Time for “The Talk” … about RacePosted by Kim
It’s still early Fall, but we can tell this is the school year to start the in-depth conversations with the boys about discussing their race with others.
They know about race, have been able to rattle off from the age of three that they’re Latino; that their ancestors and Fred’s and mine came from different places on the globe (even before they really understood what “ancestors” were); and that that’s why our skin and hair and eyes are different colors. As we’ve studied different countries of the world, they’ve learned that people in different regions look different, eat different foods, have different customs, but also have many global similarities.
But how to “explain themselves?” No, we haven’t covered that yet. Haven’t had to in prior years. People always approached Fred or me and asked about the boys. I’ve mentioned before that I’ve gotten less and less free (particularly with strangers) as the twins have gotten older. I’ve become more sensitive to their privacy and identities. And the adoption itself has passed more into the “old history” category for us. (Sometimes we forget that it’s “new” to everyone we encounter for the first time.)
But it’s time to arm our young chicos to speak for themselves. Two recent incidents (fortunately both right in front of us, so we know about them!) have brought this to the fore.
Incident #1: The Chick-fil-A Mis-Match
My sister-in-law invited us to join their family for our niece’s school fund-raiser Chick-fil-A night last week, and while we were all sitting at the table, one of Mary’s little girl friends came over to say hi. Mary introduced the boys as her cousins about whom she’d told her, and this little gal glanced at them, then back at Mary and observed, “They don’t look a thing like you.”
Then, no doubt looking to make sense of it, she scanned around the table, “They don’t look a thing like any of you.”
She’s about 8 or so years old, and she didn’t mean anything by it except to state what she was seeing right in front of herself. When she’s older, she’ll probably know better than to be so blunt. But there it was.
Incident #2: The Chinese/Mexican Neighborly Intro
Our kids were playing a few blocks away from our house one afternoon a couple weeks before Chick-fil-A, and a little boy and girl they hadn’t met before came out of their house and sat under their front tree. This time it was my kids making first observations:
Twin: Hi! You look like your ancestors are from Asia. Are you Chinese, or Japanese?
Boy Neighbor: We’re Korean. What are you? Mexican?
Twin: No, we’re from Guatemala. It’s next to Mexico, but south.
[A-ha-ha-ha... Well at least everyone got that straightened out up-front! Not sure that's quite how the other set of parents and I would've done it, but...]
But clearly, aside from what “labeling and filing” the kids already know it’s time for more discussion of race. Like how and when it is polite to inquire.
But even more importantly – to our family - how and when the boys should explain their own heritage and why they don’t “match” us. To be clear, we don’t believe they “should” have to every time someone seems like they’re fishing for information. But we want to give the boys some options so they never feel completely caught off-guard or cornered.
It’s going to happen to them and to us for the rest of our lives. No time like the present to get started! (And as I think about it, no time like the present for Fred and for me to hear from them what they do and don’t want us to share with other adults!)
I’d love to hear from others of you who have had these conversations with your kids, or those of you from mixed-race families, or any of you who are just so socially proactive that you’re all on top of this issue! Comments and suggestions welcome!
I’ll post again after the boys and we have our first few talks.