Thursday, July 18, 2013

Jack and the Bean Talk.

"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.


  1. lol. Funny how our kids do that, and we immediately go on the defensive. When my 5 year old daughter was trying to show her 3 year old brother the difference in Disney princesses, she said, "This is Tiana. You know how you can tell it's her? She's the one in the green dress." To the point. :)

  2. As my daughter is only one-year old, she has yet to say anything - racist or not - intentionally or unintentionally. However, I was the director of a day camp for 9 years and had to deal with these issues. And honestly, when it's unintentional and innocent like this, the kids don't even notice or care. I wouldn't have known if the counselor didn't overhear it and bring it to my attention. That said, you never know when you're going to run into somebody who was raised differently and takes offense despite the innocence with which it is said.

    Worse is the conversation I had to have with a little 7-year old girl who was actually excluding another girl in the group from her activity because she was black. I didn't believe it at first until I talked to her and heard it for myself. And how do you talk to her parents about an issue which was almost entirely how they were raised? That situation sucked. I'm sure your daughter will be fine when the time comes.

  3. That's true. She has an accent too.

  4. Yes, the studies show large amounts of bias against people of color, even among people of color. Hopefully, we can all educate our children to accept people for who they are not what they look like. Thanks for reading!