personally for being Asian, she'll "get it".

1 comment:

cabbagemintor said...

Why can't people just use terms like Oriental, Chinese, Arab, Caucasian etc to depict race instead of keep referring to skin tones. With inter-marriage and vast variation in skin hue among the same race, it is doubly irrelevant. The Americans got it right when they use "Chinese-Americans, "Italian-Americans" etc. No need to mention color at all. History teaching cannot avoid those references but more enlightened versions can be added alongside for children. I did not receive any racial insult when I was the the US; but I have heard of resurgence in pockets of American society. In the UK, I got abused often even today. She is growing up in a "white" family; and you have to teach her how to handle herself when attacked. This is very sad, but true. You are teaching her to respect your African-American doctor; and that is right and very important. My niece, when five, said, "I don't like black people." Now, she lived in a totally white neighborhood and went to a very white school. She did not know any black people. But my sister took it very seriously and told her that black people are doctors, lawyers, teachers etc like anybody else. It is an ongoing process.