January 20, 2009

So...what do I tell him?

My son is 7.  I am trying to get him interested in the history going on today - the changing of the Presidents.  Here is my problem.  He doesn't see a difference between people that are brown or white (he doesn't understand why others call them "black" people when they are, in fact, shades of brown.  I say, "yay for your innocence" so we go with brown)...  Other than the fact that Mr. Obama is going to become "President Obama" (which is a big deal for any person to become President regardless of color) - I'm not sure what to tell him.  I am pointing out that Mr. Obama is the FIRST brown person elected.  So he gets that and knows that - but he wonders, why is it a big deal just because he's brown?  Knowing our history, I know it is a big deal that a brown man was able to get elected president - simply because he was brown.  For a long time, I worried that no matter what his character, a brown person wouldn't get elected simply because he's brown.  We have apparently passed that hurdle in our history.  But to explain WHY it is a big deal that a brown person is becoming President means I have to explain what happened to brown people in the past and how white people viewed/treated them.  Which is fine -it is our history and one that MUST be explained if we want to make sure it isn't repeated.  But is 7 too young to be taught that some people think they are better than others simply because their skin is a different color?  He has NO CONCEPT of treating someone differently because of skin color.  None.  I think that is a beautiful innocent thing (and of course, the way it SHOULD BE - we SHOULD NOT treat other people better or worse because of the color of their skin)...do I want to ruin that in him?  Do I want to introduce that concept - that while we do not live that way, that there are others that do?  He has classmates that are African-American, Middle Eastern, white, Asian - everything.  And no idea of the stereotypes that live among the adults of the world.  If we stopped teaching those things to our kids, would they stop being perpetuated?  In their classroom (and that of ToddlerT) the kids are just kids.  Sure they are nicer to the kids they LIKE better, but those likes and dislikes, currently are based on how those kids BEHAVE and not based on the color of their skin.

1 comment:

Charlie on the PA Turnpike said...

I understand your plight.

My 13 year old son can grasp the racial history of our nation, for he has studied it over the last few years. But in his karate class, in his Boy Scout Troop/Cub Scout Pack, and on his cyber school field trips, there are kids of all colors. So he isn't quite sure why adults are still making a big deal over racism; to him, it's been about real as the threat of King George to the Colonies: legitimate, but in the distant past.

My 6 year old son was excited to see the crowds and the parades.

You are correct; 7 is far too young to explain such intricacies. The time will come down the line, certainly not before he asks why people are different colors (and probably a good time afterwards).

As for black/brown: I know a man who can trace his lineage to Africa, who did in fact vote for President Obama, who wonders aloud why everyone calls Mr. Obama African American; so it just goes to show...