Wednesday, August 18, 2010
Ow. Lady Bite Me.
My eldest child has beautiful brown skin that has deep tones of chocolate and hints of warm cinnamon. She is now at the stage where she is noticing skin color and refers to her own skin as "chocolate." It is something she is fiercely proud of, and likes to announce it to strangers and passers-by, much in the same way that a child would announce that she was wearing new shoes.
Today at the store, my daughter did this very thing, telling a woman who had stopped to say hi, "I chocolate." Usually people say, "Yes! So pretty!" or something like that. But today, the woman said, "Oh, that's OK, honey. It is still a pretty color." And she points to her own very tanned, almost paprika-hued skin and said, "Look, I'm white." My daughter looked very quizzically at her because, so far, in her world, white is a crayon in a box and it looks nothing like this woman's skin. Then, the woman reached out to my daughter with an extended index finger and scratched a little on her arm as she walked away. "Ow. Lady bite me," she said.
I still don't know what to make of the whole scenario and so I'm just putting it out there to share. My daughter said nothing to indicate that she was apologizing for the color of her skin. She was using a happy voice and had an open, engaged expression. I was most bothered by her telling my daughter, "Oh, it's OK, honey. It is still a pretty color" as if my daughter was announcing her skin color wasn't good or pretty or nice. She was just announcing her shade of brown and how the woman chose to respond is...well...interesting. Additionally, if you're trying to talk skin tone with a two year old, it is better to use descriptors that more accurately describe colors. Chocolate, vanilla, peach, french toast, butterscotch, caramel. We are all beautifully and wonderfully made.
PS Check out The Colors of Us by Karen Katz. It celebrates some of the delicious colors we see!