Mommy, what was racism?

The scene: Today. Your basic family restaurant with my two small boys, 3 and 6. We’re eating lunch while ESPN is on a distant TV.

A commentator comes on ESPN and my 3 year old shouts at the top of his lungs, “Mommy! Look! It’s Barack Obama!”

The commentator was, as you may have guessed, African American. Now, my children are cozy with people of color, including their own cousin, so Barack Obama is not the “only” in their experience. Despite this, I immediately cringed, replaying the horrific stereotypical statement “they all look alike” in my head.

Then I got to thinking – my young son looks at an African American man and sees a profoundly intelligent, accomplished candidate for the presidency of the United States.

So, good or bad?

2 Responses

  1. Your children are babies. Their response is just plain cute. I invite you to read my blog:
    http://www.ebonymompolitics.wordpress.com

  2. Seems to me that kids see race like they see clothing or hair color–as a visual clue that distinguishes one person from another in this great big world of ours.

    I’m of Polynesian descent and have thick, black hair, which is a rare sight in Portland. My boss’s three-year-old son saw a woman with the same kind of hair walking down Mississippi Street the other day and started shouting, “Look, mama. It’s Kathleen! It’s Kathleen!” Hilarious!

    I think these observations become racist when the we view people in discriminatory and stereotypical ways. Your children thinking another black man was Barack Obama doesn’t seem to be either–just a simple case of mistaken identity.

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