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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.

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.

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Artist uses AI to create ultra realistic portraits of celebrities who left us too soon

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Mercury would be 76 today.

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Their futures might be mere musings of our imagination, but thanks to a lot of creativity (and a little tech) we can now get a glimpse into what these celebrities might have looked like when they were older.

Alper Yesiltas, an Istanbul-based lawyer and photographer, created a photography series titled “As If Nothing Happened,” which features eerily realistic portraits of long gone celebrities in their golden years. To make the images as real looking as possible, Yesiltas incorporated various photo editing programs such as Adobe Lightroom and VSCO, as well as the AI photo-enhancing software Remini.

“The hardest part of the creative process for me is making the image feel ‘real’ to me,” Yesiltas wrote about his passion project. “The moment I like the most is when I think the image in front of me looks as if it was taken by a photographer.”

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All images provided by Adewole Adamson

It begins with more inclusive conversations at a patient level

True

Adewole Adamson, MD, of the University of Texas, Austin, aims to create more equity in health care by gathering data from more diverse populations by using artificial intelligence (AI), a type of machine learning. Dr. Adamson’s work is funded by the American Cancer Society (ACS), an organization committed to advancing health equity through research priorities, programs and services for groups who have been marginalized.

Melanoma became a particular focus for Dr. Adamson after meeting Avery Smith, who lost his wife—a Black woman—to the deadly disease.

melanoma,  melanoma for dark skin Avery Smith (left) and Adamson (sidenote)

This personal encounter, coupled with multiple conversations with Black dermatology patients, drove Dr. Adamson to a concerning discovery: as advanced as AI is at detecting possible skin cancers, it is heavily biased.

To understand this bias, it helps to first know how AI works in the early detection of skin cancer, which Dr. Adamson explains in his paper for the New England Journal of Medicine (paywall). The process uses computers that rely on sets of accumulated data to learn what healthy or unhealthy skin looks like and then create an algorithm to predict diagnoses based on those data sets.

This process, known as supervised learning, could lead to huge benefits in preventive care.

After all, early detection is key to better outcomes. The problem is that the data sets don’t include enough information about darker skin tones. As Adamson put it, “everything is viewed through a ‘white lens.’”

“If you don’t teach the algorithm with a diverse set of images, then that algorithm won’t work out in the public that is diverse,” writes Adamson in a study he co-wrote with Smith (according to a story in The Atlantic). “So there’s risk, then, for people with skin of color to fall through the cracks.”

Tragically, Smith’s wife was diagnosed with melanoma too late and paid the ultimate price for it. And she was not an anomaly—though the disease is more common for White patients, Black cancer patients are far more likely to be diagnosed at later stages, causing a notable disparity in survival rates between non-Hispanics whites (90%) and non-Hispanic blacks (66%).

As a computer scientist, Smith suspected this racial bias and reached out to Adamson, hoping a Black dermatologist would have more diverse data sets. Though Adamson didn’t have what Smith was initially looking for, this realization ignited a personal mission to investigate and reduce disparities.

Now, Adamson uses the knowledge gained through his years of research to help advance the fight for health equity. To him, that means not only gaining a wider array of data sets, but also having more conversations with patients to understand how socioeconomic status impacts the level and efficiency of care.

“At the end of the day, what matters most is how we help patients at the patient level,” Adamson told Upworthy. “And how can you do that without knowing exactly what barriers they face?”

american cancer society, skin cacner treatment"What matters most is how we help patients at the patient level."https://www.kellydavidsonstudio.com/

The American Cancer Society believes everyone deserves a fair and just opportunity to prevent, find, treat, and survive cancer—regardless of how much money they make, the color of their skin, their sexual orientation, gender identity, their disability status, or where they live. Inclusive tools and resources on the Health Equity section of their website can be found here. For more information about skin cancer, visit cancer.org/skincancer.

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