If we do not acknowledge that children form racial bias at an early age we will miss a critical time in their lives when we can address the problem when it begins to form.
One issue we have in society is that people do not want to acknowledge that anything can ever be wrong with children, even their own behavior. We want to believe that there is something pure in this world and that children are innocent, blissfully ignorant, and incorruptible.
It is also common knowledge that children are sponges. If children are sponges and they all grow up in a broken world, with broken people even in broken homes, then wouldn’t it make sense to say that they absorb that broken-ness in a concentrated manner?
Children watch adults and mimic what they do, what they say and what they think and even though children may not feel the same way on the inside, they eventually do absorb those things and go from being mirrors, to being pools with deep issues beneath the reflection.
It frustrates me how much adults insist on being purposely blind to what children absorb and some adults will act and speak inappropriately in the presence of children. I’m not simply talking about doing things that are inappropriate for their age, like letting children watch South Park or cursing like a sailor in front of them, I am talking about completely avoiding any discussions or exposure the racial diversity.
I know that currently, as an African American childhood educator that I have a unique opportunity to have a significant impact on children before they solidify some toxic ideas about who Black people are. Some people will insist that positive images and actions are futile and that those thoughts inevitably form. Think of all the kind, sweet Black “mammies” who took care of White children, nursed them, loved on them, cared for them more than their own parents, and still, the child grew to hate them because society told them too.
The difference is however, I am far from a mammy. I am not only a positive image, but a successful one. I am a highly educated woman, and it also shows in the vocabulary and lessons I expose the children to. The personal relationships outweigh images shown on television. Children and people in general, even those in adult education, remember their teachers. Teachers spend a significant amount of time with kids and for childcare, we are like second parents to them.
I am not going to say that there is no purpose in educating adults or teens, but what I am saying is that as a society we need to not only stop avoiding race but also we need to address it early and there are ways of doing that without explicitly pointing it. I am aware that schools and parents in general are not comfortable with race being brought up to their children, even though the kids are already recognizing, pointing out and teasing one another for their differences.
Prejudice forms around the age of five and before that children already recognize feature differences. They see that their skin and eyes and hair etc. are different and simply ask why? Why do we look different? I watch them touch one another, ask questions and analyze these differences trying to understand.
When we don’t answer these questions and avoid it altogether we leave it open for the world to tell them and those answers are ugly lies.
I have had some bad experiences where I witnessed multicultural education being done in a very inappropriate manner. Of course, their are opinions across the board about how it should be done, but one concern is that we have people who are 50+ who may be non POC now required to teach diversity in their curricula and these are people coming from a segregation era.
These people are coming from a segregation and integration era that was ugly and is not talked about with the children. There are children who grow up thinking that Barack Obama was always a possibility and that we were always united. That sounds all nice and good, but Trump is an ugly reminder of the lie that we try to hide. Eventually the blood under the carpet will seep through the white lies and the white sheets and we keep saying it’s a little white lie, but there is no such thing, it is a farce, one that has cost the United States so much.
We need to be honest with ourselves.
One of the activities I do in my class is I order multicultural paper with varying shades of different skin tone complexions. I free hand cut out faces, different eyes, different noses, different lips and hair. The kids get to pick from various features and glue them together to make a human face.
Sometimes the children want purple skin, or seven eyes or the lips to be on the neck. In early childhood education we are supposed to let them be free in their art. It is hard for me because I am a perfectionist and I try my best to resist from telling them how to do it strictly. Their Picasso pieces are beautiful and random but they are only random to me. Their people make sense to them and they are beautiful just the way they are, even though they look alien to my adult mind.
The kids White, Black or otherwise when given several options have picked dark browns, light browns and other browns. I presented various browns as an option. That makes a difference. Too often diversity means white, off white, a little bit white, a paler white, tan white and one brown. That’s not diversity. That’s a token.
Some people might get uncomfortable that I present more brown tones than light tones but there is a reason for that. We don’t live in a world that exposes children to an equal amount of brown as they do pale. That is a problem.
Black girls are going to see pretty White girls in the dolls they play with, the princesses they desire to be, the movies, the magazines etc. My class might be the only place that they ever even get to see their skin color represented at all. I have decorated my class with fantasy characters with brown skin. I have brown skinned mermaids, fairies, princesses, and superheroes.
I have received a lot of good feedback for how diverse and multicultural my room is. I have globes of people holding hands in colored robes and different outfits. Do I have an agenda? Hell yes I do! My agenda is to break the cycle and introduce the normality that yes the world is not default White, but rather the world is of color, and brown is plenty prevalent, we just don’t see it properly or equally represented.
I think of all types of ethnic television that I watched. The telenovelas are White, the Bollywood films are White, the Korean dramas are White, the Black films are colorist too, only highlighting lighter skinned women. What I mean by these things being White without actual White people is that they use actors that are the closest to being as ethnically appearing to White people as possible.
If you don’t believe me, flip through the channels for an hour and count how many dark skinned, and I don’t mean people my complexion who are tan, I mean dark chocolate brown people are on television. Count how many are in Black relationships. Too often Black characters automatically get paired in interracial relationships and we almost never see dark brown with dark brown relationships. I am sick of seeing darker skinned people with lighter skinned people or White people all the time. Look, love is love and I am not against interracial relationships but I am against the absence of Black ones and the promotion of interracial ones as a “level up” to make the Black character “elevated” or “relevant” because they were “fortunate” enough to get a White partner and have “beautiful mixed babies” and hopefully “bleach” the Black out of their family for future generations.
It is sad to say but there are people I know who will not understand my perspective at all, who do not see this, do not acknowledge it and do not see White promotion as a problem. There are non-White people who don’t see it as a problem. I will admit that as a child, I did not see it as a problem. In fact I used to celebrate it.
I used to have major crushes on White boys, I wouldn’t say exclusively, but I saw them as different and different intrigued me. They stood out from the rest because I went to a Black school growing up, and there was only two White boys in our entire school who were brothers. Well out of all the Black boys guess who I had a crush on? The different one. Plus he was bad and I had a thing for bad boys too. I was kinda bad then too but I hid it well.
I am attracted to people who stand out and look different whether they be different races or alternative. I have nothing against what features Black men have, it’s just, since I am already Black and I am around Black people often, I am not deeply intrigued by what is pretty much default. I am used to those features, it’s normal and regular for me so I don’t usually see a Black guy and I am like Woah! So different!
I like to say that in general I don’t even find many men that attractive in the first place. Me not being an exclusively heterosexual woman, (I identify as bisexual) my attraction to men is more emotional than physical. I like “Peacocks” or pretty men. I like men who show off and really care about their appearance like “Metrosexual” Men. I’m not that attracted to macho lumberjack hairy bear types.
That being said I have actually gravitated to Latino men in my adolescence. I very much liked the multicultural varied look of the Latino men that I encountered. I don’t go around saying that I have a racial preference or type because I know that becomes a generalization. When I picture a hot Latino man or a hot White man or a hot Black man or a hot Asian man, there is a specific type I see as my first image.
That being said, I believe it is features that we are attracted to, not races. If someone says that they are attracted to Black girls exclusively and they desire a “chocolate Nubian queen” I don’t fit that description: I am Black but I am caramel colored. If someone is attracted to dark skin, I wouldn’t be that type of Black girl.
Anyway I feel that this blog has gone on long enough. I will make more posts about racial attractions and features and how I feel about preferences in a later post.
Enjoy my thoughts and ponder them.