"I don't like blacks." The words hit me like a surprise left hook. Did my 4 year old just say that? Despite our attempts to surround her with diversity and teach her that people shouldn't be judged based on physical traits? How did this happen!? Which of the parents from her preschool is responsible for introducing this idea? Is it related to the recent Trayvon Martin murder case? How do I handle this? Careful, carefully. Say the right thing. Let's delve into this a bit first, calmly.
"WHAT?!!!?," I said as close to the audible range of yelling as one can get while maintaining some deniability. I didn't yell, I just spoke loudly.
"When you make case of dias (quesadillas for those who don't speak J Bean), I don't like it when you melt the blacks on there."
"You mean black beans?"
"Yeah, I don't like when you melt them on there or put spicy sauce on them."
"OK, those are black BEANS and they aren't being melted, I just warm them up. Why did you call them blacks?"
"That's their nickname."
"No, lets not use that OK? 'Beans' is an important part of their name we should keep that piece."
I'm thinking of the instances where this will come back to haunt me at the grocery store. "Dad, did you get some blacks! Mom says we need more blacks! Blacks are on sale this week! Make sure you get the good blacks! Dad, there's some blacks over on aisle 4."
I'm glad to know I don't have to wade into the language of race just yet, but it is time to do so and time to research the best way to go about it. We've talked about how people look different from each other in many ways and how that has no bearing on who they are on the inside, but we haven't labeled races or discussed how and when to address it so far. We'll skip the black beans for now and find another snack that she's happy to share with friends of any shade without concern or even awareness of the lines adults tend to draw around the melanin in another's skin. Next week, I think we'll try refried beans.