In an effort to enjoy these Spring-like temperatures in the middle of winter, I agreed to go outside and help Morgan practice roller skating. At 2-years-old it takes longer to strap up her elbow pads, knee-pads, gloves and helmet than her interest in the activity, but she looks so cute with it all on that is barely matters that she can hardly move. On the way home we spotted our neighbor, who has a daughter one week younger than mine. We wave and the bunny helmet grabs her attention and demands a visit. As she approaches, Morgan gets excited and falls as she tries to show off her new skills; or the lack thereof. She looks up at me and says “I’m okay mommy.”
Our neighbor congratulates her on her new hobby and makes small talk about her get up. She then proceeds to tell Morgan about her family’s new pets. Apparently, her three children are the caretakers of chickens. Yes, live, egg laying, farmhouse chickens. Wow, how exciting, a hint of country living, right in the middle of the city.
Since this reminds me of one of my childhood chores, I think I was a little more excited than my daughter. Plus, I was delighted at the unsolicited invitation to expose my child to something new, with children that live so close. Now, I wasn’t alone in my enthusiasm. Morgan’s jaw drop gave me a clue she too is interested in this activity.
She then invites Morgan to join them any day around noon to help gather up the fresh eggs and this is when it gets interesting. So, my daughter says “but….but” and it is clear that she is searching for the right words then one last “but,” before a brief two second pause. “You’re not brown like me,” she says. So in the midst of such a pleasant day and a pleasant, long overdue conversation, I find myself trying to pick my face up off the concrete.
My neighbor, who is also a teacher, doesn’t hesitate in her response. “You’re right, I am not brown like you, but we are all the same on the inside,” she says with a mild grin. Morgan looks up, right into her eyes, tilts her head to the side and pauses yet again. Then she says, “well, you’re hair is brown.” As if to say, I guess that will have to do for any physical similarity right now. I am grateful for my neighbors’ patience and understanding. She simply agreed and said “yes, my hair is brown.” Now I’d like to state for the record I have never told my daughter or anyone for that matter that they can only play with their own kind. And as some would say, some of my best friends are white. So why on earth, where on earth did this come from?
My daughter is trying hard to figure out this whole race thing and where she fits. From complexions to different hair textures, she is trying her best to make sense of it all. For me this is scary and obviously delicate. Instilling African-American pride can be taken out of context in certain situations. After all, I am the one that encourages her to look for dolls that are brown like her or reminds her that her older cousin that she wants to emulate is brown like her. I’m the one who taught her that term. As a chocolate mother, I don’t apologize for reinforcing self-love and positive imagery at such a young age. But as a human being, I look forward to an opportunity to also teach the importance of judging people not by the color of their skin, but by the content of their character.