ms. jessa told me with a smile and a chuckle after school on quinn’s third day that he had been particularly attached to her that afternoon. specifically, attached to her arm, touching her skin. later when i asked him about it he told me it was because, “her skin is just like chocolate, mama. and it’s so soft.”

i sensed that jessa had no judgment, and neither did quinn, who of course is innocent and straightforward as can be. the one who had feelings of unease was me. i’m really really glad that quinn is attending a school where he is surrounded by a diversity of people. i’m really really sad that “it” is even a “thing” that his mama feels the need to be glad about. i’ve never really known what to do about the feelings of guilt and shame and embarrassment that i feel about how “my” race has treated people of other races. i feel upset whenever i hear anyone say that -isms are a thing of the past, because hey look a woman could almost be president! but look no further than your closest gay friend to know that bigotry is alive and well, and there are many (whole political parties) who would like to limit the rights and protections that certain individuals are entitled to based on insignificant differences among us.

needless to say, i share none of those race-gender-creed-sexuality-based biases, i want equal rights for everyone, and i do not believe we have come close to achieving that yet (don’t make me talk about “legitimate rape”, people. just take my word for it.)  so my unease is based in wanting to be so much the opposite of that, and wanting so badly to appear sensitive to these issues that even my son is a shining example of embracing diversity. well, i guess he is, if “her skin is just like chocolate” is taken at face value in the deliciously innocent adoring way that it was surely meant. however, i found myself wondering what i could have done better to prepare quinn, to make sure he knows it’s not okay to categorize people by color. i guess i have handled it like everything else- i’ve let him approach the subject as a blank slate, and seen what he comes up with on his own. with no coaching on how his birth came about, he came up with many great stories for understanding it on his own. and i love his take on jessa’s chocolatey complexion, because really, wouldn’t it be just as arbitrary and wrong to not acknowledge the beautiful rainbow of our friends, as it would be to point it out and focus on as a difference? quinn is observing his world, and noticing, and is not learning to identify someone by race any more than he is going to melt jessa down and bake her into a cake. i think by adding “stuff” to his little processing centers about “it” would only alert him to the fact of racism before he needs to take on such a big heavy concept to grapple with. i’m not saying he can’t handle knowing that there is intolerance and injustice in the world, just that i would never want him to feel guilt over his innocent statement and equate it with such an offense.

anyway, i’m just noticing… feeling things arising in me, and noticing them and letting them go. i wondered if i should “do something” about “it” or schedule a conference with quinn’s teacher to devise a strategy to help quinn develop sensitivity. actually, i think he has a better handle on it than i do. and as i mentioned in my educational priorities, because of the learning environment quinn is in, i believe that ultimately, “he will be unwilling to tolerate injustice because of his intimate experience of participating in a compassionate, justice-promoting community.” and i wish for that for all of our children.

(so does ani. lyrics of amendment available here.)

4 comments to diversity

  • lau

    i most definitely believe this sweet boy WILL "be unwilling to tolerate injustice because of his intimate experience of participating in a compassionate, justice-promoting community" and not making "it" a "thing" isn't always easy…..but his awareness and innocence of his environment is no different than saying someone has beautiful green eyes…..

  • It doesn't strike me as a racist comment at all – he's just describing the wonderful qualities she has. If it was a white teacher and he said "her skin is so soft, and looks like fresh snow," no one would probably think twice. As long as his teacher wasn't offended, I think he's just being descriptive. Kudos to you for wanting him to grow up amid diversity and justice!

  • Leticia

    yep yep yep yep yep!

    All your worries make perfect sense, it is so clear there is a reason to be worried (our history, our past, our present)… but also so clear that your ponderings took you to the right place re quinn. ditto lau above! :o) LOVE!

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