Most of the books we've read about it say kids don't really notice skin color until the age of five or so. And Adinah is five.
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One of my secondary missions on my recent blitz trip to New York was to find some "magazines about black princesses," which was a request from Adinah and Anette. If such magazines exist, I didn't find 'em at the two large magazine stores I visited, so I got Adinah some books about powerful black girls instead. One of them, Skin Again, by bell hooks, is really more about prejudice and racism in the abstract. But I hesitated before buying it. Adinah's aware that people have different colors, but she doesn't yet know that some poo poo heads don't like people of another color. Put another way, we've talked about race, but not about racism.
I wonder when we should have that conversation.
Naturally, I'm afraid of it. Five is a tender age. What if it breaks Adinah's heart to find out just how hateful and stupid human beings can be?
She's a curious kid, though, and she's starting to ask questions. She went to a birthday party recently with her Ethiopian friend Teresa, and a couple of the other girls there laughed at them because they both have brown skin. Adinah didn't understand why anyone would laugh about brown skin.
She's mentioned it several times since then. And both Anette and I have, perhaps presumptuously, understood her to be asking a question. I told her that maybe those girls laughed because they've never seen little brown girls before. Which, in Vienna, may be true. (Of course, what I really want to say to Adinah is, 'Tell me those girls' names, and I will open up a can of whup-ass on the rednecks what raised 'em.)
But that's not even close to the whole answer to the question Adinah is asking me.
As is too often the case, I get some small inspiration from...Hollywood. I only just recently saw To Kill a Mockingbird. And when his daughter asks Atticus Finch, world's best father and all-around-too-good-to-be-true-hero, a similar question about racism, Atticus says something like, "There's a lot of bad things in the world, Scout. I wish I could protect you from all of them, but I can't."
I know it's not a perfect answer, but maybe that'll have to do for now.