I really had no intention of writing another post today. I have quite a few other things that I need to do so I was resisting the urge to write something random or forced. But I just had a very interesting and unexpected (isn't it always?) conversation with my son.
Most nights we read a book because it's required for school. Yes, I'm one of those parents who doesn't read to their children on a daily basis, but I do enjoy it. I actually love books and you can often find me with my nose buried in one.
The book I chose to read tonight is "Shades of Black: A Celebration of Our Children" by Sandra L. Pinkney with photographs by Myles C. Pinkney. This is not a review, but I must say that I think this book is beautiful. It's a quick read with superb pictures. I've read this to my children before, but this is the first time it's clicked.
The first page is of a beautiful young girl - maybe about 4 years old - who has greenish/gray eyes, black hair and yellow brown skin. The next page says, "I am Black, I am unique."
My son says, "I don't see any black on her."
Although I've tried to explain this to him before it was obvious that he wasn't getting the meaning. (The English language can be so hard to explain.) I said, "Black isn't the color of our skin, Black is who we are. It's what we're called as a people. We're all different colors, but we're all Black."
I kept reading. He saw a very light-skinned child with dark eyes, a chocolate brown boy and those that had a blue tinge to their skin, an orange tone and the pretty brown of a pretzel. And there were even more. The way this book described each tone of skin was sweet. I just can't think of another word. It was a perfect way to relate it to children to help them understand.
Through the book the phrase "I am Black. I am Unique" is repeated. At the end, my son said, "I didn't know I was Black and unique."
"Do you know what unique is," I asked him.
He didn't. So I explained that it means special, different. Also during this conversation I said, something to the effect of, "A group of White people would be called white, but the shades of their skin may be different. They're all different. We're different too we're just all called black."
He then investigated our skin and I showed him how I am a light brown with a little red and that he's a little darker then me. Then he started pointing out scars and darker areas on the skin so I had to explain that without using the word "pigment."
Then, do you know what he said? "Do some people kill black people?"
"Where did you hear that?"
I don't recall his answer, but I tried to give him a quick and kid-friendly rundown of slavery and even now some people are killed regardless of their color 'cause people do bad things.
"Are black kids killed?"
Well, how do you answer that? I didn't want to say no because that would be a lie and eventually he would learn or hear of something that told him that children are killed. I ended with telling him he didn't have to worry about that right now.
My son, in all of his 6-year-old wisdom, learning and capabilities, said, "I want to learn more about being Black. Black people."
I sort of smiled. "We'll talk about it again soon and we'll try to get a book about it, okay?"
"Okay," and he skipped off to tell his sisters about what he learned about being Black. They were in the bathtub, but I guess it was important for him to relay the information before he forgot.
It dawned on me - even regardless of one's race - that it's so important to teach our children about who we are and give them the pride, knowledge and history. I'm just surprised that the subject came up, but I'm glad I had a chance to answer his questions and teach him something that is important to us as a people. It also made my "proud to be Black" feeling even stronger.