By ZACH ROSENBERG
Nothing illustrates our insecure feelings about race like a child.
When children learn about diversity, there’s an incredible potential to “get them early” and send them down a pathway that promotes judging people based on the content of their character, not the color of their skin. There are a couple of ways you can achieve this—and ignoring race isn’t one of them.
My family is white. And aside from our son’s African American godfather and a handful of friends of color, my son doesn’t encounter too many people that look different from him.
We don’t want to treat people as if they’re colorless, that method doesn’t celebrate people’s wonderful differences. But we don’t want to lay it on so thick that our son gets the impression that we should point racial differences out all willy-nilly.
Children’s television does a fair job at introducing diversity; with shows like “Dora the Explorer” and “Ni Hao Kai Lan,” kids are introduced to the concept of different languages and skin colors. But then again, television also teaches kids that dogs talk and purple dinosaurs get all huggy when you share.
Nevertheless, shows like “Dora” and “Kai Lan” open up candid conversations about race, and that’s important. But sometimes, those conversations come back up at the worst times.
Case in point: my wife and I took our son to a Chinese restaurant for dinner. “Do I like the Chinese, Daddy?” my son asked.
“Chinese food…yes.” I nervously replied.
He continued: “Do the Chinese have water, daddy?”
Now things were getting weird.
“Is that Chinese painting?” he asked, pointing to the art on the wall.
“Is that Chinese music?” His voice is getting louder. My shushing and uncomfortable nodding is not tipping him off. I mean, he’s three.