My Child Is NOT Colorblind!

 

Your Baby Mag MayIn the may issue of Your Baby mag, there is a great article titled Race Relations, which, as a mother raising two mixed race children, who are distinctly different, I read with great interested. Especially after my earlier post about what society had in store for my mixed race children and the comments that that post received where most readers would choose to believe that our children don’t see race… WRONG, studies show that our children are NOT colorblind.

Here is an extract from the article:

Children are colourblind – a refrain hopeful parents repeat as we watch our rainbow-nation children playing with their rainbow-coloured friends, seemingly free of the nasty apartheid baggage we remember from our childhoods. Many of us have hopes of our children growing up suspended in that “colourblind” stage, finally free of the ugly racial stereotyping, the anger and the guilt that dogs our country’s history. But of course children do notice colour. Who hasn’t been embarrassed by their child exclaiming, a bit too loudly, a bit too publicly, “Mom, that doctor is brown!” or “What? A white beggar?”

The meaning of it all

Children between two and up to the age of around five to seven are in what Swiss psychologist Jean Piaget called the preoperational stage of childhood development. Their thinking has become symbolic (they know pictures represent things) but they are still egocentric and struggle to see things from others’ perspectives, and they lack enough experience to accurately spot trends and patterns and predict events reliably. While they are trying to make sense of the mystifying adult world, for example, they may believe that it is possible to change their gender or race. Your under-seven may tell you all children become black as they age, or that he is going to become white so that he can look like a favourite friend.

The difference is that children below a certain age do not attach any meaning onto skin colour, it remaining, for a short part of their lives, as inconsequential and devoid of moral judgement as height or hair colour.  But that age is younger than we imagine.

You can read the full article here: Race Relations

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Then last night something interesting happened. At around 6pm, we were all sitting in the lounge, Ava was playing with Hannah and we were enjoying some family time, when Ava turned to me and said: “Hannah is my sister, I love her, but we are different!”

I asked her what she meant, and she pointed to her hand and said: “We’re different!”

I asked her what she meant and she couldn’t really explain it, but she said she would show me, by showing me colors. She went to her playroom, fetched her pencils and pencil case and came back to the lounge. She then pointed at the top of her hand and the black pencil case and said: “We’re different!”

And we realized that as the the article in the mag is indeed true. Children are NOT colorblind, they do see color, at Ava’s age, they don’t assign judgement or prejudice, but that doesn’t mean she hasn’t noticed that they are different. Now it’s our job to make sure that they grow up NOT buying into racial stereotypes and prejudices, it’s out job to teach them that yes, while they are different, they are also very much the same.  That people’s differences should be celebrated, not judged. That it’s beautiful to be different!

I am fascinated by my children, they are breaking taboo’s and teaching me so much about tolerance, love and acceptance on a daily basis.

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May 29, 2013
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10 Comments

  • Reply Gail

    We were on our way to the Spur the other day along with my domestic worker’s daughter who Kyla has become friendly with. Kyla suddenly pipes up, “People are going to think there are 3 kids in our family. 2 white ones and one black one.” I almost died. But Beverley agreed with her and then they carried on discussing other things. I also never realised they comprehended skin colour at such a young age!

    May 29, 2013 at 8:30 am
  • Reply Susan

    Many years ago (around ’94) our church minister was explaining to the kids about treating everyone the same and while holding up a box of Smarties said “People are like these Smarties, they’re all different colours on the outside, but they’re all the same on the inside”. I love that.

    I also love how children don’t really care about these things. They learn the prejudices from the adults I’m sure. Our housekeeper and her son D’Angelo lives with us. My husband was out walking the dogs one day and a little girl down the road greeted him with “Hello D’Angelo’s dad”. Nevermind the logistics of it. Did we adopt him? Am I his mother or our housekeeper? If our housekeeper is his mother, then who am I? Why does D’Angelo look so different from his ‘dad’? No questions asked.

    May 29, 2013 at 8:55 am
  • Reply jenny

    Thanks for the blog post on the mag – I am very proud of it and this article in particular. I did find interesting I had a discussion with Dyl’s teacher – she says she has been teaching 15 years and there was a time when black kids in her grade would draw themselves with blue eyes and blonde hair and that has all changed. Isn’t that sad and great all at the same time? I am so glad you guys are not trying to pretend you are all the same – life would be pretty boring then! One thing Ava and Hannah have in common is they are both beautiful!

    May 29, 2013 at 9:55 am
  • Reply Denise

    My 5 year old is very aware of colour i.e. only black people ride on buses (wtf !!!) i chatted to his teacher and she (much like the article) that it is purely observational at this age. He knows colour and he only sees black people on the buses. Observation.

    I guess we envision a false utopia where colour is irrelevant but that’s like saying you can’t prefer boobs to bums or blondes to brunettes, we all categorise every day so we can only expect them to be the same and to judge the person not the colour (or boobs or bums or hair…)

    May 29, 2013 at 10:44 am
  • Reply Natacha

    Sharmira, my housekeeper’s daughter has been staying with us for the past 6 years. The kids think they are cousins. My children calls Johanna Mammie. They were still small when Sharmira came to stay with us, so I am Mamma and Johanna is Mammie.

    Can you imagine the confusion when we go to shops. Its automatically assumed that we are a same sex couple with three children. Fun times.

    May 29, 2013 at 11:56 am
  • Reply Lynne

    don’t you think the term ‘children don’t see color’ is just a matter of how people speak? I have never thought that children do not see the difference, but i do believe that for the children the ‘difference’ is not an issue. Adults make it an issue. We are the ones with the problems.

    I always say my kids are my biggest teachers…

    know what is funny? We live in Malaysia and my husband works crazy hours which makes that he can rarely attend school functions. The people think my husband is black (kids being trans-racial)… and if you know me I’m most certainly one of the most conservative people on earth! hehe xx

    May 29, 2013 at 3:36 pm
  • Reply Kathy

    My friend was immigrating and gave us her lawnmower. I said to her 3yr old daughter that ‘D’ (my hubby) was going to be happy to mow the lawn with his new mower. So she pipes up “but D isn’t brown?” I was confused and then horrified when I realised what she meant and it caught me by surprise, but actually, this was merely a statement of an observation. She has only ever seen brown gardeners working in gardens and mowing lawns, so ‘obviously’ only brown people use lawnmowers!

    May 29, 2013 at 10:56 pm
  • Reply Pandora

    I agree with Lynn. When we say children don’t see colour, I think we mean they don’t attach any meaning to it. My daughter still talks about ‘the green girls’ who are the girls in the green uniform across the road from her school. I was upset when she told me one day that my skin is white and hers is brown. Some one must have told her that because a child sees a piece of blank paper as white, and our skin is not the same as that. We make a game of it now, I don’t tan well so my skin is strawberry milkshake, my husband is coffee (he is more olive skinned) and she is chocolate milkshake.
    Sadly in our country she will realise that people attach far more significance to skin colour than they should. I will attempt to teach her that this is not right!

    May 30, 2013 at 8:49 am
  • Reply cat@jugglingact

    I do think it’s very true – they see it but it is up to us to teach them not to discriminate.

    May 30, 2013 at 12:38 pm
  • Reply Denita

    I remember when my child had just started school (he had just turned three) and he told me that he loved the brown teacher the most (as he didn’t remember her name yet!)

    May 31, 2013 at 9:53 am
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