Thanks to all who left such insightful comments, and those whom I spoke to in person. We spoke to the teacher’s aide, whose face just dropped when we mentioned what the boy had said. She told us the incident was over a month ago, but had happened basically the way that the boy related to us. She had overheard them, and immediately talked to B about how different people have different skin colors but are all the same. She then talked to the boy, too, and all seemed to be well until the other day.
I felt strongly, as did most people that both Eric and I spoke with, that we should talk to B’s parents and let them know what had transpired.
Eric caught up with B’s father as they were leaving school, and here’s how the conversation went, after pleasantries exchanged:
Eric: “A while ago B said something that really hurt the boy, and I wanted to let you know about it”
B’s dad: “Oh, what was it?”
Eric: “Well, he said he didn’t like brown skin, and it really hurt the boy’s feelings.”
B’s dad: “Oh. Well, I’m sure he didn’t mean it.”
And then walked off.
The next day, B’s mom walked right by Eric in the morning without making eye contact or saying a word.
I was dismayed by this seeming utter lack of concern and even questioning–I mean, if someone ever told me the boy did something like that, I’d at least want to ask more questions about it to know what had happened and express concern for the other kid. I can’t say I was entirely surprised. Even before Eric spoke with B’s dad, though, I steeled myself because I know from experience that when you approach people for conversations like this, the response you get is NEVER satisfying. It was important for them to know, but I can’t control what they do afterwards. Who knows, maybe they’re working on some elaborate apology card for the boy at home, but I’m not saving any space on the mantel.
We also spoke to the teacher’s aide who overheard the conversation, and did say that we wanted to know if anything like that ever happens again. We love her in general, but I do think she should have at least talked to the head teacher about what had happened–maybe they could have had some conversations in class, or songs, or something. Now that I type that, I realize that I’m asking the teacher to teach something because I don’t think the parents are. We ask a lot of our teachers, no?
In the end, I think this has been a good thing. It’s made us more aware of the need to actively teach both our children about race and that despite living in what I perceive to be a fairly liberal, open-minded city that seems to have a lot of mixed couples, they will still have to deal with issues about their skin color. Now that I think about it, it shouldn’t be that hard to talk about. I mean, we talk about how there are all different kinds of families–two mommies, two daddies, adopted, etc., how women can do most anything that men do and vice versa, why not expand that to include talking about how people of different races can do anything, too? It sounds sort of dumb to my ears to even say that as an adult, but maybe that’s what the kids need to be hearing.
I’ve got to think that it’s better than saying nothing at all.