Sunday, September 12, 2010


Race can be such a loaded topic. There is much debate in the China adoption world about the responsibilities of non-Chinese parents (predominantly White) who adopt children from China. Heck, there is much debate in the U.S. about transracial adoption, too. But the Chinese thing has been on my mind lately.

A few weeks ago, Marcie told me, "Mommy, I wish I had light skin like yours." It about made my heart stop. I think Marcie is about as beautiful as they come. I love her porcelain skin. I love her almond eyes. I love her long, dark hair. She is downright pretty. And I tell her so. All the time. (Among other things- I also tell her how smart I think she is, or how observant, or how funny.)

Of course I asked her why she wanted lighter skin. And she didn't really have a reason. Just thought it looked better is all.

After I asked her why, I asked her what color she thought her skin was (brown) and what color my skin is (light). I pointed out that I have brown "spots" (freckles) all over me, but that her skin is beautiful- and the same- all over. I told her that everybody has something about themselves that they wish was a little different. This is normal. But that I hoped she'd change her mind-- because I so very much love the color of her skin. I also told her I was glad she told me what was on her mind. (And I was glad to know that the impetus of her statement was not something mean someone said at school-- but I have to wonder, at least a little bit, how being at a not-particularly-racially-diverse school will affect her self-image as she gets older.)

I imagine this will not be our first conversation about the topic of skin color. It's such an obvious thing-- and yet lots of people really skirt the issue. I'm not going to do that. I am not going to ignore this difference between us. But I do hope she comes to view herself as I do-- just. plain. pretty.

What about you? How would you have handled it? (Or how have you handled it if the topic has come up in your home?)


Shelby said...

Maureen has always been darker than everyone else in our family. When I took her to get her ears pierced, they wanted proof that I was her mother because we looked so different. I've always said much what you told Marcie, that she has a lovely, even skin tone that doesn't sunburn like the rest of us. Now she refers to my "eggshell" skin that burns and turns red.

Andrea said...

When my sister was teaching preschoolers in the very affluent community of Sudbury, she experienced something unique and funny with regard to children and race. One of the students (also adopted) had darker skin. I believe she was of Brazilian decent. About half way through the year, one of the other caucasian boys walked up the the girl and said "why are you black?" The girl looked totally surprised and said - "I'm not black." The little boy said "Oh" and they went off to play together. It's funny how kids notice differences but that they don't actually have any "PC" filters. It just is, what it is- matter of fact.