On raising race-conscious kids

There are some things that are just hard to put into words sometimes. This is one of those times. Story here; synopsis: a viral story about a little white boy who is getting a haircut so he can look like his “black buddy” and trick their teacher.

This story does not sit right with me for so many reasons. The more I learn the details the worse I feel. Because I know it’s supposed to be a feel-good story about two little boys who don’t see race, and isn’t the world such a beautiful place, if only we could all be so innocent…

But…….really? Are we all going to sit here and watch a story go globally viral because it “proves that a colour-blind world is possible”? It’s just too much. I see the reasons why so many people find this adorable. But, it’s also really not. The little black boy in this video is in for a rude awakening. In fact, I find it difficult to believe that he hasn’t already been introduced to or noticed that he is black. Especially given that his parents are not (he’s adopted…from Congo…as the video mentions). Not to mention that clearly the only reason this story is getting so much attention, or why it was even shared to begin with is because everyone else sees this boy’s race. So if he hasn’t noticed it yet, he’ll be sure to start asking questions now. This story is basically outing him.

But I honestly find it hard to believe this child has not noticed that his skin is darker than that of both his friend and his parents. My three year-old is aware of race. Sometimes the language fails them, but they notice skin colour just like they notice hair colour and all the other colours around them. Sometimes we talk about race. And my partner and I of course talk about it a lot. And although I might wish I didn’t need to think about these things it comes up in simple decisions like choosing which school to register at for kindergarten.

Being able to ignore race, or even celebrate a child who is “innocent” to race and racism, is a privilege that not all parents have. So for the media to take this story and just keep repeating it without any critical thought or discussion…well. It’s tiring. And I’m not here for it. Racism is a real thing, whether or not some people choose not to “see it”. So let’s teach our children what it is, and work with them to change the system so that they can live in a world where all children are able to hang on to their innocence. Anything else is not good enough.

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