Saturday, August 2, 2008

Target Mishap #2

For those of you who check in on this blog regularly, don't be alarmed. Lexi did not poop all over a Target cart again. (For those of you not so regular readers who would like insight on that story...feel free to scan the archives. It's a peach. A poopy one...but a peach nonetheless.)

No. This one is of a serious matter. It happened Monday. It's been bothering me all week.

My sister and I met at the Spectrum to go to APPLE. Side note - I went to buy an Iphone but after horrible discrimination decided I would not shop at that store nor would I buy an Iphone. So...we scurried on to Target.

We were having a nice leisurely stroll when we decided to go through the Toy aisle. I love this activity. We do it every once in a while and it usually involves me sipping a WCM from the Starbux at Target while my kids play around with all the toys. The only rule is "we look, we don't buy." So we were off to look!

We headed down the baby doll aisle when Haley said something that stopped me dead in my tracks. "I don't like that black baby." The world stopped for just a moment. I turn around calmly and say, "What did you say?" Surely, I did not hear her right. But once again, she points directly at that little black baby doll and says, "I don't like the black's mean." My head is spinning. What has happened? Has she had a run in that I am unaware of? Did she see something on t.v.? Who has said something to my child that would make her say something like that? I calmly got down at her level and asked her why she thought that baby was mean and she said, "I don't know...she just is." Though inside I was speechless, I'm sure my mouth said something while my mind was frantically searching for a way to change her thoughts.

You see, up until this point, I have been surprised that she hasn't even noticed colors. She's never asked why a person looks different than her. She plays without discrimination. A kid is a kid. A person is a person. Unlike the rest of the world, I thought my child was color blind. And quite honestly, I have taken great pride in that.

Back story: My formative childhood years were spent in Tennessee and Kentucky. I remember in 4th grade having an all-school assembly to discuss the fact that two black children would be joining our school the following week and we were to be kind to them. I never understood that assembly. Why wouldn't I be kind to them? The little girl was actually in my 4th grade class. I befriended her the first day. She was gone by the end of the next week. I guess not everyone was so nice.

That day opened my eyes to a world that harbors racism, fear, and hate. I have tried to fight that since I was a kid. And though the world has changed since I was a kid, it is still there. Still prevalent. Still real.

After this conversation happened...I thought of 2 things.
1. A documentary I saw once from the 1940's - showing white & black kids choosing what color doll they would like to play with. In 2005, the same question was asked in a film called "A Girl Like Me" (totally worth a watch) and these were the results:

Davis asked 4 and 5-year-old kids at a Harlem school the same question in 2005. She found the children’s answers were not that different.

In Davis’ test, 15 of the 21 children said that the white doll was good and pretty, and that the black doll bad.

Clark concluded that “prejudice, discrimination and segregation” caused black children to develop a sense of inferiority and self-hatred.


2. I thought of my friend Kristen H. who is a white mother with an adorable black son named Jafta and a white daughter named India. She talked once about how it is important to have multi-ethnic toys and books. She asked the question "what kind of shows do you watch with your kids?" "Are the characters diverse?" And these thoughts started running through my head.

I don't think my daughter is a racist. She loves black, brown, white, yellow, and every color in between of children that are ALIVE and REAL. But it still saddens me that she would look at a doll and make such a comment. So, I thought maybe we should work to be more diverse. I want her to look at different colors and see the beauty in them.

So I began Project Diversify yesterday. I bought Quincy one of the boys from Little Einsteins. I gave it to Lexi. He's fitting in perfectly. Haley plays with him all the time. Never has a word been said about his color. Should I bring it up? Do I not talk about it? I don't know.

Maybe the Target comment was a fluke. But it was enough to open my eyes. Reminding me to always be prepared to teach my children that "red, yellow, brown, black, and white...we are all precious in His sight."


johnsonandjohnson said...

It was a really good lesson for me too---to be aware of Emily's toys, books, etc...I know that was really hard for you to hear from Haley, but I also know that you have never created that kind of discrimination--Haley befriended all kinds of kids in Florida and the vast majority were African American! She certainly didn't think they were "mean." Remember when she kept asking the girl in the airport if they could be friends?

Quincy seems to be fitting in the family great---I love the way he plays the trumpet!

You are doing a great job! Thanks for sharing your story to remind us moms to encourage mulit-ethnic toys, experiences, etc...

Brazenlilly said...

I remember Kristen's post, too, and this post is another reminder that it is the proactive things we DO that will help our children, and not just the behaviors we forbid and avoid.

Lyonslove said...

Not everyone is blessed to have a black cousin. I asked Kipp just the other day when Tanner might wonder why Jafta looks different. Tanner really is so lucky to have Jafta in his family. I have been going to a kids gym with Tanner and I love it because there are so many people of different races and religions. With Tanner I want it to be a non issue because he has always been around people who don't look just like him. That is one reason that I want him to come to my school, I want him to know that not everyone is blond and has blue eyes.

Kristen said...

It happens, despite our best efforts! I can't tell you how many friends have told me stories like this. Check out this blog post - it might make you feel better:

I think the moral of the story is we need to do a playdate. :)

edie said...

Thanks for posting this experience, Kristi. I so appreciate your honesty and it's a good lesson for me to be more intentional with my own daughter.

Pot Liquor said...

I appreciate your candor. I live in a neighborhood that is predominantly white. Unfortunately, my daughter has been the recipient of some
not-so-culturally sensitive comments from little white children. I try not to take it personally, because I realize (after looking around the neighborhood) that this is probably the first time many of the kids in the neighborhood have had such close interaction with someone so different.

I believe that race was the furthest thing from your daughter's mind when she made that comment, because children are still very, very innocent at that age. I also believe that your response was very appropriate.

As for your question, further discussion about the matter is unnecessary. Children learn best by seeing, experiencing, and by doing. It also helps for them to see mommy and daddy interact with people who are diverse as well.

The best thing that we can all do with our children is expose them to diversity at early ages. That will foster cultural sensitivity.