What color are you?
We can often find ourselves in the trap of a social construct, called race. So many of us have been taught to define ourselves within the limits of our culture when we are looking for vocabulary to describe someone’s skin we pull from the list of colors. I’m black, you’re white, she’s brown.
We don’t even realize we are conforming to these notions, because it is embedded into our everyday experiences. I have been so careful not to describe people in the simplicity of a categorized color around my children. I haven’t wanted to give limits and boundaries about what or whom a person is simply based on race. We have tried to model the beauty of God’s creation of melanin and skin tone in our home, amidst our young children and their growing minds. You only need to glance at our family portrait to see that we are a beautiful blend of browns!
My brown skin girl
I was stopped in my tracks the other day by something that happened. My preschool-aged daughter came into our bedroom and asked me something that nearly broke my mamas heart.
“Mommy, can you dye your skin?”
I was first tempted to believe I had failed somehow along the way. Did I do something wrong? Had I let the language of categorization and race sneak into our home? Perhaps I had? After all, it permeates our culture and education. It can be difficult to wash some of those notions of race from our mindsets.
Where is my color in the crayon box?
What had made her think of that? Sweet girl said she wanted skin more like her older sister — which seemed like a normal little sister notion. She also was able to articulate that her favorite princesses and character hair and skin colors were all the “pretty” colors, like yellow and pink. Brown and black weren’t the pretty colors in the crayon box. That made me think: what’s the message that we have been sending subconsciously to our kids? Even though I’ve been very conscious of celebrating each of our children the way God created them, I wanted to explore more ways to rejoice over the differences in our hues of brown skin.
I also realized that it truly is seeped into the landscape of our culture. It’s subtly portrayed in children’s shows, storybooks, and in the illustrations of our curriculum. It takes a careful eye and a keen ear to tune in and rewrite the language and perception of people that we give our children.
I decided to pull out some of my resources instead of spending any more time wondering how this brown-skinned mama could have prevented this. Calling on a few friends who also have children with beautiful brown skin, I asked for their best resources. I also have an Amazon wish list of multicultural learning and play resources for home education, so you know I executed that shopping cart purchase! Within days (thanks to Amazon Prime) we had beautiful children’s books about skin color, multi-ethnic washable markers and a lesson plan for exploring the beauty of skin tone!
I was astounded by the opportunity and conversations that ensued from my children. What color would you call your skin? Can I draw your hand? Which marker looks most like you? Mommy, is this a good skin color? A moment that began as a question of identity became a celebration!
I’m curious. How have you explored culture and skin tone with your children? I’d love to hear of any great resources you have found to assist along this journey.