I am a white, Southern, Christian, woman who was raised in the great State of Alabama. Because of this, people already assume that I am at least a little racist, so I try to be conscientious of how I act and what I say so that it cannot be misconstrued as anything prejudiced. I have also raised my kids not to see skin color any differently than they would see hair color or eye color.
When William (my oldest) had his first real friendship with a person of color he was almost 3. He was telling me about 2 friends in his preschool class, both named Anthony. I said "Does it confuse you that they have the same name?" And he thought about it and said "No, because one of the Anthonys is colored like your coffee and the other one is like your Coke." I was glad that he had not even known that they were Hispanic and Black, but I decided that maybe I should teach him those terms in the future to avoid confusion.
Bella, my second oldest, is my drama queen. She is all about glitz, glamour, and fashion. She is my husband (who is Puerto Rican) made over in female form -- olive complexion, big brown eyes, the whole thing. The first time she saw a little Black girl with all of the beautiful braids, she wanted the same -- I think that she was about 3, maybe a little closer to 4. I tried to explain that her hair wouldn't do that, and her over-intelligent response was "Yes it will. You said that all people are the same and I want my hair like that." I had to think about this. She was right, of course. I HAD told them that all people were the same. So how do I explain that we are all different but the same to a kid? I told her that it doesn't mean that all of us are just alike -- some are tall and some are short, some have brown hair and some are blondes, etc, and HER hair, which was like MY hair, just wouldn't do that.
Now Jackson, the 2 year old, SEES the differences in color, but it doesn't bother him. (I am intentionally skipping Lorelei for a reason for now). William's best friend is a very sweet Black kid from around the corner named Ben. Whenever Jackson sees other Black people from a distance, he AUTOMATICALLY thinks that they are Ben. Today while we were waiting in the carpool line, he saw 2 black teenage girls walking across the school lawn and he starts pointing towards them and saying "Mama! I see girl-Bens!" Although there is nothing wrong with that, in fact it is kind of cute, it made me realize that had the car windows been down and they had heard him, (or worse, MIS-heard him), it could prove embarrassing. I made a mental note to discuss with my husband how to best discuss racial difference with our kids. But leave it to Lorelei to not wait for me to have a plan.
William went home from school with Ben today, and I took the other 3 with me to do a little shopping -- the Daddy/Daughter Dance is next weekend and the girls needed jewlery, tights, etc, and Jackson needed shoes. I told them that if they behaved, we could go eat at IHOP (knowing full well that regardless of their behavior we were eating out somewhere because I had not prepared anything for dinner). So, they were good and we went to IHOP and were seated by a nice looking young Black man who started to take our order by asking what we'd like to drink. I ordered Coke and coffee (my usual) and the kids wanted milk. Then Lorelei said that she wanted chocolate milk and then they all wanted chocolate milk. So Lorelei looks at our waiter, who is patiently waiting for her to finish talking, and says "We LOVE chocolate milk! Our Grandma makes us chocolate milk and it is sooooo chocolatey! JUST LIKE YOU!" The poor guy who had been listening and nodding along as she went on and on looked like someone had just smacked him. He looked at me and all I could say was "I'm so sorry. She really doesn't mean anything by it. She's 4 and has no filter." Meanwhile, Lorelei is still talking. She asks him "Do you taste like chocolate? I think I want to lick you." I want to crawl under the table. Bella decides to take over "Lorelei! Don't be rude! He's not chocolate, he's just Black, and you cannot lick him." I am contemplating just excusing ourselves from the table and leaving. Jackson looks up at the waiter and blurts out "I love you!! Chocolate is my favorite!! Can I lick you too??!" Crap. So I am now waiting for management to ask us to leave and I can feel the heat radiating from my face and I know that I am beet red with embarassment so I just put my head in my hands and start to apologize again. But before I can even say a word, our great waiter starts laughing. I look up and I find that he is laughing at ME! He says, "I've never had a customer say that they love me. Or ask if they could lick me. Kids are so honest." I smiled, still embarrased, and answered "Yeah. Honest and loud. That is my kids."