My son has brown skin.
What do I tell him?
I tell him that the color of his skin DOES matter. He matters. They mattered.
I tell him that his brown skin is beautiful. That I love his thick curls that are mostly brown, but turn the most perfect shade of blonde if the sun hits them just right. I tell him how I love that he has my lips and his dad’s nose. I tell him that his bright blue eyes and his long eyelashes are beautiful, just like he is.
I will tell him that not everyone sees him the way that I do. There are people that will make assumptions about him because of the color of his skin. People will judge him because of the way he looks, something he has no control over.
I will not always be there to protect him.
I will tell him to “be careful.”
Those two words are so simple, so easy to say, and so important. What they mean for my son is something that only mothers and fathers of brown-skinned boys can understand.
When I tell him to “be careful,” I mean that if someone disrespects him because of the color of his skin, he should stand tall and be proud of who he is. I will tell him not to argue. I will tell him to remain calm.
When I tell him to “be careful,” I mean that if he is stopped by the police, he needs to comply with their orders, even if he has done nothing wrong. I will tell him not to argue. I will tell him to remain calm.
When I tell him to “be careful” I mean that if he is in a car and it gets pulled over, he needs to keep his hands visible, so that the officer can see them. I will tell him not to argue. I will tell him to remain calm.
I will tell him to be careful.
I will say their names.
I will tell him that what has happened to them could happen to him too.
I will tell him that there are bad people all over this world, but that not all people are bad.
My son has brown skin.
I tell him these things now. I told him that day at the playground. I tell him when he says that someone is “brown like daddy.” I will tell him when someone says something about the color of his skin, and I will tell him when he asks me why.
We should be celebrating our differences, but instead we have to explain to our children why people of color are continuously discriminated against, victimized, and killed.
Keep talking about race. Teach your children about different cultures. Bring them to places where they will see people that don’t look like them. It’s up to us to change how our children view the world.
Here’s a list of books to support the conversation:
Something Happened in Our Town: A Child’s Story About Racial Injustice
The Skin You Live In
Not My Idea: A Book About Whiteness
Skin Like Mine
The Hate U Give
All Are Welcome
The Name Jar