Black and White: What our Young Children See

12 Sep

Kira Davis Doll Test, Harlem Day Care Center

As a mother to two girls there are conversations I am already preparing myself to have with them. The boys conversation, my body is changing conversation, the puberty conversation and of course the sex conversation.  Honestly, in some way my husband and I already touch on these topics, at least the way a 3-year-old and 5-year-old can understand. However, this weekend I was not prepared to have the “race” conversation with my 3-year-old. I never told my daughter she was black or the politically correct term “African-American.”   To my husband and me she is a child of God first and black second.  I am not naive to the fact we live in a world that would magnify her skin color as oppose to her character. However, I also do not want to magnify it either.

I am a thirty-something, African-American, West-Indian descent woman.  Growing up I am all too familiar with discrimination.  Not only am I black, but my parents were “foreigners”.  I remember as a child the first time I felt different in elementary school when my black parents with an accent showed up at my school “speaking different.” It made me uncomfortable and ashamed.  I remember being treated differently in a fast food restaurant in Georgia during the 80’s because of my skin color.  I remember being called the “N” word by my young friend who told me quote, “My mama said I can’t play with you because you’re a Nigger.” I remember in college at my job, a white colleague referring to another African-American woman as a “colored girl.”  Although all those were unpleasant I never let them define me or create a “hatred” for white people.  Never.  I never lived my life thinking white people “owed” me anything.  I think a lot of that came from my upbringing.  My parents always taught me people will talk but it doesn’t matter, just make sure you are not giving them a reason to talk.  My parents constantly reiterated to me, the value of having a good name.

I endeavor to teach my children the same thing.  Matter of fact, when they draw or color pictures of themselves I never “forced” them to use a brown or black crayon.  My thoughts are use the purple or green one, it really doesn’t matter because who you is not defined by your skin color.   Right now, like most girls her age, My 3-year-old is enchanted by the whole Princess phenomena.  She has coloring books, story books, cd’s and dolls. However, some of those images in those books most often than not, do not look like her, specifically her skin color.  I tried tirelessly to find African-American Barbie’s, dolls and other figures.  It is tough but I was able to locate a few, in fact, she really just has one baby doll that is white.

I thought I could hold out on having the race conversation… parents of African-American children understand what I am talking about, especially if you have a daughter.  For most young black girls they want to know why their hair can’t be styled like their young white counterparts.  As a young child myself I remember sitting in elementary school behind this cute blond, white girl named Jennifer (I believe that was a rather popular name in the 80’s). I would marvel at how her long flowing hair was so soft and long.  I remember sometimes she would let me “style” it.  This weekend that was not the talk my husband and I would need to have with our child.  No, although I wish it was that easy.  While out with Nana, my three year was having a “conversation” in the car that caught Nana’s ears. Apparently, my precious child said she “did not like black people and princesses could only be white!” Screeeeech! Stop the presses. When Nana asked her what she said. She repeated it.  Nana began to share with my three old that God loves everyone and that Nana was black and does that mean she does not like her? My 3-year-old said she liked her but not other black people and told Nana she wanted to go home. Now, all of this is so strange. When this story was retold to my husband and I, we were both surprised and concerned about who was telling our daughter such lies.  Of course, every time we asked her who was the culprit she named a different person. How do you handle this? My husband is very good at relating things to the children.  He began to share with both girls how much God loves everyone and created us all in different skin shades. If God is love and we are His children we should love all  His children, not doing so means we are not obeying God and that is being disobedient. (Side note: Praise the Lord for a husband that prays!)  She received the message. Matter of fact, later my 3-year-old shared with me how much she loved black people.

My daughter goes to a predominantly all white Christian school.  By no means I am I blaming the school. I am still not sure where she heard that philosophy, but it gave me a gently reminder as a parent.  It is never too early to start talking to your children about who they are and where they came from.  After this incident, I went immediately to K-Mart and purchased two Princess Tiana Barbie dolls. I want my children as African-American children to identify that royalty is not just for white people but right now across the globe there is a young girl who looks just like them called to rule her village or country. I plan on making it a point to start sharing with them about great people like Dr. Martin Luther King (we take part in a MLK service every year), Rosa Parks, Harriet Tubman, Dr. Ben Carson and the list goes on. I want my children to have a great spiritually heritage but also a heritage of knowing their past too. 

While protecting them from the bias in the world may not always be preventable, I can prepare them to face it by being strong in who they are and know they are very special to God no matter what their skin color.  I can teach them your skin color is not what defines you it is part of your God-given beauty.   The real you is what is inside and it takes special people to take the time to discover that part!

Has this ever happened to you, if so how did you handle it? I would love to hear from you.

In HIS Super Grace (I sure needed it this weekend)



8 Responses to “Black and White: What our Young Children See”

  1. Able 2 See September 12, 2011 at 6:51 pm #

    I know all too well what you are going through. My daughter has also told me she doesn’t like one race or the other. I did the same thing “Nana” did and ran through a long list of people she loves that fits the group she decided she didn’t like for the day. She now knows I expect her to say she loves everyone and that’s the end of it. The hair thing is a whole other thing entirely. She told me her hair is “different”. She was quoting someone, but like you couldn’t get a clear answer of who the individual was. I’m working hard to let her know she is who she is and we can’t change it so we need to love it. Thanks for being honest and open because this topic isn’t going away anytime soon.

    • supermomdel September 22, 2011 at 4:24 pm #

      Crystal, it can be a hard subject but I believe as we continue to pour God’s word into our children that will be more dominant than the world and its views around them. Yes, we have told our children black is beautiful but so is being asian, hispanic, latino, white, tall, short, etc, etc, etc….simply because everything God creates is beautiful.

  2. Jordan Addison September 21, 2011 at 7:34 pm #


    So glad to see your post about this! My parents raised my brother and I very much in the same way that you and your husband are raising your daughters. When I colored, everyone was a different color (not peach or brown) and we were taught that when describing someone their skin color does NOT define who they are. Continue to teach your daughters that being a black woman is BEAUTIFUL and that they are princesses growing to become queens. 🙂

    • supermomdel September 22, 2011 at 4:20 pm #

      Jordan, Thank you for the comment. I am so looking forward to meeting you through the Lexington medical center “Every Woman” blog.
      Your parents must be very proud. My husband and I through God’s grace are raising men and young women who will impact their world. I know bias may be very real I just don’t want that to every be a first thought to why or why not something may have happened.

  3. thepw76 October 25, 2011 at 8:55 pm #

    We are a white family, and we are in the middle of adopting a black child..or should I say brown…cause that’s what he tells me! lol….I call him my “Little Hershey Kiss”…some have been a little thrown off by my name for him but here in our house we see nothing wrong with it., and his little face lights up when I address him as such! (Well, I have to call him something other then his first name which is David, that’s also my husbands name AND the name of my second son, and we couldn’t do his middle name cause it’s the first name of my oldest son!) Kinda confusing..anyways I love..LOVE him..and I know this subject will come about soon. I’m praying for wisdom in this area.

    PS..on a trip to an orphanage in Africa I was taking black barbie dolls…we could hardly find ANY!!! It was sad!

    • supermomdel October 25, 2011 at 9:54 pm #

      what an amazing story and journey. I have a friend who is also white who adopted a black boy and biracial little girl. I was so honored when she asked the questioon about how to do hair. Yes, it is a topic that will come up and I firmly beleive no matter what your race you should know your culture’s history… that’s really what black and white is a culture not a definition of who we are.. Christ defines us! Please keep in touch and let me know how the trip to africa goes… that’s on my bucket list:)

      • thepastorswife October 25, 2011 at 11:15 pm #

        I’ve already been! lol…check me out on facebook, I have tons of pics!

      • supermomdel October 26, 2011 at 4:38 pm #

        Yep, I just checked out some of the pictures. lol. Looks like you had a great time in ministry.

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