My little man and I went to Barnes and Noble last night, and after he talked me into buying legos (again) instead of a book, I decided to grab another Kindergarten level workbook for our evening study time.
One of the first pages in the workbook has a blank picture of a child where the workbook owner is able is to draw himself. We layed on one of the rugs in our living room, grabbed a new box of crayons that were bought specifically for these summer study sessions, and got to work. He started coloring his face brown and he looked at me and said, "I want to be white."
What? He pointed to the white crayon. After I recovered from the shock I asked him why. "Because all of my people are white." I thought about my son's school and once again, for the upteenth time since last August, I wondered if I was making the right choice. He's super smart, thoughtful, obedient for the most part and we can converse with one another about simple biblical concepts. And honestly, HE IS JUST SUCH A SWEET, SWEET KID!
NONETHELESS, MY HEART BROKE. Sometimes I look at him and get teary-eyed because he is soooo beautiful. I used to joke with my husband when I was pregnant, telling him that if we had a little boy that I wanted him to look just like his daddy. Big pretty brown eyes that have a slight slant, super long eyelashes that will remind you of the prettiest dolls’, and even, beautiful and blemish-free brown skin. So many times I have felt like God favored me by deciding to allow me to be my little man's mom. There are so many people who try for years and years to have children, and, unfortunately, never do. I have began to understand this on a whole new level as my husband and I have tried to have our second baby for well over two years now. Imagine going a lifetime trying to become a mother, wanting to have a baby to love on and raise? My heart sincerely goes out to every woman in the universe who hasn't felt her baby's hand in hers, or little lips brush her own cheeks. It is such a gift.
My son attends a small school, and while his particular classroom was prodominantly white during his first year (pre-k), overall, the racial diversity in his school is quite fabulous. I knew that race would play a big part in his schooling eventually, due to none of the children in his class looking like him. I figured I would have to answer questions as he gets older and more mature, and in anticipation of these questions, I thought well, maybe I should take him out of this school and put him in a more "mixed" environment, or, maybe I should homeschool him, making it so much easier to avoid akward situations. At least at home I could better control who he is around on a regular basis. But who am I to say that his being around different is wrong? Naive thinking of a first time mother. We can always change schools, but racism is still racism and there are racist parents who send their children to public schools and private schools; and, just as importantly, just because he is the only one that looks like him doesn't mean that there would even be anyone racist in the general environment, realistically, it would be more of an identity issue. I could home school, and while things would be "easier" now at age five, what happens when college comes, and moving away and the shock of a diverse world is staring my son in the face? Thankfully, we've not encountered racism in our current school, and when concerns were brought to the Principal, it was nice to know that she doesn't see color and stresses that "we are all God's children," but honestly, it's easy to say that and speak in generalities when you child has never been the only one who looks like him (or her) in their classroom.
I feel very strongly about raising a son who is proud to be who he is, not only because of our black history, but because he is who he is because God made him to be that way, BUT how can I do this without changing the environments that we are deeply engrossed in? I've felt very lucky in these last five years because my son is HAPPY. And when I say "happy," I mean he has been able to be an innocent kid, which is all we've ever wanted for him. Here are a few things that I've made sure to do, in order to keep him this way...
1) We've talked to our son about God from the beginning. I didn't grow up in a churchgoing home, and, as a believer who is actively chasing a relationship with Jesus, I always wonder if some of the mistakes I (stupidly) made would have been reversed or made different if I knew myself as a daughter of the Highest King. I mean, there used to be so many things that I was afraid of before actively following Jesus that I can now view for what they are: minor things. I want my little boy to know that although he has an earthly daddy, he has a bigger, perfect daddy in Heaven who made him who he is for a reason.
2) I've always told him how special and beautiful he is. Most importantly I call him a champion, because he really is quite awesome. I want him to always remain humble, but at the same time know that it is okay to be confident and proud.
3) Until now, I've never really spoken with him about race. Sometimes, it is easy to identify others by their race, but that is something my husband and I have never done. We are all God's children, and while it may be easier to categorize someone by their looks, it is also just as easy to not do so. This may not be a realistic decision for an older child, but at age five, I do think a large part of these words my little spoke yesterday have to do with his truly noticing outer appearances of others more as he grows up.
As I work on incorportating more racial pride into my normal everyday and conversations with my son, I will share and post more regarding this topic! (I hope I have lots to say in the next few months!)
In my online search this afternoon to find parents who are facing this same issue, I came across a TED talk, and, basically, it was beautiful. Check it out!