A certain “news personality” has been plastered all over the media in the last week for her self-assured comments about the racial backgrounds of both Santa and Jesus. While her name is not worth mentioning because either a)she’s too ignorant to pay attention to and/or b)she’s simply out for ratings at all costs, I thought I’d weigh in on the subject, in a slightly different context.
When our kids were tiny, each of them had baby dolls. The two girls were given their dolls by friends and relatives who felt that was a natural present for a little girl. Both of them received dolls with milky white skin. Oldest Sister was never a big fan of doll play, but Middle Sister, a nurturer from birth, enjoyed it. When The Boy came along, no family members thought to give him a doll. Not appropriate for a boy, right? So The Husband and I gave him a dear brown-skinned baby for his 2nd birthday (which he promptly named “Three-Five,” a name which I still believe came from interest in math – five minus three was two, his age at the time. He taught himself multiplication at age three.). No one in our household questioned the the fact that he was a boy AND that his doll was brown. We got a few odd looks and puzzled questions from some older family members and others – which we downplayed/ignored.
Not long after Three-five joined our household, a major Christmas gift for the kids was a Little Tykes doll house. We chose to go a similar route when choosing the family to live in the house. We ended up with two families, actually – a black family and a white family, and they all shared the house. In our imaginary play, some of the parents worked at night and some in the day, to accommodate overcrowded sleeping conditions. It was one big, happy, interesting family.
Simple decisions like which toys to buy led to open conversations about skin color, about backgrounds, about similarities and differences between people, about what’s really important. And I can promise you none of our kids will ever make insulting, ignorant pronouncements about race.
At home – that’s where acceptance, understanding, and respect begin.