“Mommy, are you white or brown?”
When my five-year-old son asked me that question (loudly) at a Monster Jam event we were watching Friday evening, I felt like the entire building went silent. My heart stopped. I froze. My husband and I looked at each other like, “Where in the world did that question come from and why is he shouting it in public?”
I asked him, “Why does it matter?”
He again asked if I was white or brown and I said, “Well, buddy, technically I am white, but it shouldn’t matter what my skin color is.”
We left it at that and watched the rest of the show, but I fully planned to ask him more questions in our car on the way home. I had a good idea as to why he asked that question out of the blue.
When we loaded up and headed out, I asked our son (who is in kindergarten), “Hey Bud, did you learn about Dr. King in school today?”
“I did,” he said.
It was all starting to make sense.
“What did you learn about Dr. King?” I asked.
“We learned that Dr. King changed the world.”
“That’s right. He did change the world. How did he do that?” I asked.
“Mommy, did you know that brown people and white people weren’t allowed to go to school together?”
“I did know that.”
“Dr. King helped fix that.”
“He did help fix that, Buddy. What do you think about the fact that brown people and white people weren’t allowed to go to school together years ago?”
“I think that was mean.”
“It was mean. What would you think if you couldn’t go to school with your friends who are brown?”
“I wouldn’t like that. I would be sad.”
“Could you imagine if your teachers weren’t allowed to teach you simply because their skin is a different color?”
“No,” my son said.
Then he asked my husband and me, “Were you allowed to have brown teachers in school?”
“Yes we were allowed,” we both said.
He asked if his grandparents were allowed to have “brown” teachers. We told him no. He processed that for a little while. He asked my husband, “Daddy, are you white or are you brown?”
My husband responded, “I am white, bud, but we are all the same inside. It doesn’t matter if my skin is white or brown.”
“Then why are we all different colors?” our son asked.
I told him, “God loves color. He made rainbows, flowers, and people colorful. The world would be boring if there was only one color to look at.”
After that he began to tell us that he can play with whoever he wants. It doesn’t matter if they are white or brown, it doesn’t matter if our shoes are red or blue, it doesn’t matter if we wear a dinosaur shirt or a super hero shirt, it doesn’t matter if we’re tall or short, it doesn’t matter…
And he is right.