Me : What color are you?
My son : *looking down at his arm* I'm brown, mommy.
First I would like to start off with a bit of family history. The older generation of my family is, for the most part, racist. I have ancestors who were members of the Klu Klux Klan, or so I've been told. I often hear a couple of those not-even-funny "black jokes" at at least one of my family gatherings each year. This is not something that I am proud of. Not at all. It is something that I've grown accustomed to, however, and a lot of this racial hatred comes from my mother. I wouldn't exactly call it hatred, because she is not the type to choose another check out at Wal-Mart just because an African American was in front of her. Nor is she the type not to speak or associate with black people. She is just the type who believes that whites are superior, and that is how she was raised.
Don't get me wrong, my mother is a wonderful woman. She is strong, independent, and has been such a wonderful mentor to me throughout my life. Her racism is something, that after spending many of my younger years fighting against, that I have just learned to look over. They say that you can't teach an old dog new tricks, and while I refuse to believe that on most occasions, my mother is an exception. I have had many friends of various ethnicities throughout my life. I have dated men that were not caucasian. Thank God that mother bit her tongue during that time, even if it was only for my sake.. Being born in 1955, in the midst of the Civil Rights Movement, and taught her whole life that "whites" were superior has left my mother with a somewhat bitter taste against those of the African American race. My family is also from Kentucky, which during the Civil War was considered to have sided with the North, there were many southern counties in the state that were considered completely Confederate - and the county where my mother grew up was one of those few.
Some of her favorite jokes revolve around race.
She doesn't care a bit to drop the n-bomb.
But, she is my mother, and I love her despite her ignorance.
My son, on the other hand, is oblivious to skin color. I have done my best to teach him that skin color is merely that : the color of someone's skin. Also, one day I want him to be able to look upon his history with pride. See, while my son is considered to be Caucasian, his grandmother is a black lady. His father, with his green eyes and blonde hair, was half black and had a skin tone not much different from my own. Still, African American history is a part of my son, and it is something that I want him to be proud of. When he is older I want to teach him about the Civil Rights Movement. I want him to know the strength of advocates such asMartin Luther King, Jr. , and Harriet Tubman. I want him to know about all of the aspects of his genealogy, without feeling shame about any of it.
Thankfully, I haven't had to address those questions yet. The town where we live is, for the most part, made up of white people. On one occasion I did have a black neighbor drive by who my son mistook for the President. I realize that I have a long road ahead of me in teaching my son about these things, but for now he is doing wonderfully. He doesn't know about race, but he knows about skin color, and he sees it as just that : skin color. When asked what color he is he responds with, "brown," due to his beautiful olive complexion. He says that I am white, because of my extreme paleness. If I were to point to a black person and ask what color they are he would say black, because that is the color he sees. He doesn't know about hatred or racism. He hasn't had to deal with any of that yet, and I am very thankful.
I do know, however, that one day this will be an issue. I can even imagine the kids at his school (when he is older) bombarding him with racial slurs after finding out about his heritage, because the same has happened to his father (despite his caucasian appearance). Children are cruel, and the ones where we live are crueler than most when it comes to racial issues.
At the age of 5 this isn't something I worry about for him, but it is something that lays heavy on my mind for his future. How will I comfort him when he comes home from school after being called a mean name? How do I explain all of this to him then? When I think about the road ahead of my son my heart aches, but I know it is something that many before him have had to go through. I know he is strong enough to make it through unscathed, but am I?
Have you talked to your children about race? Have they had questions for you? How have you dealt with this issue? This mama needs some advice.
[Note : This is a subject that I plan on addressing much more frequently in the future. I would appreciate any advice you can give me or if you would like to do a guest post on the subject then let met know at mama2boys2010 (at) live (dot) com (or send any comments or questions, too). Anything you have to say will be greatly appreciated.]