This past weekend, my wife and three kids took a mini-vacation to Chattanooga. It was a beautiful trip with no drama, happy kids, a cool town, lots of eating and an awesome hotel – which was Vera’s (age 4) favorite part.
My kids love swimming and the pool at this hotel was awesome. We went four different times in our three day stay. My kids always want me to swim with them for someone to “play with”. But this weekend, I decided to start teaching Vera about the value of making new friends. There were many kids at this pool over the weekend and most of them around her age.
I encouraged her, “Go ask that girl what her name is and if she wants to play!”
Surprisingly, she abided and made a new friend night one. It continued each trip we made to the pool, V made a new friend. On our last night, as we were preparing for our final pool visit, Vera was super excited.
“Daddy, maybe that black girl will be at the pool again!”
I was stopped in my tracks. The previous afternoon, she met a family with three African American children, approximate ages seven, five and three. I had never heard my daughter describe someone by the color of their skin and I didn’t want her to start now.
“Vera! We do NOT call people that. It doesn’t matter what color their skin is, all people are the same,” I explained.
“What?” she responded, “I was talking about the girl with the black bathing suit.”
I was relieved. There was another girl at the pool the night before that she played with for about two hours who WAS wearing an all black swimsuit.
My response to what I thought she was saying now made me feel bad. I was the one who’s first thought was that she was describing the other girl’s skin. It also made me realize something I’ve been hearing for a long time… children are not born with a discriminatory bone in their body. Kids don’t see color – they see friends and playmates.
The one thing I’m most proud of about where I grew up is that I was exposed to such a mixed bag of people. I’m lucky enough to still be in touch with people I grew up with from multiple ethnic backgrounds, sexualities and socioeconomic classes.
We always want the best for our kids but one thing my kids won’t have is that. My kids are growing up in city where 86% of the people have the same color skin as them. The average income is almost $40,000 above the national average for all home owners. That’s not a brag, it’s a concern. I want to give my kids a great life – but with that comes a huge responsibility for me to teach them to treat all people the same.
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