Today I took Shlomo to gan . . . late.
We waited a while for the bus, and while we were waiting, we spoke about:
- the guy smoking at the bus stop (ewww);
- calling the municipality to come give him a 1000 shekel fine;
- the garbage on the sidewalk, near the trees, and by the bus stop; 80% was cigarette butts and we came to the conclusion that the entire area would be cleaner if people didn’t smoke;
- the olive trees, the olives that fell on the floor, and the evergreen trees (and that they have different “leaves”);
- the almost-empty intercity bus that we took to its last stop and had almost to ourselves;
- the building that they’re painting grey-blue and red – we decided that it looked nice and fresh, but the colors weren’t nice and we would’ve rather them painted it yellow or peach;
and one more thing . . . the color of the people around us.
It started with Shlomo pointing out the the car was white with black wheels, and the lady passing us had “black legs”. Shlomo had “grey legs” and I had (still have, at the moment) “brown legs”. Then we passed someone with “blue legs”.
I asked Shlomo if these were the *real* colors of their (and our) skin, or just the colors of their clothes. Of course, Shlomo knew the right answer . . . it’s the color of their clothes.
He didn’t know what color our skin is, and honestly, I don’t know what to call our skin color, either. So when he gave me a silly grin (to show off his true skin color) instead of stating the “real” color, I simply said, “You’re right, your skin isn’t grey or brown or blue. It’s a different color, lighter, because that’s what your Abba (Dad) and I have.”
Then I asked him if there were people with brown skin. At first, Shlomo shook his head no. I reminded him of the little boy and girl that we’d met at the bus stop (all of them really hit it off).
I asked if the boy had brown skin. Shlomo said yes. I asked if his sister had brown skin; Shlomo said yes. I asked what color their Abba’s skin was; Shlomo said it was brown. Then I asked a thinking question: What color do you think their Ima’s (Mom’s) skin is? And he said . . . brown. I told him he’s a very smart boy.
And then I said, “Do you know why they have brown skin?”
“No . . .” [while he dance-walks].
“It’s because Hashem (G-d) made people look different from each other, so He made different people’s skin different colors. Their Abba and Ima have brown skin, so they do, too. Your Abba and Ima have lighter skin, so you do, too. What color hair do I have?”
He looked at me for a second. “Brown.”
“What color hair does Abba have?”
He thinks . . . “Brown.” (Wrong answer. But I get where he’s coming from.)
“Abba has yellowy hair, right?”
By this time we were at gan. He danced in, and happily waved me off.
I don’t know what the conversation actually gave him, or me. I don’t know why I brought it up, even. But at that moment, it felt like an important point to make . . . nobody’s legs are *really* the color of their clothes. And people have differently colored skin.
Yitzchak was surprised that I’d “taught” him about race.
Because, honestly, Shlomo doesn’t care about, or even notice, race (as I found out today). He just sees a kid his own age (and often his own gender), and thinks, “Yay! Playmate! Someone to run around with, chase, and make silly noises with! Someone to sit beside on the bus and share snacks with!”
He really doesn’t notice color. (Kristen Howerton, didn’t you say that *all* kids notice color, even preschoolers?)
But the thing is, he will. One day, the subject will come up. I don’t know how it will come up or with who, what the attitude will be, or what information he’ll receive.
So I figure, I may as well bring it up myself, and tell him what *I* think he needs to know.
And that way, when the subject *does* come up, it won’t be the first time he’s put thought into it and the first time he’s given it a name.
He’ll already *have* an opinion, and hopefully, that will protect him from the various stupid opinions (and information) that the world tends to give kids.
Yitzchak commented, “Wow, Chana, you’re so much less racist than you were when I married you.”
I said, “What’s there to be racist against black people? They’re nice. I’m only racist against Arab terrorists (which, for me, includes all Arabs until proven otherwise).”
He said, “I know, but you weren’t like that when we married.”
I said, “I guess it was the influence of living so many years in Toronto. All the blacks I’ve met here are nice.” [And in Toronto, they’re often painted as scary, uneducated, etc.]
So the bottom line is, I know kids are going to find (or figure) these things out. They’ll have questions, and if you don’t know something, you worry about it. And I want my kids, first of all, to already have an opinion on a given topic, and to know that it’s okay to talk with me, because I’ve brought that same topic up before.
P.S. – One of these days, I’m going to sit down with one of these “brown” mommies and ask her to detail her “tough love” strategy to me. Because I see those kids, and they *listen* to their parents, respect their parents, and mostly turn out to be honest, hardworking, teens with a good work ethic. And hey, *I want that too.*