Children begin to notice the difference in people’s skin color fairly early on. They innocently make comments that an adult would never get away with. Sometimes those comments about skin color are ironically spot on. This is the current understanding of skin color according to our five-year-old.
So a few days back, we replayed a video of the second presidential debate (October 2012) and watched this recording together as a family. Although our kids are still very young (probably too young to truly understand the election process), we thought it’d be a good idea to try to watch at least some portion of that debate and use it as a teachable moment.
While we were watching, we explained a bit about the election process (very briefly and simply). We also explained that Barack Obama was our former president and the candidate running against him was Mitt Romney, and a debate was an opportunity for candidates to share their views.
I paused the debate when Barack Obama was on the screen. This was our little educational moment. Not only does school size matter when it comes to good education, but it’s also the parents that play a crucial role, of course.
Then I asked Lil Pig, “What is the color of President Obama’s skin?”
My Lil Pig took a few seconds to think about it and then answered, “He’s tan.” My husband and I did our best not to chuckle.
Then I asked him, “What is the color of mommy’s skin?” As he laughed, he said, “Mommy, you’re tan, too and so am I!” I laughed as well. Although I’m Asian and society calls Asians “yellow”, I agree with Lil Pig that I’m more tan than yellow.
The conclusion from this conversation: President Obama, although half white and half black and I, although 100% Asian, have the same skin color.
A few moments later, I paused the debate when Mitt Romney was on the screen. Fortunately, I don’t need to make my children stop interrupting as so many parents need to do when I’m asking some questions (check here what to do about it).
Then I asked Lil Pig, “What is the color of Mitt Romney’s skin?”
My Lil Pig took longer to think about this question and then finally answered, “He’s peach.” My husband and I could not hold back our laughter.
I told him that he was right. Mitt Romney’s skin color looked peach. I asked the same question a few days later when our current president was on TV and Lil Pig gave me the same answer, peach! Isn’t that funny? Romney and Trump have, in my opinion, nothing in common, except perhaps the color of their skin: peach!
The conclusion from this conversation: I wonder if white skin color should instead be called peach.
I know skin color can be very sensitive and difficult but open discussions often help to break the cycle of discrimination. I hope this innocent conversation is just the beginning of ongoing meaningful conversations with our children regarding skin color, race, and ethnicity and that I don’t need to hold them back, later on in their young lives.
We like to teach our kids new insights and getting engaged in proper conversation and discussion is elementary. This time, we used an old presidential debate for our teaching purposes and there are also some interesting educational apps available today. Have you maybe asked yourself why it is that games are popular in early education? Well, the child gets rewarded when it manages to advance to the next level!
Have you ever had a discussion with your child(ren) about skin color? If so, at what age and how did it go? I’d love to hear your stories! As always, thank you for reading!
By the way, if you want to how to use gentle guidance principles with your children, take a look at this post about RIE (Resources for Infant Educarers) and the interesting philosophies and views of Janet Lansbury. RIE addresses basically the issues of respecting and trusting young children and the many ways to do so.