Interesting Observation

Recently we were driving through the older part of town where the houses are very colorful. Our son was tired and bored so I told him to look at the houses and tell me what colors he saw. He called out pink, blue, green, yellow, and “skin.”

He said it several times so finally I asked what the color was of the houses that were “skin” color. “They were white, mom,” he said.

It made me kind of sad, actually. Last April, when our son was 3-and-a-half, he asked why our African American friends had dark brown skin. And thus began our talks about melanin and why people have different colors of skin. We read books like The Colors of Us, and I try to ensure that our bookshelf is filled with books that include people of all races. Our son knows his skin color is darker than my husband’s and mine.

Our inner circle of friends is very diverse–including African Americans, Latino, and Asian. But the community we live in is very white–about 75 percent. So, while whites are the minority at our son’s birthday party, his swim classes, preschool classes at the zoo, etc., are almost always filled with caucasian children. In fact, in those settings our son is usually the only child of color in the bunch.

I think he is beginning to see white as “normal” or starting to think that “most” skin is white.

So much that is being written today about raising adopted children includes the need for transracially adopted children to live in racially diverse areas and have friends, mentors, and role models who reflect their race. In the last two years my husband and I have become more educated about race and the part it plays in parenting a transracially adopted child. In fact, we’ve become so convinced of the importance of living in a racially diverse area that we’ve been looking to move to another state.

I had wondered if having a diverse inner circle of friends would compensate for living in such a white community. If my son’s remarks are any indication, which I believe they are, the answer to that question is definite no.

2 Responses to “Interesting Observation”

  1. March 6, 2010 at 10:08 pm

    It *is* a little sad. It’s also a little scary how early children of color can internalize “white” as the norm and the yardstick by which everything else is measured. Those processes start so much earlier than people think, meaning that many adopted kids are spending large portions of their childhood very, very isolated indeed.

    Wishing you the best of luck with whatever you and your husband decide to do.


  2. March 6, 2010 at 10:13 pm

    Sorry for the second comment — I also wanted to add, thank you for being educated and aware enough to make this important observation in the first place. There are a lot of people who wouldn’t think twice about a remark like that. This is just my opinion, but I think the fact that you noticed and are thinking about these kinds of things really will make a difference for your son.

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