Monday, May 21, 2012


Muffin had a sleep over on the weekend. At some point during the evening this conversation took place.

(They were playing Barbies, and she noticed a black Barbie that Muffin had stored in the corner, saving it for Zahra.)
Showing enough cleavage? Wardrobe malfunction. I'm not a huge Barbie fan... But I finally gave in when Muffin was 7. After all, I played with them as a child... and it didn't do that much damage!

Girl: "Can we open that?"

Muffin: "No, we are saving it."

Girl: "Why?"

Muffin: "Because it's for Zahra."

Girl: "She's an ugly Barbie."

Muffin: "Why do you think it's ugly?"

Girl: "Because she's black."

Muffin.... speechless

Girl: "Wait. Is Zahra gonna be black?"

Muffin: "Yes, she's African."

Girl: "Oh."

End of conversation.

I am new to this journey, and learning my way through it. I don't have all the answers. Together Muffin and I spoke about why she may have said this, and what responses she could have given. We decided that the one she felt most comfortable with is asking her why she thinks black is ugly, and then following up by leading as an example and saying that she thinks people of all colour are beautiful.

What is the response that came to my mind first? "How would you feel if someone told you that you were ugly because you are white?"
This is what would have come out of my mouth... yup. I realize this is a hostile response, and perhaps not the best. At least, Muffin didn't think it was very nice.

As time goes on, I am sure we will get better at developing appropriate responses. I don't want them to feel like they are full time advocates, guardians, or teachers, but I do want them to learn how to respond in these situations to encourage the other person to think and feel... hopefully to eliminate any further inappropriate comments.

This is the beginning of a learning process for our children.

By affiliation, they will be witness to how cruel people can be.

They wouldn't otherwise have any idea how intolerant people can be, or the prejudices that exist.

Their white privilege would have protected them from all that.

I am happy that they will have this insight.

I am sad that they will have to feel hurt, and disappointment from people they care about.

I am sad that it will cause them distress to know that others may think less of their baby sister because of her skin colour. 

But, I couldn't ask for any more loving, caring, understanding children for Zahra to look up to as her older siblings. 


Anna said...
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Jess said...

Teachable moments, think of them like that. We have been fortunate to not really hear a lot of stuff like this, but I imagine as they got older and lose their "cuteness", comments will become more often.

I guess the good thing to think about is that change only happens when people do it. And we have jumped on that bandwagon by adopting kids not our color. We are teaching our kids that all colors are equal and that no one is better than anyone else. Hopefully this will translate into a future where our kids don't see the racism that has been in the past. I really pray for that for our kiddos. And maybe smaller things like trying to find black barbies and dolls won't be so stinkin' hard!

'Jo' said...

Thanks Ana!
Yes, you are right Jess - teachable moments, and to be honest, I am thankful for them in preparation of our adoption! ;)

Denise said...

Such a blatant comment is hard to deal with. But it's the more sneaky ones that I struggle with even more. The ones where they aren't quite saying something racist, but are... you know? We had to have this discussion with our bio son the other day. That some people get pulled over by the police and beat up just because they are black or native... or whatever. That people will actually not want to be friends with his sisters because of their skin colour - they might not want to be friends with HIM because of our transracial family. But I'm so glad for these talks. Because it is more than just "too bad for 'those' people". This is personal. And it teaches our kids to stand up for what is right.

Jess said...

She's a kid. She can't help but repeat what she's been told or witnessed. I encountered a kid like this(a family member actually!) when I visited my hometown in Southern USA last summer.
This particular child was scared of black people, and called someone a name. (in front of my kids, then my kids got scared. ugh!)
I explained that God loves them the same as he loves her. Then I explained that our new child will be black. She was speechless.

I think our Kenyan children are going to change the world.
Our kids are going to open peoples' eyes that otherwise would never have known any difference.

This is why I love living overseas with my kids: teaching them NOT to be afraid of things that are different than them. Because that's all it boils down to: fear.

'Jo' said...

Denise - I remembered the sadness in my daughters eyes when I told her about racism. Pure dissapointment in the human race. Like telling her that Santa Clause, Easter Bunny and the Tooth fairy don't exist - no, worse than that. It was heartbreaking to have to tell her that. Bless her innocent heart, but your right. It's giving them a foundation to be able to stand up for what is right.

Jessica - while I know that our Kenyan child will likely open a few hearts and perhaps change a few lives, I am so hesitant to look at it that way. I'm reluctant to think of her as being brought into this family with 'a part time job' or purpose, as I think she really shouldn't have to deal with any of it... and I don't want to put those expectations on her. It all just sucks.

Your overseas experience is a gift for your children. They will no doubt be goodwill embassadors because they have the knowledge, experience and understanding to grow from. ;)

Anonymous said...

We had something similar happen to our daughter at school when she said she wanted to be a barbie in the school play. Another little girl, a friend, told her she couldn't because she didn't have the right hair or skin colour. Totally dissapointing. Even more so when the teacher "handled" it by telling her not to worry about it because blondes get lots of jokes told about them too (the other little girl being blonde). So incredibly frustrating!

Cecilia summerar said...

We have just experienced that kids have said so to our Kenyan son. Fortunately he has lots of friends and good teachers, but still it has happened.

It´s a challenge being a parent when talking about this, not letting your own feelings carry you away, but talking about it in a way that makes your child even mor strong and secure in stead of scared or upset.

But somehow I regognize the challenge from the time when our girl (our biological child) was in the same age. Then it had nothing to do with her skin color, but with other things children said to her.

Parenthood isn´t always easy. But wonderful!

Thanks for your greeting!
Tjis is our blog from the time in Kenya:

Hope you soon get your important call!