We were on our way home from after-school care and listening to NPR’s “All Things Considered.” The story was about President Trump’s proposed travel ban. Tobin asked me why the ban was being asked for, and we started talking about religion, race, and ethnicity. That’s when he asked me, my bright 7-year-old, “Mommy? Are you happy you’re white?” What a question, you guys.
Here is how I answered.
First, the color of our skin is a complete accident of birth. It happened because of our ancestors and which genes turned on when in the line of the people we came from. There is nothing inherently better or worse about one skin color over another.
Second, I wouldn’t say I’m happy *because* I’m white, but my life is certainly easier because I am. Because we are white, our country is an easier place to live in. We are given more chances, we’re believed more easily, we aren’t physically threatened as often.
Third, and this is such an important part, because we are white and the world is easier for us, it is our responsibility to support others for whom the world isn’t as easy. And, as a white boy, you have it even easier. You know your friend, N (who is Black)? If the two of you are somewhere and he gets called a name or someone accuses him of doing something he didn’t do, it is your job to stand with him and back him up. You believe him, and you support him by sticking up for him if he needs it or by telling the truth of what happened.
Of course, our ancestors did cool things, and we should be proud of them. The history of the places that our people came from is hard and beautiful, and almost all of our ancestors happen to be white*.
I hope that he absorbed what I said and the meaning. I also hope that I answered well. I think I did okay. Especially for a question asked in the van on the way home from school.
*I just got my results from Ancestry.com and I am even whiter than I thought. It would seem that the Eastern European and Irish parts were downplayed and the Native American parts exaggerated (or completely made up?) in the family lore. #themoreyouknow
Have you answered this question? What did you say? How would you answer?