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To be annoyed at what my 3yo just said..'I'm white and you're black''

(58 Posts)
squiggler Sat 22-Nov-14 09:25:06

My DC has been saying "I'm white and you're black and friend 1 is black and friend 2 is white...'. Obviously I'm not annoyed at DC as he's only 3 but it turns out that this was a conversation that they had had at pre-school with one of the teachers.

AIBU to think that by the time kids are in pre-school they should be able to understand more than just 'black and white' based on what people look like?

I can see that the teacher was probably put on the spot by one of kids and didn't really think about what she was saying, but I would have thought that it could have been handled in less 'black and white' terms, especially as there is quite a mix of kids in the nursery.

Perhaps I should have already discussed this with DC but so far the question of 'race' as such hasn't come up. It's been more a case of 'so and so's mummy/daddy/whoever is from here'...and not in terms of race, just country of origin.

The black/white thing is a personal bugbear of mine because I'm a mix of ethnicities and back when I was a child there was still quite a bit of (what we would now class as) racism about so not sure if I'm just being over sensitive.

WooWooOwl Sat 22-Nov-14 09:34:21

I don't think something like this has to be a problem. Children naturally comment on what they see, and if it's a fact that friend one is (what we refer to) as black, and friend 2 is (what we refer to as) white, then that's just the way it is.

It's likely that the teacher commented on it as casually as she would have done if she was saying child 1's shoes are red and child 2's shoes are blue. It's only an issue if adults imply that there is something wrong with there being differences, and that's unlikely to have happened apart from what you are projecting onto the situation.

There are differences in people, that's part of life, we shouldn't try to pretend they don't exist for the sake of political correctness. We just have to make sure that as well as noticing the differences, we also take the time to notice the many more similarities.

Hoppinggreen Sat 22-Nov-14 09:40:34

I'm white but I have a few Jamaican friends and they think my white embarrassed middle class hesitancy to use the terms black and white for people is hilarious!!
However, if you find the term black offensive then you can ask people not to use it.

Hatespiders Sat 22-Nov-14 09:42:27

I think it's quite innocent and no big deal. Maybe you're e bit sensitive about your own mixed ethnicity.

I'm white and dh is black. In Tesco's we often have a laugh when little toddlers sitting in their mums' trolleys stare at dh and point. (Our area is practically all white) Their mums are often embarrassed, but we aren't. It's quite natural for little ones to notice different things.

When I was tiny, in the late forties,my mum took me on the bus and there was a black man sitting opposite. I shouted, "Look Mummy! A chimney sweep!" She nearly sank through the floor with shame, but the man grinned.

mygrandchildrenrock Sat 22-Nov-14 09:44:00

Well as most black people round here are born here, referring to their country or origin would be pointless.
If a child in nursery said 'so and so is black' (although they are more likely to say brown), I would probably say 'yes they are aren't they, they have lovely brown skin'. I would often then carry the conversation on about how we call pink/cream skin white and brown skin black. I would say how lovely each skin tone was.

WorraLiberty Sat 22-Nov-14 09:46:17

There was probably way more to the conversation than your 3yr old has remembered, or told you.

I think you're being over sensitive here.

There's nothing wrong with a bright 3yr old recognising that some people are black and some are white.

As he grows and learns, he'll understand the bigger picture but for now, this is a stage he's at.

The teacher has started the conversation, now you can build on it with your child.

NewEraNewMindset Sat 22-Nov-14 09:47:29

I was also going to remark that children say what they see. I am black you are white, I am short you are tall, I am fat you are thin etc.

I'm not sure there is any great need to talk about racial issues at three years of age, well at least not in a negative sense. I think it could be a really nice idea to talk about culture and heritage and you could absolutely do that and link it to skin colour in a positive way.

I imagine there are some wonderful age appropriate books that discuss this topic in a positive way. Maybe someone will see this thread and link to a few.

Janethegirl Sat 22-Nov-14 09:47:30

Different skin colours, different hair colours, different shoe colours.....none of it matters. Children just notice differences. None is wrong.

Swingball Sat 22-Nov-14 09:54:54

I sort of know what you mean. My dd is always deeply puzzled when I use those terms, she goes 'no mummy she has brown skin, not black'. Which is nice. She has cousins and lots of friends of varying skin hues.

'Black' and 'white' are politicised terms which are perfectly acceptable in the general adult scheme of things so I wouldn't blame the teacher for this. But I understand wanting to keep the innocence about it for as long as possible, especially given your own family circumstances.

Writerwannabe83 Sat 22-Nov-14 10:05:48

I think you are you overthinking it.

Would you be this fraught if he said one friend was blonde and one was brunette? Or one had green eyes and the other had blue?

Using black and white is just another differentiation that young children make - if there's no nastiness behind it then just see it for what it is, an child looking at people and making innocent comments about their appearance.

bodhranbae Sat 22-Nov-14 10:07:54

Think you are overthinking this a wee bit OP.
Children of that age are simple creatures.

On the upstairs of a bus in London when DS was that age he shouted out "Look Mummy that is the bus for the black people."
I was absolutely bloody mortified.
But in reality he was just saying what he saw - that the upper deck of the bus next to us had no white people on it - and as he is being raised in an area with a white monoculture it was quite surprising to him.

I think it falls to you as his parent to handle the nuanced approach rather than expecting the school to do all of it.

Fairenuff Sat 22-Nov-14 10:11:13

OP what have you, yourself, told your child? Do you have a term that you would rather they use?

Swingball Sat 22-Nov-14 10:12:45

But people are neither black nor white are they? They are shades of brown or pinkish or cream or whatever and this is what children see, and the point the OP is making.

sejt Sat 22-Nov-14 10:15:09

they're just being factual aren't they ? my children are mixed race and they tell me how white I am. They look at their brown limbs with admiration and then they look at mine and pat me sympathetically.

MrsCosmopilite Sat 22-Nov-14 10:15:21

You wait 'til the embarrassing comments/questions start...

Friend is white with black husband. When kids were little were being looked after by white friend. Friends DS to babysitter "Is your bottom black or white? Mummy's is white, but Daddy's is black"
I won't even go into what he asked his (white) granddad, but it was also anatomical!

WorraLiberty Sat 22-Nov-14 10:16:25

Why sympathetically sejt?

Applefallingfromthetree2 Sat 22-Nov-14 10:16:31

Sorry but I really don't see the problem here. Your DC is not being offensive merely saying things as they see it.

fanjoforthemammaries7850 Sat 22-Nov-14 10:17:27

It's not racist if he is white and the othe child is black though?

I think it would only be racist if using black as some sort of insult which clearly noone is.

motherofmonster Sat 22-Nov-14 10:20:43

You are over reacting op. A child will come out with something as they see it.
when ds was little we took him into the city and he saw his first ever black person in real life when sitting in mcdonalds next to someone and proudly told him You are lovely and shiny grin i could have died ,luckily the man was lovely and explained that his skin was different as his family came to Jamaica,told him all about the sun and beaches. Ds was transfixed.
he also pointed out when he was very small that grandad had a spiky beard while granny had a fluffy one..which did take more explaining confused

sejt Sat 22-Nov-14 10:20:47

well, I think their skin colour is gorgeous and my own is like basildon bond. Not going to give a breakdown of their ancestry but love their skin colour. I'm not 'down' on myself though iykwim. They also tell me if my eyes are blood shot, if my fringe is too long, they say it how it is.

WorraLiberty Sat 22-Nov-14 10:25:11

Oh I get you sejt, it's just you they are sympathetic to.

I thought you meant white people in general, which of course could cause all manner of upset at school grin

Aeroflotgirl Sat 22-Nov-14 10:39:24

Total overreaction. No not all pre schoolers understand as they do not yet have the skills to. My ds 2.10 years would not. It is the truth though, my African friend describes herself as being black, and she tells me. I'm white.

charlestonchaplin Sat 22-Nov-14 10:44:06

Swingball, I think that the comments indicate that many adults don't get the point being made. 'Children say what they see'. Yes, but black people are rarely black, so the child is not talking about what they have seen, but is reflecting adult opinions.

There is nothing wrong with calling a person of negro ethnicity a black person but it is a political term, a convenient shorthand. The problem is that many of these so-called black people are not black. They are mixed race, as much white (or Chinese or whatever) as black. It is important to them to be acknowledged as not just black and it is offensive, to many black people anyway, to see people with a smidgeon of black heritage as just black because it harks back to the 'one drop' view. That is the view that just a single drop of 'black blood' makes a person black, like it's a contamination of the gene pool.

Then again a mixed race person or even a white person may see themselves as black because they've grown up surrounded by black people. It's probably less common these days, but I wouldn't discount it or the opposite scenario.

The point is, it's a bit more complicated than black or white, even for three year olds. If you want to be factual and keep it simple at the same time, my suggestion would be to go on actual skin colour. Then both black people and Asian people would be 'brown'.

DoraSchmora Sat 22-Nov-14 10:47:19

I don't think you need to worry OP, at 3 years old things are taught in very simple terms. There will be plenty of time in the coming years to go into more detail.

Just wait till they start noticing and mentioning other things like, "Why has that man got big ears?" very loudly on a bus, and, "Why is that man wearing a dress?" very loudly in a ladies loos. My sister fielded that one as she had taken him to the loo. I laughed like mad when she came out and told me. And then there is the classic, "Why is that lady sooooooo fat?!"

I think it is sweet that they pat you sympathetically sejt that made me smile

checkeredpresent Sat 22-Nov-14 10:53:29

I also think you are over-analysing for whatever reason. My dcs have always attended international schools in various different countries and initially they did comment on differences in appearance. This stage seemed to be very short-lived however and it wasn't long before they were asking for playdates with "the boy who wears a red t-shirt" for example, not thinking to mention that he was black or Chinese or whatever!

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