29 August 2011

Gender vs Race

My son just turned two and a half years old. Recently, when I read books to him he points to a boy and says "brother like me", and points to a girl and says "sister like [Destiny]" no matter the race of the children. He will point to a black boy and say, "brother like me", and point to a white girl and say "sister like [Destiny]" even if they are in the same picture side by side. I do not know if it is the same with all two and a half year olds, but clearly he identifies more with his and his sister's gender than he does his and his sister's race at this time.

What prompted me to share this is an example that further proved this to be true. This morning he asked me to read him a book that had a picture of two babies on the back. They seem to be right about the same age, about one year old, but one was white and blonde, like my son, and one was black, like my daughter. Both were in diapers and gender wasn't easily identified. He studied the picture for a moment. I knew he was trying to decide which was "brother like [him]" and which was "sister like [Destiny]". He had a short struggle. I thought it was mostly due to the races of the babies. The baby who was white and blonde looked more like a girl and the baby who was black looked more like a boy. However, the black baby had the same round face and same length hair as my daughter. I was sure he'd pick that baby as being "sister like [Destiny]". I was wrong on both accounts.

He chose the black baby who looked very similar to my daughter, but had more male features than the white baby in the picture, as being "brother like me", and he chose the white baby with blonde hair who seemed to have more female features as "sister like [Destiny]". Then I realized that his moment of thought was not about the race of the babies. It was about the gender. He was trying to decided which baby was male and which was female. As usual, race wasn't even a consideration.

Brought to mind a well known Bible verse: "And verily I say unto you, Except ye... become as little children, ye shall not enter into the kingdom of heaven." Matthew 18:3.

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  1. I'm checking this out from the adoption hair care group. That is really fascinating. I'm in a similar scenario. My four year old is my biological daughter. My ten month old is my transracially adopted son. My daughter definitely notices race without knowing what it is. She knows that some of her friends have dark skin and curly hair like her brother. She also knows that some of them are like my brother, who is Korean and also transracially adopted, but she has a harder time defining that one because it's not as simple as just skin color. So she knows there are differences, but she doesn't really care about them.

    I've added your blog to my Google Reader.

  2. Hey - greetings from SC! My daughter has just now started to notice race. She's 3 1/2. It's still not a big deal to her, but she talks about her "brown friend" or the fact that her skin is brown and her daddy's is white. She considers me brown since I got a pretty good tan this summer :).

  3. salamanda76 - Sounds like your daughter is a step ahead of my son, which is just right for her age. So interesting to learn what they learn and when!

    Kristin - I like when children are innocent enough to say "brown" and have not yet learned "black". Sweet.

  4. Hello I just wanted to stop by and show some love. I'm not exactly in the same boat but understand the conversation as a mother. I am originally from Kenya and I can remember my first "close" encounter with a "white" person. I put those in quotation because I had seen white people but not up close. But the fascination was someone different not that they were specifically white. I moved here when I was 10 and it was then that I learned about racism and color preferences. My aunt had her two daughters in here and we do not use color as a descriptive word. when the eldest started noticing the different colors we decided to teach her how to embrace everything with is the most important factor when they are growing and developing. Especially in a society riddled with color undertones

  5. Beautiful. Thank you for sharing!


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