04 May 2009

I have a question

My 8 year old neighbor (of indian ancestry ) knocked at the door.

"I have a question", he said. “What color is your skin?"

"What do you think it is?"I asked.

"Brown".Even my parents have brown skin, but my mother has clear skin." Yes,she does. I added reaffirming the kid’s observation.

"So is it okay to have brown skin?"

"Yes"."But some of my class mates who has white skin do not talk to me."

I explained to him how skin gets its color. And told him that he will learn more about this in his science classes at school. I also explained to him no matter what color of the skin, the blood that flows in our body is always RED in color. He seemed to understand, but did not seem to feel happy.

This time it was my turn to ask the kid a question."what is the color of President Obama’s skin?"

"Brown", with a big smile and joy in his eyes.
I smiled in agreement.Now this was a clear sign of perception. I did not try to explain how Obama's skin color was perceived by the rest of america or the world.

"Can I become the president of America?" He asked.

"Yes,You can."

The kid jumped with joy and ran to his mom. I overheard him saying,“An.aunty said I can become the president of America, Ma".

I didn't. The kid inferred the question himself.I only affirmed the kids statement.

Note : I am constantly asked many questions by kids whose parents are my friends. I do not answer every question because I think some questions are best left to be answered by parents. In the above case I very well knew the kids parents judgements and so proceeded cautiously.

Image Credits

Thanks Solilo. Our discussion helped me recall this incident.


Ordinary Guy said...

you handled the situation pretty well, i must say!!!!!!

Anrosh said...

if caste is ingrained in the mind of indians, race is ingrained in the minds of anybody raised in the US. the few racisit (?spell check )kids can sure make life hell for other kids and all this starts at home! and it trickles down everywhere --

Solilo said...

I always thought that my daughter will soon ask such questions and had my answers prepared too but I am surprised that she already knows about various colors just through observation (even though we live in a 99% White community) and very cool about it.

I am glad I don't have to give any color class to her.

BK Chowla said...

Your understanding and handling of the kid was excellent.We fail to realise as to how intelligent are today's kids.May be,we should circulate such story/incident to some of the Indian politicians who play with color/caste/relgion.I am sure we can set an example

Vinod_Sharma said...

You are a good teacher. But I am surprised that this kid did not ask this question from his parents. Obama has shattered many barriers more than are immediately visible...

Anonymous said...

wow... well done...

Anrosh said...

solilo - i was not spared by this question when i was studying at a university here. i was asked , " so what race do you belong to "

BK Chowla: Hi, and welcome
the politicians should become babysitters. the kids will teach them some good lessons.

hi vinod, the kid goes around asking questions to everybody. he asked his parents too. he also went and asked his parents jewish friends too.

the point is as children we do form impression, have our biasess and sterotypes. it cracks, it shatters and it mends as we grown and live - we have faith in ourselves as a human being.

hitchwriter, welcome.

Smitha said...

Anrosh, Wonderful post! From what I have noticed, children, left to their own devices are less likely to notice things like colour of their skin(and their friends) than adults.. My daughter for instance, treats white, brown and black people exactly the same way - she has been around them ever since she was born.. And she has never questioned it.. Adults on the other hand seem to have deep prejudices, whether they are white, black or brown.. I know people who claim that white people treat them differently but have no qualms about being degrading about blacks - simply because of their colour. And I feel children who grow in an environment like this - will grow up with the same kind of prejudices and attitudes - unless of course,they are lucky to meet people like you :) The way you handled it was fantastic!!!

manju said...

Nicely handled!

Anrosh said...

smitha, children are like sponge - they absorb everything they see without value judgements. thanks

manju -- i like kids who ask questions and even challenge adults of their stereotypes and prejudices -- BK Chowla above says that we need to circulate such stories -- I think politicians should take press conference by kids who have questions about religion, race and color. Everybody will learn some good, necessary lessons. thanks.

Indian Homemaker said...

That was some conversation Anrosh, your response warmed my heart, I loved the exact words here,
"Can I become the president of America?" He asked.And your words,
"Yes, You can."

Anaka said...

So this is where you've been when I've been searching Indian Yarn for updates! I love how children have a certain innocence and a yearning to see things in black or white (is it okay or not okay)! Obama in office is really going to change how so many people of colour perceive themselves and their community. In a good way I hope!

Anrosh said...

ihm, i was thrilled that he thought about the question.

anaka -- hi! indian yarn needs a hug :) welcome here

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