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Old 01-21-2007, 08:09 PM   #1
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Developing racial awareness, need advice!

I really need some advice from like-minded parents. Our family is white, we have several close friends that are black. (so close that he calls then aunt and uncle). My DH works in college athletics and several of his kids are african american. Our 4 yo son has been around children of different races all his life, last year he even attended the lab preschool at the University at which my husband works, it's very "crunchy" to say the least. We have chosen to live in a city rather than the suburbs to expose DS to different cultural influences. DS is a compassionate and happy little boy, which makes all of this so unusual.

So yesterday were were at the grocery store and I was dropping DS off at the child care/play area before shopping. This is usually the highlight of his day, no kidding. He said he didn't want to stay as there were only girls playing, but then we saw a little boy about 4yo in the corner. He was african american. I told DS "Great. There's a little boy here!" Well, when he saw him his face just dropped and he said he didn't want to stay. I asked him why, but he wouldn't answer me. I suspected why and my heart just sank. My first thought was sadness for this little boy that was looking forward to playing with DS, and the boy saw DS's reaction. I felt for the little boy, that he will have to face this reaction all of his life.

I got DS away from the child care area and asked him what was going on. He said that the little boy "wasn't for him" beause he didn't look like DS. That made my heart even sadder. I tried to get more info out of him, but decided to address it later in the evening (of course DH is out of town for work). We talked about how sad it was the DS would never get to know what a good friend the little boy was, and visa versa. I tried to draw analogies about how everyone is different in all sorts of ways (eye color, liking chocolate, etc.) I am just shocked at DS's reaction and need some advice about how to deal with it. Please, any ideas?
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Old 01-21-2007, 08:50 PM   #2
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Re: Developing racial awareness, need advice!

I think it is normal for a 4 yr old to notice differences in people-like not wanting to play w/girls cuz they are different, but I have not dealt w/a 4 yr old not wanting to play w/a child due to skin color. I grew up on a military base that was very diverse culturally, however, my children are growing up in a less diverse neighborhood. We have been fosterparents for almost 9 yrs, all except 2 of our 27 fosterbabies have been a different race from us-we are white-my oldest son's best friend is AA, my youngest's best friend is white. I have several close friends that are AA. I am thinking that even if the other child was not AA, but a different culture than himself, your son who is discovering who he is/others are may have had the same reaction. I wouldn't press the issue too much, he may not even have an answer for you b/c he may not understand himself. It is also possible that if he goes to school/daycare, another child that is not exposed to other cultures and/or is raised by parents w/different views than you may have said that about a child in the class so now your son is saying it b/c that is what he was told. I would try to expose him to more new children as often as possible to see how he reacts to different races in children. Good luck!
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Old 01-21-2007, 08:56 PM   #3
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Re: Developing racial awareness, need advice!

i'm not sure what to say, my son just turned 4 and still hasn't realized people are different colors?
maybe because it isnt talked about in our home, i mean its not a big deal, and our family is mixed all over..
i like how you explained to him a good friend he missed out on that was a great start, hope you can get great advice from others who have been there already, we havent yet and i dont know what to suggest, just wanted to offer you
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Old 01-21-2007, 09:13 PM   #4
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Re: Developing racial awareness, need advice!

I just wanted to say that you are an awesome mama for helping to teach this to your son. My situation is different but similar. I don't look like a typical mom AT ALL (I have pink hair, piercings, and am really young) and it seems that every time I go out in public, kid's your sons age make these standoffish comments about me. I don't get upset with them because they are kids, they don't know any better. But it really bugs me how some moms don't address the issue at all, they just ignore what their child says.

I don't really have advice as I have not hit that age yet. I'm hoping that my son won't have a big issue with this, because he'll be growing up in a diverse enviroment.

I'll be watching this thread.
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Old 01-21-2007, 09:31 PM   #5
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Re: Developing racial awareness, need advice!

I haven't had trouble with this but wanted to offer I have a picture somewhere in my photobucket that I took of Elijah and a little African American boy he met at the park that is so cute, they were walking across the park holding hands!

The issue that I had with my kids was with people that looked different in other ways. One time this elderly gentleman went by us in Walmart and had some kind of growth on his nose that made it HUGE and Elijah yelled out, "FAITH DID YOU SEE THAT GUYS NOSE??!!" REALLY Loud! I wanted to crawl in a hole and DIE! I just tried to gently explain to them that they more than likely hurt that man's feelings. It is easier for me to explain stuff like that to my kids though bc I was only born with one ear and I used that in giving them an example as to how sad it made mommy when she was made fun of as a child. I can't remember exactly what I said but it must have been something right bc, thankfully they have never done/said anything like that again. mama didn't wanna hijack just wanted to show you that you aren't alone. Not completely the same but sort-of
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Old 01-21-2007, 09:45 PM   #6
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Re: Developing racial awareness, need advice!

We have asked questions like this as in the UK blacks aren't as common, you can go through towns and never see one.
There was a kids shop we use to go into back home the lady there was black, but also VERY expressive, he loved her but he did stare and gave the "why are you different" looks.
We'd love any tips, sorry not trying to hijack

Oh I embarrassed my mother when I was little, I had never seen a black person or as she said brown person, I was like 3 or 4, I asked what colour are they a few times, she ignored me to be polite, then I asked really loud so she said they are brown, I said oh like poo poo? My mother went red! The lady was so nice about it and said yes like that but not smelly and offered her hand to smell...... LOL, my mother always swore she'd get back at me for that one when I was older. My poor mother
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Old 01-21-2007, 09:53 PM   #7
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Re: Developing racial awareness, need advice!

I personally think that if this is the first time with him having this type of reaction I wouldnt make a big deal out of it and make your son think it is a big deal.. kwim? we are just like you ( based on the OP ) and we try to make sure my daughter doesnt consider skin color when chosing who to try to make freinds with, but she is five and sometimes I think they just have that reaction, there have been times that my daughter didnt want to play with a little girl becuase she didnt like her dress, by the end of the playdate they were " best freinds" but the experience I have had with this kind of behavior is that maybe it's normal.. Allison didnt treat the child with any dis-respect other than being hesitant to play at first. we just explain to her than everyone is different, and not every one likes everyone else but that's just the way the world is and that in the end no one wants to be around people who treat people " ugly " my DH side of the family is quick to spit out racial slurs and other neg comments and my side of the family is Native American and many in the famiy based on the areas of the US they have lived have unfortunatly had to live with the way some people are ignorant to different races even to the extent of calling them names ( but the joke was on them becuase they were wrong we are'nt stupid mexicans , we are stupid indians lol )

but back on topic, if it becomes an everyday thing I would then seriously address it but I think that just a simple talk about how he could have been alot of fun, and things like that are all you can really do for now.

good luck
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Old 01-22-2007, 11:36 AM   #8
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Re: Developing racial awareness, need advice!

I haven't read the other responses, so forgive me if this is a repeat of what other posters have said--

I think it's developmentally appropriate. Kids your son's age are very
'into' like me/not like me thinking. He'd likely have refused to play with a girl, too. He's not racist.

Maybe you could use the incident as a springboard for a discussion, yk? I'd be willing to bet that those diversity messages will be more far-reaching than his 5 year old mindset, yk?
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