We were at the family dinner table the other night, my boys, my husband and I. We were all just chatting away about my youngest son's up and coming 5th birthday party. What would you like for your birthday? Would you like a theme? Shall we make it fancy dress?....You know the kind of exciting conversation. He was explaining he would like an animal theme...Then he could dress up as his favorite animal...The fast and amazing cheetah. The conversation was filled with hopeful anticipation we he suddenly said, "But I only want people with my skin to come." My husband and I stopped in our tracks and stared at each other from across the table. "What do you mean?" I asked. Then confirming our dreaded fear he said, "I don't want anyone with brown or black skin to come."......Deadly silence. My husband and I looked at each other in disbelief. WTF? I started to say that was a ridiculous request.....Everybody has different hair colour, eyes, skin tone. If he was going to start picking his friends based on whether they were like him or not, he'd end up with no friends...."Look at Daddy," I said, "he doesn't have blue eyes like we do. Should we stop him from being part of our family? He is different to us."....After more discussion he realized his initial request was flawed as he had friends of varying skin tones and decided to forget the idea.....Just a little thought and discussion and the matter resolved...for now.
But where did this come from? I decided to talk to his kindy teacher about it. Being an Indian South African, I figured she'd know a thing or two about racism. She laughed about it and said she thought there was nothing in it. She said something about "youthful innocence". Maybe she's right....I'd certainly hope so...Did she really believe that though? We have no reason to believe he was being "a racist" as this issue has never come up before.
But it bugs me so much. Why? I am of Scandinavian decent. I have fair skin, blue eyes and very blonde hair....Yet I have always thought about race, culture and wondered where I fit into "the big picture". I've always felt a kind of guilt attached to my skin colour. An ugliness....I felt shame at my son's comments.....(But they probably don't mean anything.)
I'm going back to University next year. Going to study Social Anthropology. I had been in the enrollment process when my son made his timely statements....Along with this I am currently reading Barack Obama's autobiography....All of which has really got me thinking.....