Last week we were at Disney World. Going around Memorial Day — and thus around my birthday — has become something of a tradition with us.
Amber had taken the older two kids to the restroom, and I was waiting with the younger two in the stroller. An African American family was putting their two kids (a boy and a girl, twins as it turns out) into a stroller and getting all the stuff you carry into the Magic Kingdom organized. I noticed the twins staring at me intently.
“Are you his dad?” the girl asked, pointing to Ma’Khiyan.
I replied, “Yep, I sure am.” I knew what was coming next. From the panicked look on her mom’s face, she knew what was coming, too.
Before her mom could intervene, the girl asked, “Then why you white?”
Her mom quickly squatted down and started with, “Honey, we’ve talked about this. Not everyone has to be the same color to be family.” I told her it was fine, and it wasn’t the first time we’ve gotten that question. I ended up talking with the parents a couple of minutes. Mainly I wanted them to know I totally get the questions, and it doesn’t offend me in the least.
Amber and I started getting these questions when we were still fostering M & N. We also noticed something interesting to us: We mainly only got the questions from African-American kids. White kids didn’t seem to notice. Well, I guess I can’t say if they notice or not. At the very least they didn’t comment on it to us.
I’ve wondered why, but now I have a theory: White kids don’t ask about my mixed-race family because race isn’t that important. But it matters to little black kids.
I want to be clear in what I’m saying, and what I’m not saying. I am not saying that white kids are somehow more enlightened. I am saying that, to most of us white folk, race does not enter into our everyday life.
I do not get treated or stereotyped negatively because of my skin color. My older kids — both blond and fair-skinned – won’t be, either. But these kids – at four years old – are very much aware of race. Think about that for a minute. Before they are old enough for kindergarten they are aware that they are different from other people.
This realization isn’t new, of course. If I had bothered to ask any of my black sisters or brothers, they could have easily pointed it out to me. It’s just another way I’m realizing how privileged I am in so many things.