Racism and being different

  • My son is turning 4 in 3 months and he is very shy. I've been putting him in soccer and swimming lessons and he has finally started playing and acting like a kid, although he sticks with the instructors and doesn't really play with the kids. He is doing much better.
    The thing is, he's black. The only black person I have seen in our town (it is a small town) is my son. My second son is white.
    I am worried about him. He knows he is different but it doesn't bother him.
    But I have noticed a lot of the time when he is around kids, some treat him differently. I don't know if it is because he is different. At his swimming lesson one boy kept staring at him and when they had to go in a circle and hold hands, my son kept reaching for the boys hand and he refused to hold it. It made me sad for him.
    I don't know if it bothered him or not, but he gave up and didn't bother playing the game. He swam off and played by himself until he was called back.
    What can I do?
    Although I have never personally come across anyone who was racist (or at least not that I know of), I am worried about it. I'm not assuming that any of the kids are or the boy from his swimming, this is just another matter.
    What if he does come across someone who is? In school or at his lessons, what should I do? What do I tell him to do?
  • Where was the swim teacher when the one boy refused to hold your son's hand? She/he should have said something or moved into that spot so your son could play the game with the group.

    All children are different in skin color (not all "white" kids are the same color), hair color, eye color, height, weight, athletic ability, mental ability, hyper, etc. I would talk with both of your children and explain that everyone is different from everyone else.

    I'm sure you can find some good books about it at your library as well to read to the kids and adult books as well to help you explain differences to other kids.

  • She was in the circle with him but she didn't notice. I probably saw it better because I could see down into the water and their hands were under water. I didn't know what to do. I don't want to embarass my son or make any other parent upset.
  • You may have to explain to your DS that some ppl don't feel good about themselves and in order to make themselves feel better, they must make others feel bad. The easiet person to make feel bad is someone who is different than that person.

    Also, and probably the most important, is that children are so honest. I remember a lady that my grandparent knew and I ended up getting to know very well had a huge nose. My brother and I were about 10 and 12 years old, give or take. My sister was 2-3 years old. My grandmother took us to the store to get groceries. My sister said to this lady, "You sure do have a big nose." My brother and I nearly lost it with laughter! My sister didn't mean anything by it. Anyway, children are going to notice everything, especially things that are different. Your DS may just need to know that other children may be afraid of him because he is different and that is okay. Once they get to know him, they will forget about the color of his skin.

    We all have to deal with the prejudices of others and your DS will have more to deal with since he appears different than his sibling.

    One more thing, have you thought about looking up some stories of famous ppl who were black and how they overcame their stuggles? George Washington and Frederick Douglass (my fave) come to my mind. These men overcame the worst anyone can imagine and because the best! Douglass lived during a time when it was illegal to teach a black person to read. He was extremely well-read. If these men can excel in difficult situations, anyone can. There may even be children's books on this subject as well. Good luck!
  • Get this book!

    Bein' with You This Way by W. Nikola-Lisa and illustrated by Michael Bryant published by Lee & Low Books Inc, New York, 1994

    address: 228 East 45th Street, New York, NY 10017

    Really, get this book! It is a picture book with sing song verses excellently done on the theme of what RobertaD and the others said. Excellent read aloud. It is wonderfully done and even when my daughter was 10 years old she liked it. In fact, it is still on her bookshelf when many other books in that age are now packed away. Ageless and timeless. Gentle and sensible in its approach. Couched well in acceptance.
  • Hi! I just want to offer another perspective. I grew up in Detroit, never knew there were places without people of all different colors. Now I live in a small town, raising my kids here . . . You can imagine my embarassment when we went to a zoo in a metropolitan area and my son (age 3 at the time) remarked loudly, "Mommy, what does that boy have all over his arms?" At first I was horrified, but (pat myself on the back) I replied gently, but loud enough for the family in front of me to hear, "Just like people have different colored eyes and hair, people have different color skin too." He was happy with that, I sure hope the family in front of me wasn't offended.
    It was then that I realized how "white" our little town is. I had never thought about it before. We have read books that showed children of different races, but he had never met someone with a different skin color.
    I genuinely felt bad that I had not educated him about this. I hope that your son is accepted for who he is and grows strong in the face of adversity!
  • I want to add something. If your DS is shy, he may not verbalize just how much it bothers him that others treat him differently. He has 2 things going against him. 1) he is Black and some kids might be prejudice and 2) he is a Black child with a White sibling, another thing that others might frown upon.

    I have come across 2 types of people. One type are the prejudice types. They aren't around other cultures enough to understand them. For example, I was raised that Mexicans are dirty people. When I went to Mexico, I discovered that their sewage isn't as advanced as ours so they have to throw their toilet paper in the trash, which is in every stall. However, when they come to our country, the men have no trash cans in the stalls so they throw their poopy paper in the trash when the men wash their hands. Since others don't understand the culture, they assume these men are dirty. It is mostly lack of knowledge of the culture.

    The other type aren't prejudice. However, they are afraid to discuss the fact that an individual is of a different race or even discuss racial differences. I encountered this in an elevator. I embarrassed this Black girl, on purpose because I am a practical joker. I told her to push the 6 button when we only have 4 floors. I commented that I embarrassed her so badly that I could see her blushing through her dark completion. I was with my boss and fellow office workers. You would have thought I said something bad! Nobody wants to talk about the fact that someone is Black, Italian, or anything. We should be open and discuss it freely. It is good when I hear college students discuss such things. For example, one Black girl was wanting to date some cute guys. One girl asked her if she dated Black guys only or if she was open to other races? Why not ask that? That isn't bad. The girl knew some cute guys of various races and she wanted to know what the Black girl's areas of interest are for dating. I think opening the line of communication helps everyone understand each other.
  • I don't really have any suggestions, living in a large city we have all kinds of bi racial children of every possible race and it is pretty much accepted everywhere, not so much in the 70's but today it's just common. I have a bi racial couple right here on my block, my sister is in a bi racial relationship but small towns can be a little slow catching up with the bigger cities. I feel for your child and hope that you can find support not only here but perhaps a yahoo group dedicated to bi racial relationships??

  • I am Biracial, just like your son is biracial and I have a daughter who is 3/4 white. I grew up in Detroit like bskbug2 but my experiences were different. I was the only mixed child in my schools and neighborhoods and I got picked on forever. I even had teachers that were confused about my identity. I've had black people that wouldn't speak to me because of my hair/skin color/ eyes and I've had white people who wouldn't speak to me because they percieve me as black only.

    First off, you need to recognize that your child isn't black, he is mixed. A black child and your child will have two different experiences in life. A black child will look at his family and see that they look like him. Your Mixed child will look at your family and see that you look differently than he does. He will live his life between the white and black worlds, which may not be kind to him. Don't expect the black side to accept him, thinking that they will is not true. Racism exists on both sides. What you need to do is to establish a healthy biracial identity for your child. You need to let him know that he is half of you, half of your culture. He isn't different or seperate. Then you need to be flat out with him and not sugar-coat the world. My mother did that to me and it didn't help me. You need to explain to him that they are ignorant people on BOTH sides that may not accept him because of his skin color but thats okay, he needs to find people who accept him for whom he is.

    I used to write for the Multiracial Activist website and I wrote an article called, "Raising Mixed Kids to Face the World", which is still floating out there. And one advice I gave was to expose your mixed child to both of his cultures and to children that look like him, mixed children. If your child is the only mixed child in the area, you need to find other mixed children. Finding black children and sticking him with black children only won't help him. He needs to see Mixed kids that have a white mommy like him! And if you absolutely don't find anyone, you either need to move to a more accepting area or you need to get involved online. There are alot of mixed family websites.

    We moved from Michigan to Tennessee and were fortunate to find that the city we moved in had several multi-biracial families like ours. Multi-Biracial-(meaning a mixed parent and a white parent that had quadroon children). But when we moved to Colorado, and back to Michigan we were like the only ones. We even had neighbors who were half white and Native American that harrassed us racially. So now we're back to Tennessee and haven't had very many racial problems at all. My daughter goest to school with white, black, mixed and even quadroon kids just like her. That helps that she doesn't feel singled out.

    But that is what you're going to have to do. As much as I understand my daughters racial situations being mixed myself, I can't understand it fully because I don't look completely white and she does. The same goes for you, you will not understand his racial situations completely either but if you expose him to his other side, and expose him to kids that look like him, and give him a good foundation in his identity, he'll be fine. I would suggest though that maybe you think about the area in which you live because despite all that, if he constantly runs into people that treat him that way, that will weigh him down and he may end up with depression. There are alot of mixed kids who end up in the therapist office when what they really need is to be around someone like themselves. If I would've had that it wouldn't helped me a great deal! So think about that seriously!!! Hope this helps!!!