Here is a tiny treasure that I found in the library this summer. A book of poems, All the Colors of the Race, written by Arnold Adoff. Based on his own interracial family, Adoff writes from the perspective of his biracial (black/white) daughter, which I find very interesting. At first I was a bit thrown off because I generally prefer poetry to rhyme, however, his style is considered “free verse” poetry. The more I read (and re-read) them, the more I fall in love with them! I hope you do too.
The lady said
by Arnold Adoff
The lady said: what are you going to
when you grow
all the way up?
And I said: a woman.
And she said. No. I mean what are
And I said: a girl.
And she said: No. I mean what do you call
And I said: Honey. Baby. Sweet
If she finds it hard,
I find it easy
to make it hard for her.
I have been privileged to do some diversity training with families who have adopted transracially. One activity that I have seen agencies use is called “Your World, My World”. I have seen the activity used with beads that in the shades of people.
Give each family a clear plastic cup. Assign a race to each color of bead (i.e. caucasian/white, african/african american/black, asian/yellow, middle eastern/native american/biracial/brown, etc.).
Ask parents to place a bead of the respective color in the cup for:
- Each family member living in your home
- Each sibling that you have and their partner (if applicable)
- Each grandparent
- Each immediate neighbor surrounding your home
- Your dentist
- Your pediatrician
- Your attorney
- Your spiritual leader
- Your mayor
- Your three closest friends (they visit your home, you visit their home)
- The school principal
- Your veterinarian
Look at your cup and get a clear understanding of the world your child will enter. Understand that you have the opportunity and responsibility to surround your child with a diverse array of positive role models.
At what age should you start talking to your children about race?
Birgitte Vittrup of the Children’s Research Lab at the University of Texas tried to answer that question in her 2006 study. A recent article in Newsweek focused on the results of her study — See Baby Discriminate. Kids as young as 6 months judge other based on skin color. What’s a parent to do? [btw, I hated the title of the article–it begged for a small readership].
While the study was extensive, and I didn’t agree with much of it, it showed that the majority of [white] families simply could not bring themselves to discuss race with their 5-7 year olds. “We don’t want to have these conversations with our child. We don’t want to point out skin color.”
According to Vittrup, hardly any of these white parents had ever talked to their children directly about race. They might have asserted vague principles—like “Everybody’s equal” or “God made all of us” or “Under the skin, we’re all the same”—but they’d almost never called attention to racial differences. They wanted their children to grow up “colorblind”.
The article also mentioned that in homes of people of color, race is discussed much more openly. I can attest to that in our home. I know from a very early age, we have been careful that our children don’t buy what the media sells (i.e. beauty = blond hair + blue eyes + white skin). It is very much apart of our lives on a daily basis. I personally think efforts are misguided if children are raised to be “colorblind”. Color is the very first thing people see and our society and history dictate the inability to be such.
I’m curious to hear what other families have to say, how do you talk to your children about race? at what age do you begin?