Posts Tagged ‘black folk 101’

Just a couple days ago my daughter said her daddy was “blue” because the shirt he was wearing was blue. Apparently I was red because that was the color of my shirt. I was beginning to think perhaps it is true what some people claim to believe… Kids are colorblind to skin.

I’ve never honestly felt that way; that children, or people in general are colorblind to race. It’s natural to recognize someone looking different than you, or out of the ordinary. Whether it’s someone with red hair, blond hair, brown skin—whatever. We aren’t blind, and it’s ok to notice these things. But do children?

happy-little-girl-with-fall-leaves

Tonight, my daughter dropped a bomb on me: “Mom, why are you brown and I’m not?”

“What?” I looked down at my shirt, to see if that’s what she meant. But she clarified just as I was checking.

“Your skin. Why is your skin brown, and mine’s not?” She asked.

“Yours isn’t?” I thought it might be best to answer her question with questions to see where she was coming from.

“No. See?” She held up her arm for me to inspect.

“Well, who told you that?” I immediately became suspicious of kids at school. Kids at school are always bringing new things to her attention. She just started a new preschool, and maybe someone said something about us after drop off.

“Well, Daniel Tiger says…” (She broke out in a tune) “In some ways we are different, and in some ways, we are the same.”

Damn that tiger.

No really, it’s not his fault, or any fault at all. In the episode on the PBS show the differences they highlight are a kid walking using braces, and not everyone having a tail. From what I can tell, my daughter taking it to the skin color discussion was all on her own.

little-girl

“That’s right,” I said. “But what color are you?”

She wasn’t sure how to answer this either, she looked around the room, maybe for a comparison.

“Well, my kitchen is white…”

“Yes…” I said. Waiting to hear more. “Like you?” I questioned.

“No.” She said.

“Oh ok, well what’s daddy? Is he brown too?” I asked, trying to see where she was going with this.

“No, he’s yellow. Like me.” She decided.

“Oh ok,” I answered. “What about your brother?”

“He’s yellow too,” she professed. “Me, and daddy and [my brother] are yellow. And only you—“ she stopped to change her mind. “You and Snoop are brown.”

The dog and I are brown. I smiled, as I learned the workings of my preschooler’s thoughts of the world.

“Ok. And is brown pretty?” I braced herself for her answer. But I was really curious what she’d say.

“No,” she responded point blank.

“Why not?” I asked her.

“Because brown’s not my favorite color.”

“Is mommy pretty?” I asked.

“YES!” And she dove into my lap for a hug.

“Mommy?”

Oh great what now. “Yes?”

“Can we play with blocks now?”

And as quickly as that, the conversation was over.

exploring-the-world

Later, after she was tucked into bed, then came back out of her room sneaking some extra mommy time, she brought it up again while pointing to a photograph of herself against her daddy’s skin and said: “I don’t want my skin to be this color.”

This comment shocked me the most out of everything, but again, I tried to stay cool and keep with the questions, versus answers.

“Why not?” I asked her.

“Because I’m brown, and that’s not my favorite color.”

“Oh, well what color do you want to be?” Again, I braced myself for her answer.

“Purple.” She said.

I took a small sigh of relief. Apparently I’m ok with my daughter wanting to be purple. I just said “ok” (whatever kid!). It was late and she was trying to delay bedtime at this point.

“You’re beautiful the way you are.”

As I suspected all along, kids aren’t colorblind, they notice things. Though it’s not always on her mind that “mommy is brown.” For some reason it came to her mind in this moment, and was gone the next. The same thing happens with conversations with my husband. I don’t constantly think about being married to a white dude… Or even dwell on the fact that I’m black. It rarely comes up at home because we’re just mommy, daddy, wife, and husband; adorable kids… A family.

Biracial-questionsShe’s exploring and learning about the world around her, in all sorts of aspects of her little life right now. I think. I hope. No, I PRAY it’s a long time before we have a deeper skin color conversation that deals with wanting to be colors other than purple. But who knows, maybe it will never happen. And if it does (because honestly, I suspect every child, every color at some point wishes they could look like someone else) I hope… No, I pray it will be as cool, collected, and humorous as it was tonight.

Dear Stranger:

I know my babies have the sweetest, most delectable looking curls you have ever seen. So enticing in fact, that you may find your hands wandering in its direction.

I’ve only recently began to notice just how frequently it happens. Last week we were waiting in line for a cookie at the mall when a little girl behind us started stroking my daughter’s head. Lil’ J looked at me like ‘Ma, who is touching my hair?’. I looked back at her and said “Oh, thinks your hair is pretty,” loud enough so the little girl’s mom would hear and maybe be prompted intervene. Yet she wasn’t.

I was torn between asking the little girl to stop, swatting her hand away, or just letting it go. I let it go.

The sad truth is, my daughter is pretty accustomed to people she doesn’t even known touching her hair. She used to frequently tell people “You can look at my curls but don’t touch them” but it’s not something I’ve heard her say in a while. I don’t know if she’s grown tired of telling people, or just gotten used to the attention, either way I still want her to know it’s not ok without her permission.

no you didn't touch my hair

I could go on about the psychological aspects behind a child understanding their body is their own. But I’ll stick to the main point here… You touch my kid, I’ll cut you.

I know these strangers aren’t ill willed–The opposite in fact. Some cultures actually believe touching a child’s head is good luck.

But here’s the thing… I don’t know where your hands have been. I finally reached my boiling point when I ran in to grab a drink at a convenient store, son on my hip and daughter at my side. We were setting out things on the counter when one of the store clerks walked behind us, and as he did he grabbed my daughter’s pony tail. He didn’t yank it, but just kinda felt it like ‘oh that looks soft, I want to touch it’. He gave me a friendly smile as he did it but I couldn’t contain my stink eye, and had my son been in my Ergo and not in my arms, I might have smacked his hand, or punched his throat.

In that instant it hit me how often I have let it go. People want to rub my son’s head just as often, though usually when he’s close to me people will at least ask, my poor daughter is the perfect height for wantering hands that just have  to know what her bouncy curls feel like.

IMG_1948-copy

Yes, they’re fabulous I know, but they also take a lot of work to get them that way and I have to start all over again after your grubby hands grace her sweet locks.

Yes, their curls are irresistible, but I beg of you, please, resist!

My whole life I’ve either worn my hair straight, or wanted to wear my hair straight. I grew up hating the two stranded twists my mom would put in my hair when all of the girls around me had beautiful straight hair. That’s what I saw. Pretty straight hair that was easy to slide their fingers though. Pretty hair that blew in the wind, and didn’t need a half-dozen barrettes and a bottle of hair creme to keep it in place. I had such a distaste for my naturally curly hair I didn’t realize what I was willing to do to change it.

little girl two strand twists hairWhen I was ten, my parents signed me up for acting classes.–I was very dramatic but didn’t have an ounce of talent–Anyway, my instructor was passing out roles for our end-of-session play when she said: “And Jennifer, since you wear your hair in pig tails, I thought you’d be perfect for this part.”

She looked at me, waited for my elated responded when I did something probably no child before me had done…

“That’s ok, I’m wearing my hair down for the play.” “Down” meant going to the salon, and having my hair blowed dry, and pulled straight with a searing hot comb. I’d be at the salon for hours, bawling most of the way through from a tender head, but then so happy with the end result.

“So you don’t want the part?”

“No thank you, I’m wearing my hair down!”

And she passed the opportunity on to another girl my age who was more than happy to take on an additional role for our performance.

When my mom heard what I had done she was so livid, she made sure that my braided pigtails were exactly what I wore the day of the play.

long natural hair straightenedThroughout my life things hadn’t changed much. When I went off to college I promptly found someone who could straighten my hair for me every few weeks. Since I never had my hair chemically straightened (thank goodness my mom had the willpower to resist that temptation) I didn’t get it wet between salon visits. And the only time I ever saw my hair curly was right after a wash, just before getting it pulled straight again.

It’s pretty much been all I’ve known, and all I’ve understood to be accepted in my line of work. It was a battle getting some of my bosses to accept my long hair (which I refused to cut for the sake of TV) so I never even considered going a step further and wearing it curly.

Embarrassingly enough, it wasn’t until having my daughter, that I even considered options for occasionally wearing my natural curls.

naturally curly long hair I grew up hating my hair. But why wouldn’t I? All I ever saw were women with pretty straight hair. Even my mom had her hair chemical straightened. And then there was me. Even if my hair was adorably cute and unique… I felt like my hair was ugly. And I don’t want that for my daughter. Or my son for that matter. I won’t ever allow clippers near his sweet head of curls.

long natural hairThankfully, there’s been a HUGE movement recently where black women are going natural, cutting off their chemically straightened hair and rocking their natural curls. More and more I’ve been noticing beautiful naturally curly hairstyles, on TV, online, and passing by on the streets. I can’t help but admit that these beautiful women, posting YouTube videos, countless blog posts, and tutorials inspired me to give my curls another go, and for the first time in my 27 years of life, I LOVE my hair the way it is, naturally. And as I look at this photo I took yesterday in all its natural glory, I don’t see a “new me,” but a me that I’ve been suppressing the last 27 years. And she’s happy to be free.

Hi! I’m Jennifer Borget



I'm a part-time journalist, full-time wife and mother striving to make the world a better place and inspiring others to do the same. This is the space where I share my journey in making the most of every day.

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