I was going to post an entirely different conversation but then this morning, I had an interesting one with my 7-1/2-year old which left me feeling a bit stumped. So I have switched gears to share this one since I appreciate gaining insight from other mamas.
As I was buzzing around getting our morning going, I overheard my 2nd grader teaching my 5-1/2- year-old kindergartener one of those patty-cake, jumping-around, rhyming, singy-songs that little girls do on the playground. In this particular one, one of the lines was "Here comes a lady with an African booty."
Knowing full-well that my kid had no idea what she was saying, I gently said, "We need to talk about this song you've learned because some of the words just aren't very nice."
I then left the room to consult with my man because sometimes he is more even in his approach and I didn't want my daughter to feel like I was punishing her because I always want her to feel comfortable telling me things she learns on the playground. The last thing I want is for her to feel like she needs to keep secrets from me. That's a bigger ugh.
So when she came out from her room to sit down and have breakfast, we both calmly explained that she didn't do anything wrong but saying those words can hurt other people feelings and she really can't sing that song with her friends anymore.
"Why does it hurt other people's feelings?"
"Well, where do African people come from?"
"Africa," she said.
"And what color are most people that come from Africa?"
"I don't know."
"Well, African people usually have brown or black skin. And this country has a history of not being very nice to black people."
"I know that," she said.
"Okay. Well then if you know that, we are just trying to tell you that if other people heard you singing that song, especially perhaps, black people, they would not like hearing those words and their feelings would be hurt."
I felt myself getting frustrated. I thought - Why can't she just grasp this concept and say okay and just understand???
My husband jumped in, "You see, there's a thing called racism and when you say those words, it sounds racist. Like you are saying that there is only kind of African butt and that's not true. In this country we try our best not to generalize about any race."
"What's race?" she asked.
Wow. I underestimated the complicated nature of this conversation.
"Race is a certain group of people. Like when you're black, that's a certain race and well, we're white, and that's another race."
My husband and I exchanged glances that said we had no idea if were helping this situation out at all.
Our daughter continued, "Well, we are not talking about a race, we are talking about one lady!"
"We know that, honey, but in the term, 'African booty', you are talking about a race. And those are the words that we have a problem with."
And then I added, "Do you have any idea what those words are even supposed to mean?"
"No." Claire said. "But we weren't trying to be mean."
"We know that, honey. And we're not punishing you. But we're your parents and we are here to help you learn about the world and we are telling you that the world will not like it if it hears you say those words."
"But we weren't trying to be mean. And we weren't even talking about African people, we were talking about one lady!"
And after a few more exchanges, the conversation ended as we needed to rush out the door as to not be late for school. I told her I was going to talk to her teacher which terrified her because she LOVES her teacher and never wants to be perceived as a kid who does anything wrong. I told her it wasn't to get anyone in trouble, it was just to let her know what was being said on the playground by many kids and maybe she could talk to the whole class about why it's not a nice thing to say too.
As my husband left to drive the girls to school, I felt so....unsatisfied. Was I expecting too much from her? Was this concept of racism beyond her grasp? It's such a delicate balance of educating and not feeling punished for something she so clearly was not getting.
What am I missing here? Any experiences you can add or tips or insight or language I should have used would be greatly appreciated.
Damn those singy-songy-rhymey playground things.
If you have a "Conversation with your Kid" that you would like to share, paste the link in the linky contraption below. I'd love to check it out.
Thanks for adding to the conversation.....have a great weekend!