We sometimes read too much into what our children say. We analyze their words, turn them over, scrutinize their intentions. At least I think I hope that's what I'm doing when I contemplate what Will said to me at the playground a couple of weeks ago. Will had been balking at one of those poles you slide down from the top of the play apparatus, and I said "That Mommy over there said her daughter also has trouble sliding down the pole." Whereupon Will said, "Don't listen to what brown people say." I closed in on him in panic, "What do you mean? Why did you say that?" "They're from another country," he explained, and added "Let's go on the swings!" I persisted with "That lady is American, and even if she wasn't, we listen to everyone. No matter where they are from or what color they are. Because we're all in this together. Okay?" "Okay. Let's go on that thing that makes us dizzy."
I doubt he has ever heard anyone say anything like that, and I finally came to the conclusion that his comment was more related to his own insecurity about sliding down the pole. But isn't insecurity is where much racism comes from?
Yesterday the boys and I were taking our coats off in a little coatroom at church. The choir started to file by in their red robes (including John), and Will asked, in a loud voice,to everyone within earshot, "Where's the black guy?" Argh. I pulled him over. "Please don't refer to people that way." "Why not?" he asked. I really couldn't think of a reason, as it's a simple descriptive phrase. He clarified, "You know, the guy who wears black." He meant the choir director.