More

My mixed daughter was told it's 'weird' that I have dark skin. This is what I told her.

An African-American dad had a conversation about race with his mixed daughter in terms that a preschooler could understand.

My mixed daughter was told it's 'weird' that I have dark skin. This is what I told her.

Asking how a preschooler's day went can bring about some interesting conversations. This one took the cake.

My daughter is like most 5-year-olds, especially when her stream of consciousness starts flowing.

"The sun and moon are friends, right?"


"It's not fair that I can't eat bacon every day."

"Can we live at Disneyland?"

Sure, kiddo ... whatever you say. GIF from "Community."

But on a recent drive home from school, she stopped me in my tracks when she told me what one of her classmates said.

"Daddy, Marcy [not her real name] said your dark skin is weird. Are you weird?"

Oh boy.

For some background, my wife is half-white, half-Japanese. And I'm black. My daughter's preschool is predominately made up of white and Asian children.

To be clear, this isn't an indictment of Marcy, her parents, or the school. As we all know, kids say some pretty wild and unfiltered stuff. And in the interest of full disclosure, my kid says some pretty wild stuff too, so I'm not sure if her encounter with Marcy went down exactly the way she described it. Regardless, it certainly gave me an opportunity to have my first in-depth conversation about this with my young daughter.

I did this once before with her regarding the happy holidays "controversy" and it worked well, so I figured I'd try to explain race in a way that a preschooler could understand.

1. There are a lot of mixed children out there.

My daughter recently turned 5. If I pulled out a bunch of crayons and tried to engage her in a "yellow and blue makes green" conversation to explain the appearances of mixed children, her reaction would be like...

Try again, Dad.

But without going into too much detail on the "how" part, I explained how two people with different skin colors can create babies who are a mixture of both parents' complexion. More importantly, there are a lot of those little ones out there — from everyday children like mine to celebrity kids like Walker, the son of Taye Diggs and Idina Menzel.

Walker, pictured with his dad, Taye Diggs, is one of millions of mixed children in America. Photo by David Buchan/Getty Images Entertainment.

In fact, according to studies, the percentage of mixed-race babies in America increased to 10% in 2013. Back in 1970, that number was only 1%. About 7% of the adult population in America claims to be of mixed race.

That's when I asked her: "Isn't it cool that we live in a world where kids can look just like their parents or a little different?"

She nodded in agreement.

That was relatively easy, so I decided to dig a little deeper.

2. If you like (or don't like) someone, skin color should never be the reason why.

My daughter owns many of the royal dolls from the Disney universe. To prove another point, I asked her to choose her favorite and least favorite from the bunch.

Disney royalty (from left to right) in the form of Queen Elsa, Princess Ariel, Princess Jasmine, and Princess Belle.

Her least favorite was Queen Elsa from "Frozen."

Why?

"Because I don't like the cold."

Word. That's why we live in California. (I guess the cold really does bother her, anyway. #FrozenJokes)

Her favorite was Princess Jasmine from "Aladdin" because she loves her rendition of "A Whole New World" and wants to ride on a magic carpet someday. Makes sense to me.

Don't you dare close your eyes! GIF from "Aladdin."

Here's what I asked her next: "Did their skin color have anything to do with your choices?"

She shook her head slowly as if she wondered why that would be an actual reason to make such decisions. When I asked her why not, she said, "Because that isn't nice."

As a society, we have a long way to go in terms of achieving racial and ethnic tolerance. Heck, because of Islamophobia, some people believe we should bomb Princess Jasmine's fictional kingdom of Agrabah. You know ... just because.

My goal is to teach my daughters to be tolerant of different races, religions, sexual preferences, and anything else that makes people unique. In other words, if they choose to like someone (or not), it should be due to what's inside of that person's heart and nothing else.

3. Being "colorblind" isn't the answer. It's about noticing racial differences and embracing them.

There are well-meaning people who say: "I don't see color. I only see people." However, arguments have been made about how ignoring race can be a problem because it closes off people to the experiences of those who are different from them. I mean, it's pretty hard to empathize with someone if we think everyone experiences the same stuff, right?

That's when I asked my daughter the final set of questions. "Blue is the color of the sky during the day and black is the color at night. If colors could talk, do you think they would tell the same story about what they see when it's their turn to be the color of the sky?"

Predictably, her answer was no. But why?

"Because kids play outside when the sky is blue and they sleep when it's black." Parents know that isn't always true, but I think she knew what I was getting at.

To that point, I try to teach my daughter to be a good listener (she's 5, so that isn't all that easy). Everyone and everything — including colors — has a different story to tell. By listening to the feelings and experiences of others, we can learn more about ourselves and the world around us.

As corny as it may sound, every color has its own story. We should listen to all of them. Photo from iStock.

To answer my daughter's question — yes, I'm weird. But my skin color has nothing to do with it.

I'm a grown man who is obsessed with superheroes more than a grown man should be, I'm deathly afraid of frogs, and I don't like the taste of potatoes. In my mind, that makes me a little "out there."

We all have things that make us unique. My hope is we can create a world for our children where those things can be celebrated.

Pexels.com
True

June 26, 2020 marks the 75th anniversary of the signing of the United Nations Charter. Think of the Charter as the U.N.'s wedding vows, in which the institution solemnly promises to love and protect not one person, but the world. It's a union most of us can get behind, especially in light of recent history. We're less than seven months into 2020, and already it's established itself as a year of reckoning. The events of this year—ecological disaster, economic collapse, political division, racial injustice, and a pandemic—the complex ways those events feed into and amplify each other—have distressed and disoriented most of us, altering our very experience of time. Every passing month creaks under the weight of a decade's worth of history. Every quarantined day seems to bleed into the next.

But the U.N. was founded on the principles of peace, dignity, and equality (the exact opposite of the chaos, degradation, and inequality that seem to have become this year's ringing theme). Perhaps that's why, in its 75th year, the institution feels all the more precious and indispensable. When the U.N. proposed a "global conversation" in January 2020 (feels like thousands of years ago), many leapt to participate—200,000 within three months. The responses to surveys and polls, in addition to research mapping and media analysis, helped the U.N. pierce through the clamor—the roar of bushfire, the thunder of armed conflict, the ceaseless babble of talking heads—to actually hear what matters: our collective human voice.

Keep Reading Show less

Here we are, six months into the coronavirus pandemic, and people are tired. We're tired of social distancing, wearing masks, the economic uncertainty, the constant debates and denials, all of it.

But no one is more tired than the healthcare workers on the frontline. Those whom we celebrated and hailed as heroes months ago have largely been forgotten as news cycles shift and increased illness and death become "normal." But they're still there. They're still risking themselves to save others. And they've been at it for a long time.

Mary Katherine Backstrom shared her experience as the wife of an ER doctor in Florida, explaining the impact this pandemic is having on the people treating its victims and reminding us that healthcare workers are still showing up, despite all of the obstacles that make their jobs harder.

Keep Reading Show less
Mozilla
True
Firefox

When I found out I was pregnant in October 2018, I had planned to keep the news a secret from family for a little while — but my phone seemed to have other ideas.

Within just a few hours of finding out the news, I was being bombarded with ads for baby gear, baby clothes and diapers on Facebook, Instagram and pretty much any other site I visited — be it my phone or on my computer.

Good thing my family wasn't looking over my shoulder while I was on my phone or my secret would have been ruined.

I'm certainly not alone in feeling like online ads can read your mind.

When I started asking around, it seemed like everyone had their own similar story: Brian Kelleher told me that when he and his wife met, they started getting ads for wedding rings and bridal shops within just a few weeks. Tech blogger Snezhina Piskov told me that she started getting ads for pocket projectors after discussing them in Messenger with her colleagues. Meanwhile Lauren Foley, a writer, told me she started getting ads for Happy Socks after seeing one of their shops when she got off the bus one day.

When online advertising seems to know us this well, it begs the question: are our phones listening to us?

Keep Reading Show less
Photo by Mahir Uysal on Unsplash

Two years ago, I got off the phone after an interview and cried my eyes out. I'd just spent an hour talking to Tim Ballard, the founder of Operation Underground Railroad, an organization that helps fight child sex trafficking, and I just couldn't take it.

Ballard told me about how the training to go undercover as a child predator nearly broke him. He told me an eerie story of a trafficker who could totally compartmentalize, showing Ballard photos of kids he had for sale, then switching gears to proudly show him a photo of his own daughter on her bicycle, just as any parent would. He told me about how lucrative child trafficking is—how a child can bring in three or four times as much as a female prostitute—and how Americans are the industry's biggest consumers.

Keep Reading Show less

Kids say the darnedest things and, if you're a parent, you know that can make for some embarrassing situations. Every parent has had a moment when their child has said something unintentionally inappropriate to a stranger and they prayed they wouldn't take it the wrong way.

Cassie, the mother of 4-year-old Camryn, had one of the those moments when her child yelled, "Black lives matter" to a Black woman at a Colorado Home Depot.

But the awkward interaction quickly turned sweet when the Black woman, Sherri Gonzales, appreciated the comment and thanked the young girl.

Keep Reading Show less