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?
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.
“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.
Oh great what now. “Yes?”
“Can we play with blocks now?”
And as quickly as that, the conversation was over.
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.
She’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.