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She placed our plates in front of us remembering which order belonged to each party at the table then she smiled as she made eye contact with the little girl between us. She adjusted her apron and ran her finger along the edge of the scarf tied around her head holding back a day’s worth of loose ends then she asked if we needed anything else before turning on her heels to gather our request.

“She’s pretty, Daddy.” A whispered compliment from the toddler by my side that I encouraged her to repeat once the waitress returned. An offer she obliged as soon as the young lady reappeared with a pitcher covered in condensation to refill our glasses. “You’re pretty,” my little girl said. “I like your hair bow.”

I watched as the smile we’d been privy to transition from forced to genuine and suddenly spread over her face while her grip on the pitcher relaxed allowing the sweet tea inside to wave then settle. “Thank you” she said with more enthusiasm in her voice than her initial greeting from earlier. “That just made my day, sweetheart. You’re very pretty yourself and, you know, I really like your hair ribbon, too.”


In that moment, I realized how complex parenting really is. I realized my daughter, who was two years old at the time, saw the beauty in another person. I realized she didn’t for a minute notice the contrasting pigment of that young woman’s skin or recognize the difference in texture of her hair compared with her own. I realized how much we take for granted in the nature versus nurture debate. In that moment, I realized children don’t see color until we define it for them.

Somewhere along the way, every person regardless of race is faced with some sort of racism. It may be stereotypes, it may be mild, it may be ignorance, it may be harsh but it will always be unnecessary. Children will play with each other until someone tells them not to. Children will accept the differences of others, embracing beauty first, until they’re taught to distinguish otherwise.

While every one at some point has been on the receiving end or the delivering end or both ends of the spectrum regarding an inappropriate remark, it's not fair to burden the next generation with the same mentality. Ultimately to teach them right from wrong, to hope they know better than to cause harm... we must learn from their example.

4 comments

  1. This is such a beautiful post, as usual my friend! I love that quote from Nelson Mandela. I wish I could say differently, but my kids have already been exposed to racism and hateful people, but I'm grateful for the opportunity to open the door to discussions about loving people. Have you read the book Nurtureshock? If you haven't, I do recommend it. There's a chapter about racism and it's fascinating- researchers have discovered kids actually DO notice other people's skin and will categorize people of other ethnicities in their mind as "different". The single most powerful way for parents to combat racism seems to be having frank conversations with their kids. For me, that's meant being very honest- "Yes, that person looks different, just like I have brown hair and you have blonde hair. People with white skin like us used to be very mean to people with brown skin, and sometimes people still are mean. But I believe that person is the same as me and I love him/her just like God loves him/her. We should never be mean to another person because God is not mean to us."

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    1. Thanks, Sarah! I completely agree that open, honest, and frank conversations are the way to go when discussing sensitive yet very important topics such as this. However, I'm not sure if I should bring it to her attention first or wait until she has a specific question. She seems to have a very loving and nurturing and accepting nature about her and I would never want to jeopardize that by approaching a heavy subject too early. Parenting is hard.

      I haven't read Nurtureshock, but I just looked it up and it seems like a very interesting read, one I might have to explore soon. Thanks for the recommendation. As for your children's exposure to the hateful side of society, I'm very sorry and while I don't know the specifics, I'm sure (with your help) they came through it stronger and more understanding.

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  2. I've been reading your blog for quite some time now and this is probably the first post I've disagreed with. It's obvious you have a talent for writing and your way with words about your beautiful daughter always brings me back, but this post seems a little out of touch with reality. Its not fair to your child to ignore the differences in race. I don't think you should support racism at all but there has to be a gentle way of letting your child know she's different from them and they from her, like the black waitress you mentioned for example. Love for everyone is fine, but if you don't acknowledge the differences for her someone else is going to. I'll still come back to read because like I said I enjoy your writing, but I just felt like you need to hear a different point of view.

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    1. Thanks for stopping by, Beth. A few interesting notes about your comment... I never specifically mentioned the race of the waitress. My daughter has fair skin so naturally any skin type compared to hers would be contrasting in pigment and her hair is somewhat thin yet curly so any kind of hair other than that would be different in texture. I guess we see/read what we want to?

      As for acknowledging the differences, other than simple things like eye color and hair styles, I'm not sure what you mean. People are people and I don't think anyone should be treated less than regardless of their ethnicity. Will we educate her on different races and their backgrounds in the historical sense? Sure, when it's appropriate... she's currently 3. It's more important to me at this time in her life to build the foundation of love and kindness and acceptance.

      To me there isn't a "them" or a "they" or an "us" and we, as a society, should work towards eliminating those terms that divide instead of unite.Thank you for taking the time to comment; I'm open to continuing this conversation via email if you're interested.

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