Saturday, August 1, 2015

How I talk to my bi-racial daughter about her skin (spoiler alert, I haven't figured it out yet)

I finished reading Eleanor & Park and I can't stop obsessing over why it bothers me so much.

Except my daughter told me this weekend that she didn't want to be part brown or brown anymore.  She wants to be all white.  Cue my deflating heart and utter internal devastation.  I hardly knew how to respond and decided to let it be for now until I could figure that out.
I always try to put a positive spin on color for them, given how our culture persistently and vehemently villifies and uglifies anything dark.
Don't even get me started on crafters complaining about kid's artwork being a "brown mess" all the time.  Yes, the colors turn to brown sometimes when they get mixed together, is that so awful!
Would any white person appreciate me pointing out all the bodily fluids and internal organs their skin color resembles?  I don't think so, though this Buzzfeed article about it is good for a laugh.  Darkness being evil is indeed a matter of opinion, not artistic fact.

I kind of felt like I had no idea where this backlash from Nandini was coming from.  Yes, I think she was slightly annoyed with me during our coloring session the other day when we made a poster of Ariel and Cinderella.  I decided to forgo the proscribed yellow hair and gave her black hair (with pretty cool blue highlights) and brown skin.  She didn't exactly love me changing Cinderella around.

Or when I put on Annie for them and she kept telling me she wanted to watch "the Annie with red hair".  When I tried to point out that she has black curly hair just like the girl in the movie she started sulking and ended up taking an angry nap on the couch for two hours. (Avinash and I, however, thoroughly enjoyed it, though Cameron Diaz doesn't hold a candle to Carol Burnett).

A lot has already been written about how racist it Eleanor and Park is.  How it is insane that the author feels that racism is just a historical concept not an ongoing issue.  I can't even imagine how she would get that idea.  I guess that fact that her story structure is completely lacking should have clued me in to how little research she would bother to do on growing up Korean in Omaha. 

Park is unhappy until he finds a white girl willing to like him, even though she's weird, because apparently weird white girl is all he should dare to aspire to?  Maybe kids should be taught they deserve more than a white person getting over their derision of you, your color, your culture, etc.  I worry that I settle for that and may be teaching my kids to do the same thing.  

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