Is my toddler a racist?

Kirjoittaja on New Yorkissa varttunut ja Helsingissä naisistunut copywriter.

Dear Mom,

So, my 3-year-old came home from nursery school and started telling me about her day. “We had spaghetti and meat sauce for lunch.” Great, sounds delicious. “Then I played store and Spiderman with my best friends.” Wow, Spiderman is so cool. “And then after that Black braided my hair.” Um… WHO?!?

Maybe there’s a new kid at nursery school named Blanca or Jack? Or maybe I just heard her wrong. Maybe. But I was pretty sure that the most likely scenario is that “Black” is the dark-skinned woman interning at their nursery school. Oh God…

So the next morning I pulled one of the teachers aside and went into a whole like 5-minute-long monologue about how depressing it is that a 3-year-old is already using skin color to label and that I couldn’t understand where she’d gotten it from since we’d never even talked about race and I certainly don’t highlight the color of someone’s skin when referring to them or anything like that.

And maybe that’s the problem.

It would be nice to think that little kids don’t even notice things like race, gender and weight. But the truth is they do. And Black got me thinking that not talking about race is probably one of the least effective ways to teach kids not to care about race. Kind of like how not talking to teenagers about sex is the world’s worst form of birth control.

It turns out that Black is actually a white teacher at her nursery school. I tried asking Lexi why she calls her that. She said she’s not sure. Ok, let’s try a different question.

My best friend is a woman who is married to another woman. Well, ok, technically they’re in a “registered partnership” because of the stupid law blocking same-sex marriage. But just like some people choose not to recognise their relationship, I choose not to recognise that stupid law, so to me they’re married, period.

Anyway, I asked Lexi if she’s ever noticed that their kids have two mommies instead of one isi and one mommy. She said she hadn’t noticed but that they could probably go to Stockmann to buy an isi if they wanted to. It makes sense. I mean, there is a saying here that if they don’t have it at Stockmann, you don’t need it. …At least that’s what people said before the Internet.

I really believe color and gender are no big deal to kids Lexi’s age. But when you grow up seeing and talking about diversity, it normalizes it.

After we talked about her friends’ two mommies I tried asking her again why she calls her teacher Black. She gave me the stink eye and said she was too busy watching her iPad to talk to me.

Can’t wait for all those birth control conversations…

Love, Lissu