My hubby is the world’s worst about referring to people by their skin color. Truth be told, I have caught myself doing it too. Still, we have feverishly debated whether it is right or wrong, especially when this is in a negative light. This is because I feel he is not only insulting me if he is saying it in a negative way, but I fear it may make my child feel ashamed of a part of who she is. So, the answer is: it is all about how you go about saying it.
There is a difference between insulting and referring.
There is a difference between stereotyping and describing an individual. While there is always a better way to refer to someone other than “that white girl” or “the black guy by the bleachers”, the reality of it is that it is just the way the world works. Preparing our children now for what is to come is not wrong. I personally would rather use the color of their shirt, cap or something else. Still, it is not uncommon for people to say “the black guy in the red cap”.
I distinctly remember the first time I heard someone use my child’s racial description or indications to describe her. My first instinct was, “really! ” We were picking her up from a child care fun center and when they called her name she didn’t come right away. The lady turned to her helper and said “the mixed girl with the big puffs”. I was certain I was going to lose my mind, but her father saw nothing wrong with it. She is mixed and she was sporting her little afro puffs. What was I mad about? I am not mad that she is mixed, and the puffs certainly looked cute. There were a ton of little girls in pink shirts. That is the day that I saw his point. I see now that it was not personal; It just was what it was.
With that being said it is never ok to stereotype another person or use their race to belittle them in ANY way. However, if there are four guys in red shirts sometimes you may have to take the description a step farther.
Skirting around the issue of different races won’t make the divide go away.
Preparing our children for what is in the real world is the only way to arm them. For instance, if we go out of our way to never mention skin color in a world that sometimes only seems to see color, our kids will be quite overwhelmed when they are ready to face it on their own (whether that is at a birthday party or starting school). The thing is to teach them that everyone is beautiful, and encourage them to be confident in the fact that their color is as beautiful as everyone else’s.
When they are older we are armed with the facts that we all (white, brown, yellow and tan) get our genes from the same woman, so we are all in fact the same. Genetics has long since proven that through the “Mitochondrial Eve” research. We all came from the same “mother” and she was in fact from Africa. We are the same, we all have different features and sometimes that is different eye colors or different skin colors, but at the end of the day we are all the same. I would not be offended if I were referred to as having blue eyes so I won’t be offended if someone referred me to the white lady by the stairs. It is what it is.
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I would love to hear your thoughts on referring to people by their skin color. Remember, we do not all have to agree. Sometimes my opinion is not in accordance with another. By voicing your opinion (especially if it varies from mine) you may be helping another parent out with the dilemma. I always look forward to your posts and topic suggestions!
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