Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Tough Questions: Why Do People Have Different Skin Color?

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I was putting Bear to sleep one night.  I wanted wavy hair the next day, so i had piggy tail braids in my hair.  he felt them, then asked,
"Momma, why do you have braids like a black girl?"

I froze.  I could not form any words.  It might have been the   l   o   n   g   e   s   t   pause in conversation ever. 

But then I got to thinking... We live in a predominantly white neighborhood.  We've read lots of books that have diverse lead characters. But then I realized... Many of them have black little girls who are depicted with braids.  Examples of these books are Hot City, I Like Me, Something Beautiful and Going Somewhere Special. 

Immediately momma-guilt set in as I realized I had failed to expose my son to true diversity. And in doing so had done a disservice to him and society. So, we did this activity to explore the difference in skin color. It's so simple and makes such a difference in how children look at others that are different than them. So, I wanted to explore what some other children thought about the difference in skin color.

Why do people have different color skin?

Well, because they're different.  It's just simple.
Bear (3.5) from Crayon Freckles

Because we are all unique. God made us that way.
Micah (7)

Dad says: He didn't understand the question so I showed him a picture of 4 different babies, all of different ethnicity and asked "why are these babies all different skin colors?"
Linden: "they are? they are all just babies."
Linden (3)

Because they have different names, so they have to look different too.
D (4) from
The Usual Mayhem

Coz there is dark, brown, grey, lots of different colours. If they are old or young they have different skin. If they are brand new they are different too.
Madeline (3) from Learn With Play at Home

Because some people were born that way.
Cassie (5.5) from The Chocolate Muffin Tree

Aikman:  Because they are different from each other. 
Mommy: But why are they different?
Aikman: Because all of us are different, and God loves us each.
Aikman (6) from Montessori Tidbits

I think God did it because he bringed all his kids there and he turned all their skin into whatever he wanted. Because he loves them to be a rainbow.
McKayla (3) Btw now she wants know what color He is and when we are gonna get to see Him.

Ummmmmmm well maybe people paint themselves like I did!!!!
J (2.5) from Rainy Day Mum
Because their family is from a different country.
Henry (6) from Play Dr. Mom

Because it's good that we are all different.
Honor (3) from Play Dr. Mom

Nico: l'aime noir, l'aime brun (like black, like brown)?
Mom says: I gave him choices as to why and he picked because they are all from different places.
Nico (2.5) from Glittering Muffins

So they will look cool.
Emma (6) from Mama Smiles

It's just how they are born, there is no reason behind it.
Alexis (16) from Tiaras and Bowties

Mom says: I asked my 3 year old and she hadn't even noticed that people have different colour skin, and she "mixes with a wonderful rainbow" of skin tones at our church and amongst her friends! I think that's beautiful :-)
Cakie (3) from The Imagination Tree

Caleb: Because God made them that way.
Mom: Why?
Caleb: Because he wants everyone to be different.
Caleb (6)

This the activity that I used to explain different skin colors to Bear.

I started out by showing Bear pictures of people of various skin color and ethnicity.  Then I poured the M&M's onto the table and pointed out how all of the candy was different colors, too.  Then I asked him:
The M&M's are different colors on the outside,
so what do they look like on the inside?
Are they different again or are they the same?

Once Bear gave his predictions, I cut the brown and the orange M&M's in half so he could see the insides.  Then we talked about how people and M&M's might look different on the outside, but inside, they are the same. 

And in light of recent events in our country, we're doing this again this weekend. Hate and intolerance are taught, not inbred. We owe it to our children to teach them that the "candy shell" of people is not what's important. We are all the same... just packaged differently.

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Anonymous said...

Wonderful post! We are a black family, but all of my children are different shades, I have 2 that are fair skinned, 2 that a brown skinned, and 2 that are dark brown skinned, so in our house it was oh Zachary is White, or Jordon is wer had to explain that God created all people different, you are a black American and there are different shades in our family, thats just how God made us. I love the M&M's I think I will try that with my 2 little ones. Thanks for sharing.

Gina said...

This is such a fun post! I love hearing what children think. The M&M idea is wonderful Andie!

I'll never forget my daughter's reaction on this same topic.

She was in kindergarten & we had just returned home from school. I was a room mother & was there to chaperone the Christmas party.
My daughter mentioned one of the girls by name and I innocently asked, "Is she the black girl?"
She gave me the strangest look. So I repeated my question.
Still having a puzzled look look on her face, she questioned me, "Do you mean was she wearing a black shirt?"
I nearly fell over with shock. It then it me...OMG, she doesn't SEE the color difference! To this day, I am still blown away by that answer!

Jennifer said...

Great way to explain color differences to children! Thanks for sharing the books also.

Sheri said...

Another heart felt amazing post my friend! I know more than a few adults that could use the M&M lesson!! :(

tricia said...

I knew there was a reason I loved M&Ms!!!!!! My addiction is based on cultural knowledge and acceptance! :) This is a wonderful post. Children always surprise me.....even beyond skin color- Where we live, most kids in public are spanish speakers but I have found that our kids manage to play in the exact same language. Also- when our daughter came across a severely disabled child, she noticed her small size first- It wouldn't hurt to have those kinds of lenses.....wonderful post!

Gina said...

What a great way to explain differences on the outside and how we are the same on the inside. The answers that the kids gave are precious. Another book that I love to read with my little guy is Whoever You Are by Mem Fox. Thanks for sharing you book ideas...checking them out soon!

Unknown said...

Great M&M explanation! My daughter asked me this very question yesterday. I told her that it was because their families were originally from different parts of the world, which she seemed to understand. Then I tried to use some of her friends from different countries as examples, which confused her because apparently she hadn't noticed the differences.

PlayDrMom said...

What a great post! Thanks so much for including Henry and Honor's quotes! I absolutely LOVE the m&m explanation! Very very cool, Andie!

Alison said...

Love the M&M explanation! My almost 4 year old doesn't seem to notice what colour her friends are whether it traditional Scottish bright white, South American brown or Pakistani darker brown! My 6yo has asked questions but, being a scientist, I gave him the scientific reason about the melanin in the skin to protect it from the sun etc so people with very dark skin would have had ancestors who lived in a very hot place like Africa etc. He understood and was happy with the explanation!

The Iowa Farmer's Wife said...

what a fabulous post! Love the activity and all the great responses from kiddos.

Unknown said...

I cannot even tell you how much I love the M&M reference to explain skin color to bear! That is amazing! I remember when Austin was younger, I guess about 3 or 4 he asked me why I married a 'brown' man. Although, Jim and I are both caucasian he percieved his father as a 'brown' man. It was an innocent question with no meaning behind it other than curiosity because he attended preschool with children of many colors and loved them all... I wish I had thought of the M&M thing back then!
Love Ya!

Carolyn @ Mama's Little Muse said...


Unknown said...

You never cease to amaze me in your ability to teach your son valuable lessons. We can teach letters and numbers all we want, but these are the most important things for our children to learn. Beautiful, Andie.

Angela said...

This is great and I'm definitely going to do this activity with my kids. I am Hungarian, my husband is Jamaican and my girls are different shades of brown between the two of us! So even in our family, we each have different colored skin. I am passing on the Sunshine Award to you. Please come by to pick it up when you have a chance!

Angela said...

p.s. Thanks for the book ideas too! Will be checking those out for sure!

Meeha Meeha said...

What a BEAUTIFUL lesson on Humanity, spoken from the mouth of the children!

Unknown said...

Wow, I really love that! A very yummy way to show them too. We lived in North Carolina for a while and I should have done that with my toddler. She had never really seen the "rainbow" and was very surprised when she did. Your thoughts are beautiful as usual Andie. Thanks!

MaryAnne said...

I think this is so important, and your son is lucky to have you as his mom! Thanks for the book suggestions!

Learn with Play at Home said...

How did I miss this? Anyways, I really love the activity you did with Bear to help explain it to him. What a clever (and delicious) idea haha. We enjoy the Todd Parr books too and have the mummy and daddy book at home. Will have to borrow the family one (and the others) from the library. :)

Naptime Review said...

Found you from Mom Library. Love your project and the books you found to go with it. I will try it but I am scared my daughter will eat all the skin differences. HA! Anyway, great post. Very educational. Newest GFC follower. Love for you to stop by and return the follow.

Unknown said...

Featuring this one at Mom's Library on Wed!

Unknown said...

Featuring this on wed at Mom's Library!

Unknown said...

What a great illustration! And yummy too! Wish I had thought of it when my kids were little!

Meaningful Mama said...

So cool! I absolutely love this. Thank you for sharing this with your kids in such an amazing way.

Unknown said...

What an awesome post. My child is just starting to question the race issue. Thank you so much for sharing how you handle your child's question.

momto8 said...

great learning tool!! I told my kids I love my green eyed kids just as much as my brown eyed kids...they knew then that what was outside did not matter, it is what is inside that counts!

Anonymous said...

LOVE LOVE! I am going to pin this! My son is half Asian, and he looks a lot like that side of the family. I am very pale and obviously Caucasian, and people often think he's adopted. We have friends who've adopted and friends of different races, so I am keeping this post in my back pocket for when the question comes up! Thanks, again. Lovely!

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