What I Want My Multicultural Kids to Know About Skin Color

multicultural-kids

We were gathered around the family table when my middle child nonchalantly said, “I’m more like daddy?” I wondered what he meant so I asked curiously, “In what way are you more like daddy?” He replied by showing me the color of his skin and putting it against mind then he said, “I’m white like daddy.”

I thought about his comment and for the first time it hit me, they are starting to process and observe the world around them. Maybe he had been doing it before but this was the first time he had verbalized it. All of this gathering of information and ideas were starting to take root as he tried to figure out his own personal identity.

Not too long ago the colorblind movement was some thing well meaning parents and teachers practiced and some still do. We thought if we didn’t draw attention to color, our kids wouldn’t notice it or begin to create division in their mind. As a mother who is raising three boys in a multiracial home I’ll be the first to tell you they do notice color. They do notice differences. The only difference is that many times when they are little they don’t attach the same stereotypes, generalizations and prejudices to those differences as adults do, but they do notice. In their observations, they are trying to understand the meaning of the difference and that’s where we come in to guide them.

Just like my 3 year old was trying to figure out what color he most identifies with, other children also notice color.  My son wasn’t saying he is white like his daddy because he thinks it’s more superior he was just expressing a fact, he is indeed fair skinned like his daddy. When conversations like this come up we have the opportunity to guide and ask questions, “What else do you notice about daddy? Why do you think mommy’s skin color is different than yours?” Sometimes we think it’s not important to talk about race because they are too little and we don’t want to encourage our children to start creating division, but we need to because developmentally at this age there little minds are forming their first conclusions about race.

It’s okay to notice skin color. What’s not okay is to pretend color doesn’t exist. It’s the way you acknowledge color, and how you react, that makes you embrace race, hide from it, or run from it.” ~via Ashley Texler

Research shows that it’s impossible to be colorblind. Kids as early as the age of 3 notice it and our brains are wired to notice it. So it’s okay when your child asks about the black lady or the yellow man or the pink woman. Don’t hush them but instead embrace those questions and teach them how to ask those questions in a respectful way. Use them as opportunities to do what many of you are already doing–there is much more important things to focus on. Celebrate the difference, embrace the colors and talk about them so they can learn how to defend others and/or themselves when they come upon the cruel world of inequality and racism. Model it and ensure racial integration with your own circle of friends.

We might imagine we’re creating color-blind environments for children, but differences in skin color or hair or weight are like differences in gender—they’re plainly visible. Race itself has no ethnic meaning per se—but children’s brains are noticing skin-color differences and trying to understand their meaning.” via Newsweek (great article by the way for further reading)

As a Latina woman growing up in Texas where there is a lot of racial tension between the Hispanics and n0n-Hispanics and experiencing it first hand, I highly encourage you to openly talk to children about color. God loves variety and I can’t imagine living in world without color and diversity.  I truly believe this and I share this from my heart with my kids.

What I Want My Multicultural Kids to Know About Skin Color

I want my kids to know that when I look in the mirror, I do indeed, see brown skin.
I love my brown skin. I haven’t always loved it because of the stereotypes that came with it, but I’ve risen above the ignorance and I’ve learned to love my skin.
I am proud of my Mexican heritage and I hope they grow up loving and celebrating the diversity they were gifted with, being born into our family. I hope they learn to love all of the parts of who they are.
I want them to know the color of our skin never tells the whole story of a person.
My skin color and culture does not define me even though it’s a deep part of me.
I want them to know we do not associate worth or equate status to some one based on their color.  I want them to know you don’t look down on somebody because they are pink or white or look up to someone just because they are yellow or brown.

Though we have good intentions when we hush our kids when they notice color, what we are really doing is a disservice to our society and generation.

Shushing children when they make an improper remark is an instinctive reflex, but often the wrong move. Prone to categorization, children’s brains can’t help but attempt to generalize rules from the examples they see. It’s embarrassing when a child blurts out, “Only brown people can have breakfast at school,” or “You can’t play basketball; you’re white, so you have to play baseball.” But shushing them only sends the message that this topic is unspeakable, which makes race more loaded, and more intimidating.”

4 Things You Can do To Start Talking About Color

  1. Have open dialogue. Don’t shame them for their incorrect perceptions instead guide them and model positive conversations about this topic. Ask them how can we celebrate the differences in our school, community, world?
  2. Discuss the distinctions but make sure you share the message that it doesn’t equate status, success or intellect.
  3. Read books with kids from other races in them. But make sure you don’t always read books about poor Hispanics or rich Asians so they don’t equate poverty with Latinos.
  4. Go to festivals or establishments that celebrate different cultures. I know many cities will have Irish festivals, Cuban music festivals, Greek festivals, Black History month readings… Maybe even a small ethnic foods restaurant or store where you can interview the owner.

 

Hispanic Heritage Month Series 2016 | Multicultural Kid Blogs We are so excited for our FIFTH annual Hispanic Heritage Month series and giveaway! Through the month (September 15 – October 15), you’ll find great resources to share Hispanic Heritage with kids, plus you can enter to win in our great giveaway and link up your own posts on Hispanic Heritage!

September 14
Hanna Cheda on Multicultural Kid Blogs: How to Pass on Hispanic Heritage as an Expat

September 15
Spanish Mama: Los Pollitos Dicen Printable Puppets

September 16
Hispanic Mama: Children’s Shows that Kids in Latin America Grew Up With

September 19
Spanish Playground: Authentic Hispanic Heritage Month Games Everyone Can Play

September 20
Tiny Tapping Toes: Exploring Instruments for Hispanic Heritage Month

September 21
Kid World Citizen on Multicultural Kid Blogs: 10 Fascinating Facts about Peru!

September 22
Spanish Mama: Printable Spanish-Speaking Countries and Capitals Game Cards

September 23
All Done Monkey: The Aztec – Top Books for Kids

September 26
Crafty Moms Share: A Look at Mexican Art

September 27
Discovering the World Through My Son’s Eyes: Children’s Books about Puerto Rico

September 28
La Clase de Sra. DuFault: Childhood Games – La Payaya and Corre el Anillo

September 30
Mama Tortuga: Sounds and Dances of Hispanic America

October 3
Hispanic Mama on Multicultural Kid Blogs: 6 Magical Places to Visit with Kids in Ecuador

October 4
La Clase de Sra. DuFault: La mes de la Herencia Hispana en la escuela

October 6
Pura Vida Moms: Best Spanish Pop Ballads

October 7
Spanglish House: Celebrating Heritage with Traditional Remedies
Embracing Diversity: 3 Happiness Lessons Our Kids Can Learn from Dominican Culture

October 10
Mundo Lanugo: The Importance of Maintaining Cultural Identity in Children

October 11
Kid World Citizen

October 12
MommyMaestra

October 13
inspired by familia

October 14
El Mundo de Pepita on Multicultural Kid Blogs

Don’t miss all of the great posts from previous years as well: 2012, 2013, 2014, 2015

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4 Responses to “What I Want My Multicultural Kids to Know About Skin Color”

  1. October 16, 2016 at 4:59 am #

    As mixed Chinese, this article really speaks to me. Excellent points. We are, indeed, more than skin colour – and a variety of colour is a beautiful thing.
    S.L.O.A.H. recently posted…Best Free Resources for HomeschoolersMy Profile

    • Inspired by Family Mag
      October 17, 2016 at 8:17 am #

      SLOAH, Thanks for stopping by and sharing your kind words.

  2. October 16, 2016 at 8:53 am #

    This is great advice. I think a big problem in many countries is “sameness.” If a child’s skin color is different from a friend’s skin color, they may wish to match. Especially if there aren’t many other children with a similar skin color! I am reminded of a friend whose child went to school in the Caribbean and even though she had many friends she felt insecure about being the only light skinned child in her class. Your tips are wonderful to help embrace differences. Your takehome point to surround children with various cultural differences is perfect.

    • Inspired by Family Mag
      October 17, 2016 at 8:20 am #

      Lisa, Yes, such a great point you brought up of sameness–when everyone else is the same but you. Thanks for stopping by and sharing! ~mari

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