I find it highly inappropriate to hear a young child refer to their classmate as the “brown girl.” Don’t wait until your child is a teenager before you begin teaching a child about race. I know that children are innocent and that there intent is not to be offensive or perhaps it is but the point is that they come across rude. This begs the question, at what point should I begin education about race in my home? I would say start as early as possible. You don’t have to sit your child down at 4 years old and give them a lecture on the civil rights movement but I suggest teaching them behaviors of acceptance early on.
I have a friend who tutors in one of the ritziest areas of the Bay. From what she says there is not a vast amount of African Americans in this area. In her first session with this young boy his comment to her was, “I didn’t know you were going to be so dark.” The interesting thing is that my friend is very fair skinned. She is African American but she is what some urban individuals would refer to as “yellow.” She is lighter than my “brown” skin or “caramel mocha” as she likes to call it. How offensive do you think that little boy’s comment to her was despite her tenacious resilience, understanding, and patience? We must teach the children entrusted to us in a way that will allow them to navigate through the trenches of life with the tools necessary to succeed. Teaching children about different nationalities and what is acceptable in society provides them with the knowledge and understanding needed to avoid negative stereotypes. Being prejudice is not an endearing trait and focusing too much on race and racism leaves a stigma that is becoming increasingly unacceptable. It is frustrating for me to hear someone refer to a child of Indian origin as, “brown.” Frankly the lack of knowledge is not the child’s fault. I understand why she would refer to the child as “brown” because it is the color of her skin and that is what children identify. They know crayons and they know colors and when they attempt to describe how someone or something looks they may indeed refer to their color. Notwithstanding this has given me the desire to begin to educate children around me about race. I feel as an adult in their lives when this issue presents itself I should take ownership in sharing my knowledge of the world with them. I can teach them to be open-minded about race and not to reduce their speech to identify others in a derogatory way. After all, it is the least I can do.
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