One of the things that intrigued me about Ruby’s revelation was that, as far as I had noticed, none of the boys in Ruby’s class had brown skin.
So I asked her if she would point Jason out to me the next day at pick-up.
At 2:30, I stood in the hallway and watched 24 kids file out of Ruby’s classroom…the only brown skin belonged to a little girl with long black braids.
“Ruby, is Jason in your class?”
“Yes, Mom! He’s right there!” she answered through clenched teeth.
She was pointing straight to a boy with jet black hair and skin that could barely be classified as beige.
I smiled down at my blushing baby and said, “Oh, sweetie. He’s really cute!”
“Moooooooooooom. Let’s go!”
She grabbed my hand, and we quickly (and discreetly) made our exit.
As soon as we were across the street, Ruby opened up a little bit.
“I do think he’s cute, Mom. But that’s not even why I like him. He’s so kind. Anytime anyone needs help in our classroom, Jason is always willing to help. He’s been really nice to me ever since I came here, and he makes people feel comfortable. He’s really smart, and he almost always finishes his work at the same time as me. And when he talks, he uses a soft voice and gives everyone a turn to share.”
Clearly, my daughter had fallen for the seven-year-old version of her father.
The shock of the day before was quelled by the fact that my kiddo really could see beyond color and into the things that matter. I was encouraged by the fact that her heart had naturally fallen for someone who possessed admirable qualities, even though his skin didn’t match hers. But these facts made it harder for me to understand how she could think it was wrong to like Jason and, even worse, be afraid to tell me about it.
Even though Ruby could recognize and acknowledge Jason’s valuable and admirable qualities, his race had become his most defining quality. She didn’t trust the adults in her world to consider anything other than the color of his skin.
Over the next couple of weeks, I began to pay attention to Ruby’s world from a different viewpoint. I researched and read articles related to the things we were experiencing. I talked with friends and acquaintances who are better equipped to address these issues. And I prayed.
Someone once told me that children are excellent observers and terrible interpreters. Society is sending messages to my daughter non-stop, and she’s astute enough to pick up on the vast majority of them. It is my job to help her evaluate these messages and interpret their meaning in her life.
For seven years, I assumed that providing an open, inclusive atmosphere in our home would be enough to instill an open, inclusive worldview in my daughter’s heart.
Now, I know that’s not enough.
This post is the second in a new series titled “But I’m Not Racist!” You can read the first here. Please join me as I carefully tread this sacred ground.