As we all work together to create a safe, inclusive, and thriving existence for black Americans, many of us have found ourselves having tough, but important, conversations with family and friends. One of the toughest conversations for many parents is how to speak to their kids about race.
Talking to my bi-racial kids about race is nothing new for me -- but the conversations are still tough to navigate. A few months ago my five year old daughter walked up to me upset and said, "Lucy (my one year old daughter) is cuter than me because she has peach skin." It was shattering for me to hear that but not at all a surprising statement. I knew it was coming.
Even at five my daughter had internalized white supremacy. We have all the books about black love and we constantly reinforce her beauty and smarts — but to live in America is to live in a space where whiteness is best. Kids absorb that from birth and as her parent it’s my job to dismantle the white supremacy she absorbs.
I said to her, ‘Well, do you think MY skin is beautiful?’ She said ‘Yes, but you’re MOMMA. You’re the QUEEN!’ (This kid and her titles, y’all)
I then explained to her that all skin is beautiful and that her gold skin is just as lovely as her sister’s peach skin. I explained that her skin is darker because she has more melanin and there is magic in melanin. My daughter loves magic so she was delighted by this.
Then she was concerned that her little sister might not have magic since her skin is lighter. So I explained that as a big sister she has to protect her little sister with her melanin magic.
I now constantly remind both of my girls that they are beautiful AS THEY ARE. And their differences don’t make one greater or lesser than the other. Occasionally Hannah will still comment on Lucy’s skin. Mostly that it is changing as she gets older (She’ll say, “Look, momma! Lucy is getting her magic!”). So we constantly have teaching moments.
Don’t be afraid to teach your kids about race and talk to them in a way that is accessible and understandable for them. The conversations might look different family to family but having the conversation is important.
I am so excited to team up with my dear friends at Little Nomad to spread even more melanin magic with the debut of the “There’s magic in Melanin” kids tee and onesie. A portion of the proceeds will be going to Girls for Change, a nonprofit youth development organization aimed at empowering Black girls and other girls of color in Central Virginia.
You can purchase a shirt or onesie here.
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