Sunday, October 5, 2008

The Skin I Am In

This, I suspect and hope, will be thought provoking.

Livie has suddenly become very aware of her appearance. That she is Chinese (ummm...correction...that she is Chinese-AMERICAN, as she will tell you!), and that she and Sophie are Asian and we (Neil, Lindsay, Chris and myself) are not. This has brought about some very direct and specific questions.

Her most frequent is, "What color am I?" Initially I say, "You are Asian."
Livie: "No, Mom. I mean what color am I?"
Mom: "What color do you think you are?"
Livie: "White."
Mom: "My shirt is white. Are you the same color as my shirt?"
Livie: "No." Livie's brow is now furrowed with thoughts and confusion.
Livie: "But what color am I?!"

We go on to have a disscussion about colors, with me assigning Livie the *color* of a 'soft golden peach.' I assign myself the *color* of 'peachy-pink'. I think we sound like crayons from the Crayola Crayon Box. I think I am trying WAY too hard to balance this self-imposed PC *rule* so many of us parents who have adopted interracially try to maintain. Maybe I am trying just a bit too hard to stay safely within the confines of The World of Being Politially Correct. I have to wonder, is this PC balancing act what my child is asking for? Looking for? Needing?

Maybe she is looking for a tangible sense of belonging? Of fitting in?

Livie isn't interested in what race she is. She knows that. I believe she is trying to make sense of the fact that she and I have almost exactly the same skin color. Well, what do you know...we have a similar physical feature!

If anyone else has experienced this with their children, please share. I really don't have the answers, just the same questions that Livie has.

While trying to find some answers to my own questions, I found this chart (above). Interesting.



Vivian M said...

We had this conversation early on with Kerri. She wanted to have blonde hair and blue eyes like Mommy and thought she was not pretty.
When she asked me what color her skin was, I asked her "What color do you think it is?" And she answered "pink!"
We did talk about how everyone is different shades of pink and brown, and that what makes us different and unique is what makes us special. We then had an hour of "what is different about each of us" and "What is the same".
I found some good books on this subject and read them to her. My favorite is a Sesame Street book called "We're different, We're the same" here's the link:

Kristin said...

Anna Grace really hasn't talked about our colors. But when she draws herself, her skin is brown. When we ask about it, she says that is her skin color. So she is very aware of the differences even if it's not in her daily montage of information---and golly, the girl can say a lot!

Tammie said...

Actually I've had minimal conversations with Erin about this. We have talked about the fact that mama is white - like someone spilled milk all over me (trust me here). Erin on the other hand is yellow. I have had a number of coworkers who are Asian (not specifically Chinese) who tell me that Erin has skin that is a beautiful shade of yellow. However, she never draws her skin as being yellow. When dipping into the Crayola box, she goes for apricot. I just figure as long as she has a healthy self-image, I'm happy.

BTW, the book Viv recommended is wonderful. Erin loved it.

Candy said...

Rachel has asked me what color she is and I've told her Flesh color. That was the end of the conversation. I really don't think she really understood her own question. She's too young.

Life with JJ, Starr and Spice said...

We have not gotten to that level of conversation yet. There should be lots of questions here since the DD are both from China yet have such different skin and hair colors. I think Katie may be as light as me.

National Geographic did a series of articles years ago about geography, migration of peoples and color. We were all derived from Tribes that are the darkest of brown and through migration and location have acclimated thought color and physical features to those areas as your chart shows. I love how you asked her about what she thought as did Viv and I also love the idea of how are we the same becasue we really are all so much the same.


Mary said...

You know, when I told Lindsay about my conversation with Livie she laughed out loud about the colors I described both Livie and I as. So, I asked Lindsay, " what *color* would you say Livie is?" Without hesitation she replied, "Yellow!" Since referring to someone as yellow has historically been negative, I think I am trying hard - perhaps a bit too hard? - to steer clear of this label/choice of color, to the point that I use 'golden' in it's place. Hmmm...maybe a runaway 'PC Train'?

Darlene said...

Timmy says he is brown and when we brought him home in January his skin color was similar to ours. But in the spring and summer it got darker as he was in the sun.

He has these little white spots on his legs where he has had scabs and the pigment is no longer there, and he has white spots now.

I told him that he was making white spots on him and not to do it, and he said "white is good". I think he learned this in China, not here.

He admitted he learned it there and I had conversation with a Chinese-American friend who knows a ton of China culture. She said her mom would always use an umbrella when going out for the day as she wanted the sun off her skin.

Those who had darker skin were looked down on as farm workers she said. Although I am not sure if that is something that goes on today, as my friend is probably in her 50's.


Meredith Teagarden said...

Wow, what a post. I have read an article that stated using similair things of families helps fitting in. ie all the Smiths love ice cream, or music. I have yet to reach this with my Jane, but already say, "We are the girls," or "we both have brown eyes, but Baba has blue." or "Jane and mama like spicy food, hot tea, and chocolate" or "Jane and David (her brother) are natural athletes, like all of us but me Tiffanie. I try to find common things she has with each of us and mention them all the time.

What a moving post you wrote.

Lori and Pete said...

That color map looks odd. What about the Eskimos in Alaska and the Maori in New Zealand? I guess their ancestors must have migrated from warmer climates?

Lori W