Debunking 7 Major Myths around the Conversation on Colorism
Racism exists. Colorism exists. What we need to do as a community is eradicate it as the root of it. Is it possible to do? Yes. One child at a time. Though, do we need to be having conversations with our children? Do you feel nervous talking to your kids about this essential topic?
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2 Myths On Colorism & Conversation
The first myth is that kids don’t see color. Of course, they do. As certainly as they can see flowers of different colors and rainbows. Do they let it affect their behavior? NO. And that is what we want to ensure.
The second myth is that it has to be a “Let’s sit down and talk kind of conversation.” It is small discussions that can lead to a lifetime of impact with kids.
Without these conversations, doubt and disparity slowly creep into our children’s lives and we don’t even realize it. From those around them, from our silence.
One afternoon, my son came home and told me, ”My friends and I put our hands together and they said I was different. ” I told this incident to many of my mom friends and ALL of them surprisingly had heard their children and their friends doing the same. I asked them what they had told their kids and many just laughed it off or said, “It’s just something kids do.”
Yes, it is something kids do yet such moments must be used as a learning opportunity.
Using Children’s Books To Fight Colorism
In a world where fair is beautiful and dark is exotic. Where fairness creams sell like hot cakes all over the world. Where kids are told their skin color is the color of poop (yup! Two readers told me this about their child.), we must teach our kids how to hold their own early. To fill them with so much confidence via fact-based answers that they can stand up for themselves.
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Now, my children are on the fairer side of the Indian color spectrum. Yet, my son was quite curious to learn about what makes his skin tone different from his own sister. This is why I finally wrote a book How Our Skin Sparkles as an important introduction to the world where many feel all Indians are of a similar skin tone. In fact, after the release of my book, some desi moms commented that the kids on the cover are not dark enough to their liking.
There are biases everywhere. People assume a certain section of people has to be of certain skin color. People from North India should be fairer and those from the South would be of a darker tone. Whereas skin color is an amalgamation of many aspects of science, culture, and heritage.
It is not just where we come from that defines us but also our own makeup. And there is no set formula for how someone is going to be or is. And that certainly does not affect the KIND of person they are, good or bad.
So why do we, as people of color, need to talk about this?
- To create confidence within our kids to stand up for themselves.
- To build empathy for others.
- To build world awareness of the ways we may be different and yet the same.
- To raise cultural pride and bring home how our heritage defines us.
- To help kids understand why they need to stand up to colorism, racism when they see it.
That is what this conversation aims to reiterate. That a person is made up of their actions, choices, feelings, and likes. Not by the color of their skin.
It is more important now than ever that we talk to our children early about body positivity, self-confidence, and inclusion.
What are some other myths around this?
Talking about Our Family is Enough to Discuss Skin Color
I was surprised how few parents talked about the science behind our skin color. I am so glad that all the parents and teachers who picked up my book were happy with the way the disparities in color were portrayed and explained in detail.
You Need the Perfect Words
Every child is different. Not every child is ready to comprehend the conversation coming their way. Keep in mind the mental state of your child before you talk to them. Age 3, say if this comes up, you would start by just talking about the different skin colors within the family. Keep it simple.
It has to be an Us vs Them Discussion
When your kids have questions or come to you with comments via people around them, remember to not put anyone down. Talk about skin color in positive terms and let your child understand why someone would have a certain bias.
Talking is Enough
Diversify your reading and content. Look for books, movies, plays, festivals that you can immerse yourself in to help your children to help them see the differences and similarities between people. This could be as difficult as looking for local festivals from other cultures or as easy as picking a multilingual show on your streaming service.
And you are done …
“Oh, so and so actress has become so much fairer” or “Take care of your skin, you don’t want to go darker.” If you hear such comments, especially in the presence of your children, address them. Even if it is in the content you consume. If you notice something, point out why it is wrong for your child.
Your child asks a question or comments. You address it. You are not done. Kids are sponges but that does not mean that they retain everything. You need to have these conversations periodically while doing all the above.
Remember, identity is not defined by your skin color but it is certainly a part of us and the first impression we make on people. The first instant someone sees us is the moment we are boxed into a category.
Help your child discover themselves beyond their skin color. How they look is where they came from, but eventually, their actions shape who they become.
Bio – Aditi Wardhan Singh is a multi-award-winning author of books for children (Sparkling Me Series ) and parents (Strong Roots Have No Fear, Raising the Global Mindset). As a child raised on the borders of India and Kuwait, and a mom now raising kids in the USA, she is passionate about raising mindfulness around cultural sensitivity and self-empowerment. She founded the Raising World Children collaborative platform in 2017 and now uses her extensive experience as an editor of books, and providing authors the know-how to get their books published and in front of readers. She enjoys reading, long walks with her two kids, and choreographing dance recitals in her spare time.