Blog Post: Black and White

My son is pretty good at colors, he can do all the major ones and has some of the specific weird ones like turquoise, but I have never been able to get him to stop calling brown black or calling beige white. He often differentiates the world through colors and shapes, so it's not that surprising this morning when we pulled up to his nursery school and he saw his half Brazilian half indigenous Dane classmate waving through the window that his reaction was "Oh, my black buddy is waving to me." Another girl popped up, I didn't know her, like the other child she had pale brown skin, European features and large gauge curly hair, though hers much silkier. My son looked again and said "Oh, my two black buddies are waving at me." In the U.S. I would have felt very uncomfortable with this. I never referred to people as black or white unless it was to make a point about race. I carry a lot of baggage with the terms. In fact, my first reaction was to tell him that the kids weren't black, because they clearly were less than 50% African, they were dual heritage kids, just like him with his European-Jewish background. But he wasn't talking about their race, their cultural niche or ethnicity, he was simply describing them by their most defining feature, their darkish skin. One of the big reasons we moved here was that I didn't want the kids to be inundated with racial categorizations, learning about slavery in kindergarten and all sorts of messages, subtle or otherwise, about racial rankings. I've always made sure their toys that look human represent the genetic spectrum, micromanage his TV watching with special attention to ethnic representation and gender equality. I've made sure that he's seen shows like Nella the Princess Knight, Blaze and the Monster Machines, Zack and Quack, Rusty Rivets and others with dark skinned protagonists as well as white. We have friends come to the house from every corner of the globe and there just isn't the institutional racism here that there is in the U.S. I'm confident that when he says he's playing with the black kid, there is not underlying message, and yet, every time, I have to have a mental conversation with myself about that word does not mean the same thing to him that it does to me and that that's a good thing.