Monday, December 17, 2007

Hold the Phone

The other day, my beautiful daughter asked me, 'Papa, what do you like better: white girls or black girls?'
Somewhat caught off guard, I said, "Well, I don't think I like one better than the other. I like both. I like your mommy and she's white and I like you and you're black."
Pause.
"Why do you ask me that, Adinah?"
"Mommy said she likes black girls better than white girls."
Really? She said that?"

It was only later that I thought to ask her her own question.
"Do you like white girls or black girls better?"
"White girls," Adinah answered, definitively.
"Really? Why?"
"Because they have long hair. And they have blonde hair."

Made me want to throw out every Barbi, white doll, and Princess Lilly Fee magazine in our house. (And we don't have that many.)
Shit.
I'm gonna stop complaining about all those books about interracial adoption--this is exactly what they warn you about.
It'd be bad enough if she was a little white girl, but she's our beautiful black daughter Adinah.

7 comments:

Elizabeth said...

Oh, grief and awfulness. It's so hard when you have little brown girls and everywhere the culture is telling them how wrong their hair, their skin, their eyes, their lips are. You just battle and battle.

Off the top of my head - good books for little girls of color.
Jennie's Hat, by Ezra Jack Keats
Min Yo and the Moon Dragon
The Monster is Coming, by m. morgan
a series by Helen Oxenbury (for your younger daughter). Tickle, Tickle. also Clap Hands.
Ruby Bridges
Flossy and the fox
Tar Beach, by Faith Reingold
A Chair for my Mother, by Vera Williams
More,More, More! by Vera Williams

calliope said...

I found this blog - can't remember how - it's interesting, so I'll post, which I normally don't every do.

Does your family have friends who are Africans, or of any other color - white being only one of many colors, not the ONLY color, which it sounds like that's what your daughter kind of is seeing.

I think it's very important for children and families to have a mixing of friends from many races, which is really what the world is.

It sounds as if your lovely daughter may not see or get to interact with black kids/families, as they go about their lives, in a way she doesn't see her own color reflected anywhere in people who are just living their lives - you know on the street, in jobs, going to movies. So what does that mean for her.

Also, is she in school? How do the other kids treat her? Are they saying things to her that she may not be telling you but is leading to these comments?

Just a couple thoughts - your family sounds nice, and these are some of the issues you'll be facing for - oh the next 18 years.

pat said...

Elizabeth: Thanks a million! I'ma try and forward this list to my Mom (who reads this blog but never ever comments, right Ma?) because she likes to get the girls books.
Calliope: Thanks for speaking up! Yes, we have adult friends who are African, El Salvadoran, Turkish, etc. and our daughter has good friends who are Ethiopian, Austrian, and Chinese. Though Vienna is pretty white, however you define that, Adinah's kindegarten is a good mix of Muslim, Christian, Austrian, African, Serbian, etc. But all the girls love pink and Barbie and princesses. Urrp. We're hoping it's a phase, and working to make it so.....

more cowbell said...

Pat, you would not have been able to avoid this, truly. It's the media, society, a thousand subtle messages every day. Parents of kids of color must actively battle this, every day. White parents, much much more so - it's not an option to just not see it. My kids HAD a parent of color around for the better part of their lives, but the effects happen regardless.

Please watch this A Girl Like Me

It's a 7minute film short made by 17yr old Kiri Davis, who re-conducted the infamous doll experiment. It also has teen girls discussing their thoughts. If we think our daughters are not affected, we're fooling ourselves, and shortchanging them.

One thing is that your daughter has opened a dialogue with you about her questions and what she's feeling. This is very positive, and is your opportunity. She's young, and you're aware now, not blindsided when she's 13. Good thoughts to you.

pat said...

Hey, thanks a lot, Cowbell. Thanks for the words of hope. I have indeed already seen the amazing A Girl Like Me, read the two hundred-some-odd comment thread about it at YouTube, and followed one of those comments to a related film by Bill Cosby (from the 60's) where he compares drawings by young people of color, which is also pretty devastating and amazing.
Yeah, it's going to be a long dialogue. But it's good work if you can get it.

Chaos Smith said...

My daughter said these things when she was younger. Now she is the opposite, and glories in her brown skin and versatile hair.

Don't worry, these comments will change as they age!

Chaos Smith said...

My daughter made remarks like this (preferring my white skin and blonde hair) until she was a little older. I had done all the right things -- black dolls, attended black church, activities, etc. I think, in a way, she was flattering me. Today, she would never say such a thing. She glories in her black skin and hair, as well she should.