Talking Racial Prejudice with The Six-Year Old

This morning, I found myself talking about Racial Prejudice with The Six-year old, aka Child of Mine aka CoM.  All this started while I was reading through my morning newsfeed, and saw video images of Miss Universe Japan 2015.

Remember her, Ariana Miyamoto? Remember when she won the Miss Universe Japan this year on March 12, though many Japanese did not accept her as ‘Japanese enough’, some calling her “ugly”?  Why? Because she is “Black”, and because she is biracial!

I showed my six-year old a picture of Ariana’s and asked him, what color he thought she was? To which he replied, “Brown.” Surprise! He did not say, “White”, which is the color he self-identified before we had the talk about “coloring and racializing” in America, not too long ago.

Typically, I like starting off by tickling my child’s brain, and framing my lessons with him through his own understanding of life, rather than imposing my own knowledge and conceptions on him. I did the same thing when we explored “Racism”; resisted delving into “that Holy Grail” with him, until he shared with me what he knew about racism. He had learned about Martin Luther King and Rosa Parks during his class lesson on “Black History Month“.

Anyway, if you haven’t been following Ariana’s story, she said that she has received more public and media coverage, support and admiration for her win, from fans and media outside Japan or foreigners in Japan. Well, we are talking about Japan, which considers itself a homogenous country, with its long history of denying multiculturalism. Yet, Ariana defines herself as Japanese, of Black African American paternal and Japanese maternal parents. She visibly has Japanese features.

Anyway, I had to explain to CoM that in the video we saw, Ariana shared her story, growing up in Japan with kids who did not want her to touch them, for fear that “her black skin would rub off them”. Others wouldn’t get in the swimming pool with her “or threw trash at her. I share first-hand “trashed at personal experience from some of my white neighbors.

CoM’s curious mind wanted to know more, “Why didn’t other kids like her?”
“Because she’s Black,” I said.
“She’s not Black. She’s Brown.”

How does one break down such cumbersome, loaded details about race, prejudice and skin color to a six-year old? For a start, “Well, people can be different things. Yes, her skin looks Brown, but she’s also Black.”
Just like you. Your skin looks Brown, but you are also Black,” I said to him. I explained to him that Black peoples come in different skin colors. Just like Ugandans; they speak different languages, but they are all Ugandans. Or Americans like you, me, Obama. Some Americans speak Chinese, Luganda, Spanish, Arabic, but they are all Americans.

“Then why don’t kids like her?” He asked again.
“Well, remember that story you told me about Martin Luther King, and how he had a Dream that all his kids would be accepted? That Black kids would play freely with White Kids. Or when Black kids were not allowed to go to  school with White kids, or sit in the front of the bus, then Ross Park at the front and got in trouble?

Well, some White people were really bad! But you’re very lucky you live in a neighborhood with  White friends to play with, ride the school bus, go to the same grocery friends, and friends like C and Kay.

“Of course, there still some racist people out there,” I said to him. “Like the police who shot and killed a Black kid who was playing with a toy gun in a Cleveland park, Ohio. Or the recent manhandling of Black teens at a pool party in Texas. Yes, there are some nasty people still.

“Even in Japan. Some people think their skins are, close to your friends, like “Kay”, and do not want to be friends with Black people,” I continued. They think she is not beautiful!

Phew! At the end of it all, we had gone through the “racial prejudice talk”, exhaustively. I think he got the point, that some people can be nasty, while others accepting without prejudice or questioning. Then it dawned on me that, one day, society will redefine his reality. Maybe when he is a teenager, he will learn, through experience that he is different from all his close white friends – Co, Is, Eth, Seb; his close Hispanic friends -So, Bra, Ale, Am, Sab; his close Asian friends – Jay, To, Em. And of course.

Society is going to redefine him, and ‘pigeon hole’ him, and steal his innocence of the love, affection, joys and playfulness with his social relations, regardless of their skin color. Then he will begin to look over his shoulder, and run away whenever he sees the popo. Perhaps he will no longer put his hands in his pockets again, as he always does. Regardless of how much we shield our children, proclaim our humane living, open them up to ‘colorless’ social living, we can never completely shut the world of prejudice, hate and racial baggage away from them. At least we have tried, and continue to try, reminding them of the greatest social definition – as all Humans First and Forever!