Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Negative Connotations

A couple times in the past week-and-a-half or so, I have literally cringed as I've heard the following statements:

"No, no don't eat the brown ones, those are yucky,"

"The green ones need water, if they don't get water they will shrivel up and turn brown like the other ones."

And from "My Many Colored Days"" a beloved children's book by Dr. Seuss:  "Some days, of course, feel sort of brown.  Then I feel slow and low, low down." 

As the mother of a beautiful, brown boy, these things have raised questions for me.  What am I supposed to do when our son starts making connections about the color of his skin and the negative connotations associated with that color?  Frankly, they are everywhere once you start noticing them.  Brown and black both have some very strongly negative associations.  In our daily dealings with our little one, we do (and have always) incorporated as many positive connotations surrounding these colors as we can.  For example, I will say, "Look at that beautiful, brown belly...I'm gonna' give it some kisses!" when I'm changing  his diaper, amongst other things.  But he is at a critical age right now.  He is listening and picking up on everything we (and others) say as he tries to make meaningful connections about our world. 

I don't think he has been harmed by any of these negative statements...yet.  It's a tough realization for me that there will come a time when I won't be able to protect him from the flaws of our society, and from the things other people say.  I've read "My Many Colored Days" hundreds of times over the years but only recently did I give any serious thought to the brown page.

I'm not even really sure where to go with this, it's just one my mind and something I need to think about more.  There are some obvious things we can do, like make sure positive associations are made and reinforced whenever possible, especially within his everyday environments.  Still though, this is one of those things that sort of caught me off guard.  It simply wasn't something I ever had any reason to think about before.  Now it is and I don't quite know what to think...        


Rebekah said...

Our words truly are powerful. I wouldn't have picked up on any of those observances either. I don't think you're being too sensitive - you're being the right kind of sensitive for the perfect kind of loving parent that wants all God's best for your boy.

We need to get the boys together this summer!

Kel said...

For what it's worth, I think Brown is a beautiful color, the earth is brown, it gives life, nothing is more beautiful to a farmer than dark brown rich fertile soil. I know the world can have a different view, but, for me, a beautiful warm brownie sundae with chocolate icecream and sauce is the best thing ever. And they are all brown! Gray, now there is a sad color! ;)

Meg said...

Thanks for the helpful thoughts as we move forward with our adoption process! You are so right with the negative connotations that are out there, I am becoming more and more aware of them as we read all the books that are part of our home study. I love your ideas for incorporating ways for him to know he is beautiful...and he IS soooo beautiful! Today I watched my husband run in the marathon here in our city, and most of the winners (9 out of the first 10 finishers, maybe?) were African-American (or African from Kenya and Ethiopia, since it was an Olympic qualifier) I was glad to see children, both white children and AA children watching, yelling, and cheering them on! I saw so much pride on the faces of the AA children, what great role models these men and women were for them today.

Debbie said...

It's things like this that make me so grateful for the Princess and the Frog. Given my girl a role model that fits what girls her age love right now, Princesses.

Over the next year you'll start noticing more things and learning how to respond. You're already doing the right thing. I don't say things about Isabel's beautiful skin color often enough. She started pointing out AA women awhile ago and has now stopped. I can't help but wonder if we responded wrong and already at 3 she thinks we're uncomfortable. That's just me over thinking it though.