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Answering a Child’s Questions on Skin Colour


“Mum, I wish to have a white skin colour.”

It didn’t exactly pull the rug out from under my feet, but it definitely amused me. She is just 5! And I didn’t expect it to biff me like greased lightning. I know the right stuff to say is, “Dear, we all are different shades from outside but are the same on the inside.” But I am sure my crumb snatcher won’t be able to comprehend this two- ton philosophical idea. “Okay”, my tongue slips out of habit.

As impulsive and witty as me, she isn’t satisfied with, “okay”. To stir words out of me, she triggers. “Mum why is daddy fair and you are black?” Black!! Did she call me black? She is definitely colour-blind. I feel like biffing this pint-sized racist. I want to tell her I am not black, but brown. This conversation pretty sure falls on the “How do I handle it” list. But I didn’t want to showcase any further, the differences between brown, black, white, whatsoever. It will just spell BIGOTRY. Kids are prejudice-free and they remain flexible in their beliefs.

I realize avoidance doesn’t give children the information they need. By ignoring her natural curiosity, I will leave her to absorb the biases of society. The more we face our own prejudices and discriminatory attitudes towards diversity, the better prepared we will be to foster children’s growth. “That’s a good question; let me think about it a little and I will tell you later,” I admit to having a bag full of clichés too, that I throw at my child from time to time.

Her desire is just a baffling infatuation towards the colour white. I have been through this phase as a child and I bet a lot of us and some still are, so the Ponzi scheme of the fairness cream companies is still peddling. An unobjectionable racism, isn’t it?

My tot expresses her desire to be white, I feel it’s perfectly fine. For a child this new desire is as good as asking for a new toy. I am glad she is candid about it and the crucial result is that I have to talk openly about it. What we fear the most is that a child can be a victim of inferiority complex. But this only makes itself felt through the reaction of a parent when a child raises such issues. I want to raise a confident child with healthy self–worth and not someone who would break her back to hand over her harvest to the Fairness Creams and Botox Industry.

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Singapore-based Bijal Shah is the mother of a 5-year-old daughter. She is pursuing a course in Journalism from the British College. Being a SAHM, the question that she dreads the most is "What do you do?". It's only five years of motherhood that she realises how trivial this question is, and she has a prepared answer for it!


2 thoughts on “Answering a Child’s Questions on Skin Colour

  1. shobhika jaju

    Hello

    I really enjoyed reading this blog post. We as parents and educators have a lot to learn from the experiences shared here. So often there is this strong need to “Correct” children. In this process, we forget that children will ask questions, good or bad, and in all cases, it is imperative that we deal with their queries in a way that not only satisfies their inquisitiveness but also helps them think deeply, from a much earlier stage.

    Reply
  2. Meena Sivaraman

    When children share their desire to be fair,We must understand that these are the messages they are receiving in nursery rhymes,TV channels,Apartment grounds,Schools.We need to explain to the child that complexion is entirely genetic .We as people are beyond our skin colour. Its through our thought and action,skills that we can be endearing to others not through our appearances alone.Yes we must certainly be presentable and smartly attired and confident. This emphasis on fair complexion is our colonial legacy may be.We need to shirk it off now.

    Reply

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