I bungled my first conversation with Meg about race. To be fair though, I wasn't expecting it -- especially not in the middle of watching "Toy Story 3."
We were watching the movie the other night when Meg asked me if Woody's hat is black. No, I said, it's brown. Then she asked about Mr. Potato Head, was he black? Nope, I told her, he's brown. She asked about slinky dog next, and Mrs. Potato Head, and about Buster (the dog in the film). I told her none of them were black, they were all brown.
Then it dawned on me what was going on.
Somewhere Meg had picked up that she is black, and that it has to do with the color of her skin. Being the smart kid she is, who knows her colors, including the difference between black and brown, there was now some confusion. And I was doing nothing to help the situation.
I paused the movie and looked at Meg.
"Baby," I said, "your skin is the color brown. People may call it black, but it's color is brown. And no matter what color it is it is wonderful skin, and I love you very much.""Is your skin brown," she asked."No, it's pink," I said. I figured that would be easier than explaining "pasty.""Is Daddy's skin brown?""No, his is pink too, but we are your Mommy and Daddy and we love you."
Then she asked me to turn the movie back on and snuggled in.
After she went to bed I laid awake for about two hours after that wondering how I could have better handled it. Her skin isn't black, but she is. That black really has nothing to do with color and more with racial construct. That there are some people that have much darker skin than hers that will never be identified as black.
I started wondering if I should have brought up Dr. King. Then I remembered she is two.
I am hoping the next time I am better prepared. I am also hoping the next time is as innocent, and doesn't involve her feelings being hurt because of racism, or feelings of rejection due to a realization about the differences in our colors and what they mean.
I know those conversations are coming, I am just hoping that I am better at this when they do.
Oh, and that she still wants to snuggle with me after we are done talking.