• Thursday, March 15, 2007

    Sticky moments involving race..

    The daughter had a friend here yesterday and they both wanted to watch The Chronicles of Narnia, the daughter's current obsession. Fine, I have no problem with that. They got comfy and I started the DVD.

    The opening credits and then the film started. The first scene involves shots of London being bombed during WWII and frightened kids being separated from their mother and whisked away to far off parts of the UK for safety. My daughter's friend asked what was happening. Why are they doing that? I started to explain that the German's were blowing up London during WWII when it dawned on me that she is in fact German. Suddenly I felt the need to come up with new words to explain what was happening. Basil Fawlty suddenly came to mind, "Don't mention the war."

    I know it's probably not a big deal but I just don't think three year olds need to have war explained to them just yet. A similar situation arose last year when the daughter got the Valiant DVD. Pigeons working tirelessly for the war effort against...the Germans. She kept asking me who the bad guys were and I just couldn't bring myself to tell her they were Germans, two of her closest friends being German of course. Maybe it wouldn't register but it seemed better to leave the race of the bad guys out of the picture and wait until she's older.

    Race to date has never been a problem. She's in a multi-cultural environment, from a mixed marriage and neither parent is in any way discriminatory. However, there are only two black kids at the school, both black-American and both boys. She's never even mentioned any difference and is good friends with one of them, the other is older and in a different group. At school the kids are all just kids.

    But when we were in Singapore airport earlier in the year she was bouncing around the play area when a Sri Lankan family came in with a daughter, who was clearly the darkest person my daughter has ever seen. My daughter looked a bit shocked and then smiled to me, "Daddy, look at the chocolate girl." My jaw hit the floor. The mother smiled and I apologised. But what do you say? She didn't mean any offence and actually played with her for a while until it was time to go. I couldn't tell her off because she didn't know that anything was amiss. I also didn't really want to draw her attention to it too much. I quietly took her aside and tried to explain that it was not polite to say things like that and that the girl might have been upset.

    It's the one and only time that she's ever made any reference to people being different and I think it just came out without any thought process. Certainly embarrassing for me at the time. Don't you just love kids?

    Sticky moments involving race..

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    11 Comments:

    Anonymous lillian said...

    Its hard to explain war to a 3 year old. I wouldn't mention germans eather.. till they are older and understand that there are bad people in every culture. Wars happen everywhere .. EXCEPT Switzerland. Obviously we are of a diffrent kind ... hahaha. Just kidding

    6:51 pm  
    Blogger Life Out East said...

    My feelings exactly.

    I thought the Swiss were big on mercenaries (Reisläufer), fighting many wars but under different flags. Hasn't the pope been guarded by Swiss soldiers for a few hundred years now? A-ha!

    10:34 pm  
    Anonymous Bart said...

    You're both right. War never happens in Switzerland, but sometimes with Swiss soldiers :) Where I'm not with you however is that German is not a race but a nationality!

    11:12 pm  
    Blogger Life Out East said...

    I know Germany is a relatively new country but aren't the Germanic people a race?

    9:05 am  
    Anonymous Bart said...

    Well, I'm not sure about that. But I'm sure that WWII was involving countries, not races.

    10:43 am  
    Blogger Life Out East said...

    But I thought the reason for the holocaust was the German (or more accurately, Nazi) desire to create a "master race" of healthy, intelligent and physically superior beings. Or something along those lines. Sure, territorial gain was in there too but wasn't that all part of the idea of one race being superior to others?

    1:11 pm  
    Anonymous lillian said...

    ofcourse it ww2 was about races and not countries... as for germanic race.. you are probably right.. europian history isn't my strength
    btw.. why doesn't my name link to my blog? weird..

    2:23 pm  
    Anonymous lillian said...

    ofcourse it ww2 was about races and not countries... as for germanic race.. you are probably right.. europian history isn't my strength
    btw.. why doesn't my name link to my blog? weird..

    2:23 pm  
    Blogger the dame said...

    My father and step-sister had a moment exactly like that when she was about 3 years old. My family (who are caucasian - my sister's ancestry is of English and German decent) had lived in a smaller town and her limited exposure to other children through pre-school and daycare had included contact with children of other races but she had never encountered anyone who had very dark skin. When she was 3 they moved to a much larger city with a more diverse community. The first week, she was on the bus with my father and stood up on the bench watching people in fascination. Suddenly she pointed and exclaimed to my father, "Look at the brown boy!"

    My father was horrified. Thankfully, the boy and his boy's mother did not seem to be upset or offended. My sister did not think anything was wrong - she was just curious. She was raised to have as little awareness of differences based on race as possible. As an adult she has traveled the world, has friends of many races and does not even remember this incident. She was just a 3 year old noticing something new to her. Later that day she wanted to know why we weren't called "Pink people". Everything is simpler to children - but I think, in a very good way.

    ...and I think you're right not to try to explain WWII to a three year old.

    3:29 am  
    Blogger Liza said...

    I made a "chocolate" people comment as kid as well. I'm guessing I didn't mean anything by it. I'm also guessing that my parents were far more horrified when they took me (still as a small child, of course) on the New York City subway system, where I innocently pointed at a black man and said, "look - a robber."

    6:52 pm  
    Blogger Life Out East said...

    Yes, the innocence of youth. I'm sure it was just the shock of seeing someone who at first glance seemed so different. Hopefully she won't provide me with any more embarrassing incidents like that. And from now on I'll think a bit more carefully about what she watches with her friends.

    We had a similar incident in Muscat last year when she was faced with what she seemed to think were lots of men wearing dresses. She found that very confusing.

    8:36 am  

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