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That's too sweet!

Here in Sweden "black work" is to work illegal without declaring an income, I wouldn't know what pink or green work is though, and the lion-smacking business is very bad up here... ;)

I use to say that my kids are colour blind; but when I asked my then two year old daughter which Jasmine she was talking about at preschool (there was two girls in her group, one with parents from Gambia & Eritrea and the other one with parents from Sweden & Chile) to which she replied "The chocolate one!". I asked her how she'd described the other Jasmine & she said with all the clarity of a 2 year old "Vanilla ofcourse!"... :)

Tears are streaming, laughing uncontrollably. Smacking lions nogals!

Here in America, the subject is just as sensitive. I get very tense and nervous when any discussion of race comes up.

OMG - That is too funny. I also nearly died when I read that - what on earth have you taught these children, but then he goes on to say pink work and green work - very VERY funny indeed.

And, if YOU also do black work, then it must be pretty high up there. Maybe he means that is the most important work - the stuff that you and Rose do for them, cooking, feeding, putting to bed - you know, the ESSENTIAL stuff.

love this story - so funny
Marco sure has a hard job with all those lions walking round in the streets of Cape Town

Hee, hee! They are so sweet and innocent at that age, they've got none of the hang-ups and neuroses that us "grown-ups" carry around with us. I too have so much hope for the next generation, if only the older generation will hold back and not pass their prejudices on.

Dude, *I* want to smack lions!

Probably the funniest thing I have ever read!

I don't know how the sensitivity compares to Africa wthout really experiencing it, but in America race is VERY sensitive. As I read your post, I cringed, I felt the embarassment you must have felt. I too try to raise my children to not judge people based on skin color and to embrace our differences. It's easy to be lulled into a sense of "things aren't that way any more, it's not that bad any more." But then things happen that remind me that racism is alive and well, and it saddens me so deeply.

Bless Adam. He is beautifully innocent :)

i agree that race is an extremely sensitive topic in america. i live in a very non-diverse area, less than 5% of the population is anything other than white. i worry about how that affects my kids.

I'd feel the same way if I thought my child had said similar. Canada has too many immigrants from everywhere for my girl to be unaware of people with different shades. I hope she takes it casually and without question.

When I read that he said "black work" I gasped in horror. I would have had your same reaction, and I LOVE how he followed it up. Hugs and kisses to them both from me :)

Like the other US commentators have said - race (and ethncity) is a very sensative topic here. One our current electoral process is trying to ignore (though it is a rather large elephant in the room.) I died a little when I read that, but then revived. He's a sweetie, that's for sure. I still remember the day my oldest noticed skin colors. It killed me a little, but she was just being observational and dropped it (though we used the opportiunity to discuss how all the colors are pretty and special.) Where we live is maybe 20% African-American, but at least 40% Hispanic. We also always refer to her skin color as "peach" - just a silly thing to avoid black/white comparisons.

My son has several friends and relatives named "Jordan." (It was *the* name of the early 90s) We designated them Jordan B., Jordan C., etc.

When he was in 1st grade, he came home talking about "Brown Jordan," a little African-American boy in his class. Horrified (but not showing it!), I said, "Why do you call him Brown Jordan?" and he said, "Because I already HAVE a Jordan C." Like, "Duh, MOM."

Then we had to have A Conversation about how you shouldn't distinguish people by the color of their skin, and couldn't we think of a different thing to call Jordan? (We settled on just calling him by both names.)

First of all, I laughed and laughed and laughed. I want a job smacking lions.

Second of all, yes, like the folks here commented, America is rife with racial tension. I live in an area of the country that is very, very racially divided, but we live in a subset of that area that is very ethnically diverse. We're actually the peach-faced minority.

Wallace notices race, but he notices the way he notices if someone's hair is curly or straight, or if they are tall. Whatever the color the girl's skin, he's always smitten and says that she's "VERY beautiful!".

I don't think there is a place that is going to satisfy everyone. I don't think that my son should not notice skin color, because it's there, but I also don't think he can openly even notice skin color without people assuming that because he is white he is disparaging of darker skin colors. Can we recognize the vast cultural divide without inehrantly placing value?

I have tried, but coming from a place of white security and privilege, I don't think it's possible.

I would have cringed, too.

After 15 years of keeping our own home straight, we finally caved and hired a cleaning service. Twice a month the company sends a team of three young hispanic guys around to clean, vacuum, dust and wash floors. As far as my 2 1/2 year old is concerned, "mens" clean houses. "Mommy, are the mens coming today?" I always snigger.

There is this thing...I would call it a condition but that isn't the right word for it. Ability is better. But some people associate words/names with color. It was on a baby naming blog in the comments. Someone was having a difficult time picking a name because her husband didn't like the colors of the names she was picking. I can't remember what it is called but it sounds like he just associates a particular color with work. You might ask him if other words have colors attached to them?

But yes, in the US, I think, well hope, most people would have the same initial reaction as you did.

I was watching TV with my husband's daughter. I mentioned something about one of the people in the story. She wasn't sure who I was referring to and asked me "Wie Lena? Die verkleurmannetjie." (Who Lena? The cameleon) I asked her what a "verkleurmannetjie" (cameleon) is. She was referring to a coloured boy in the story. I was like - huh what!? She didn't undertsand my surprise / shock and quite matter of factly explained she was not being rude. The boy is not white and he is not brown, so he has to be a cameleon... Kids!?

Here in the southern US, I would have held my breath waiting to see what my child meant.

Last night, my 7 year old ds and I were in the car and this guy in front of us was trying to turn left, but from the right lane. I patiently waited, no biggie, but as he turned, my son said "He's black, and holding us up." So, we had to talk about that and I had to figure out why he said that.

Well, there was one little black boy in his class last year that was always "holding up" the class so now my ds thinks all black people are slow. I have tried to correct that.

I am a black south african and I employ a black woman as a domestic. Its weird just how much the dynamics of my situation are similar yet totally different from yours. my kids see her as an extension of teh family too. i have just had a long discussion at another forum about this and i have blogged about it too.

My six year old is reading the Harry Potter books. She came up to me and said 'Who is black in the Harry Potter books?' I got a little upset and asked why it mattered. And she said 'Because i'm trying to figure out exactly who Sirius Black is.' I felt like an idiot that my first reaction was such a knee jerk one and assuming she meant race and completely forgetting about a really important character. Oops.

I would have had the same reaction as you. I live in the southeastern US, which unfortunately still has some issues about race. I am going to buy a poster for my classroom at school (when i graduate from college as a teacher!) that I saw once. It had a picture of a box of crayons and it says something like "People are like crayons: They are all different colors, some are sharp, some are pretty, and some have funny names, but they all have to live in the same box."

Yes. I would've felt exactly like you. In the US in general there is a certain stigma over the roles of both black and hispanic people. Although up here in the northeast US, it's more of a hispanic stigma these days.

Goodness, that child is funny.

I think it's normal for children to point out that people are different colors, etc. They don't know it's rude, they're just curious. A few months agao, as a baldning man was loading our shopping cart at the grocery, my son shouted, "that man has no hair!" I was mortified. I proceeded to tell him that commenting on others' appearances is rude, and that everyone is different and people come in all colors, shapes and sizes, with and without hair. I still am not sure if I handled it right, probably could have done better, but the whole thing just threw me for a loop!

@jen, the concept you are looking for is synaesthesia, in which individuals perceive, for example, letters and numbers as having certain innate colors. (I think this also extends to musical notes in certain people). I have no idea how deeply the concept extends (e.g. to the color of "work"), but it's certainly an interesting possibility! http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Synesthesia

Oh Adam. Once I read about the colour work, my first thought was perhaps he was basing the colours on favourite colors/colors worn most often.
What a cutie.

You already know the answer is "yes" so here is another story on a similar vein.

My grandmother had 'domestic help' when I was growing up and this being the 50s and 60s in the US Midwest that meant black women and men tending to the house. She had this wonderful "Rose" named Allie who babysat us as well as keeping house (our house as well as my my grandmother's house). One day my sister was sitting on Allie's lap stroking her arm when she looked up and said, "Allie - are you ever going to take a bath?"

My mother just about died on the spot, too.

Now that's just too darn cute. But I must admit I cringed right along with you. I'm on the west coast of America (California) and even though we are considered to be a very liberal state I see the same things you describe all the time. I do believe that each generation is improving in racial tolerance as time goes on.

Very cute!
I agree with another poster I dont think 'noticing' a persons race makes someone racist. If I were to describe someone, I would try to do it with as much detail as possible, this includes age, gender, height, hair 'color' and eye 'color' and skin 'color'. I wouldnt do it to imply that any of these colors are better or worse than others, but as features that may distingish them from someone else. The same could be said for any visable physical disabilities. These are just physical traits, they do not in any way reflect the personality of the person. I think as long as people stick to only considering these as physical traits then there is nothing racists about it.
This is coming from an older, overweight white woman, 5'2", brown hair, hazel eyes, freckles, glasses and slight limp.

I was just reading about what kids around 3 yrs old understand about race and it turns out that at that young age, they can't really grasp the complexities of how adults perceive race (or mis-perceive race as the case may be). They can only identify people as one thing (the mom, the teacher, etc.) but not as two or more things (mom is mom and white, teacher is teacher and black). I also read that if you ask a child that age about what color people are, they might answer a particular color (white, brown, black) but that answer is based on what color they actually think they see and not on any race-based opinion or prejudice, because again, their brains just aren't that complex yet.

Frankly I don't know any where that race is not a sensitive issue. I have been surprised at how early children recognize people of similar race as being like them and that they are not like everyone. A four year old I know ran to another Asian child she saw and cried out to her white mother, "Mommy, she looks like me". They held hands and played together all day among a large group of white children. Obviously she had known for a while she didn't look like her mother nor most of the people she saw daily.

So what I really want to know is, DOES Marko smack lions for a living? ;)

fan-fucking-tastic.

thank goodness for silene's comment, as i had forgotten the name of the 'colour' condition and was just in the process of my own google search!!! - it would certainly be an interesting insight into adam's perceptions if he does think in colour.
he is just a gorgeous innocent, delicious and fresh and open and honest. if you can protect that in him so he carries it thru his life you are a super mom.
thanks for sharing again!

Adam, you are adorable. Smacking lions.

We are white, and we live in a suburb of Washington D.C. that is the wealthiest "black" county in United States. We chose to live here for a number of reasons, the biggest (besides that there were interesting and well-paid jobs for both my husband and I here) being that we wanted to raise our family in a place where we didn't look like everyone else.

We've been welcomed into the community where we live. We acknowledge the challenges we face in living here. It would be impossible for us to pretend that we're color-blind. It's silly and fake and it sort of opposes what we're doing here. I love that we look different, that we ARE different. Sometimes different can just be different without saying, I'm right and they're wrong, or I'm good and they're bad.

But I also acknowledge that we'd be different wherever we lived. Cultural diversity isn't merely a matter of geography, it's a matter of being open to the experience. I really feel like, when we claim to be "color-blind," in a way, we're missing the point.

I'm glad you've talked a little about the experience of being white in South Africa, Tertia. Living where I do, it's something I've been curious about.

It is very touchy here.

Last year my daughter attended a multicultural kindergarden. One day she told us that Pascal (parents from the Middle East)told her not to play with Janki, because Janki's family was from India. She was confused by this, because Janki is quite nice. We told her that there is no adequate justification for such prejudice, and that we enjoy meeting people of other backgrounds. A couple of months later, I asked my daughter what had happened, and she said that once the other girls saw that my daughter continued to play with Janki, they too began playing with her again. And indeed, Janki and my daughter hung out together at graduation.

I had very mixed feelings about this. Although I was very proud of my daughter for doing what was right, I was saddened to have her exposed to prejudice at such a small age.

As a parent, all we can do is lead by example, and hope that is enough to over come outside influences.

I am an Australian living in asia, and I also have a "Rose", whos name is actually Rose! She has been with us for 5 years in 2 different countries. Its a little different to your situation, because she actually has a career outside the home, in the same industry my husband and I work in. I have encountered the same moments that you have. Cringeworthy, yes. But only because of reading offence into innocent comments of children. It's natural. We have a lot more issues, whereas kids have none.

I don't really buy in to the "colour-blind" thing. I have always thought that it kind of leads a situation where avoiding mentioning it is a bit the same as not pointing out someones disability, if you know what I mean. My Rose is brown. Its a fact of life and not one that is either positive or negative. My 9 year old daughter goes to an international school, which has kids from probably 40 different countries, and the population here is predominantly Chinese.

In our last country, she was surrounded by Pacific islanders, Nepalese, Philippinos, and Chinese people. Of course she understands all these people are of different races. But I'm sure the concept that people should be treated in any way differently because of this is one which she would not even be able to grasp. I feel lucky because I don't have to teach my kids not to be racist. Because she knows so many people of different races, it's not an abstract excercise, the way it was for us. Its just life.

Sounds like he has a teeny bit of an idea of the larger cultural climate, but not nearly the whole thing (and certainly no inkling of the value of "black" work in his personal environment being of less value)!

We can pick up little bits of stuff from watching out the car window, catching stray phrases in the market, who knows. The crucial part of this is how your family operates itself, how you behave in his presence, which certainly sounds healthy.

Despite my co-Americans feeling that we have such similarity with you in SA, I know we cannot really come close to the rawness of how many people there feel, only 14 years after The Big Change. Even knowing how much still is unresolved (severe poverty, violence, HIV issues) it is a country which is facing the past as heroically as possible. No one could believe how well the change in government and the altering of the cultural norms would go. It is a model for many of us.

Not to make a long post interminable,lol, but my approach may be a little different to what some are describing, for a reason I think I understand. I was raised by a civil rights activist....and a Southern black lady as a 'nanny'. She is still my other mother and I pay tribute to her often. Her family and ours are connected in friendship on many levels. In part due to that, a racist (KKK member) killed our sweet collie when I was young, and then threatened the lives of us children. Since I was taught to stand up fearlessly to that kind of intimidation, I don't worry so much about being wrong-footed or misunderstood as much as some.

Even though a person's 'slate' may be clean on the point of racism, it hurts to hear how anxious these things make so many. The most meaningful contacts I made in SA were with the black South Africans I spoke with, a number of whom even gave me the----I don't know what it's called---the multi-postition, African handshake. How cool is that?!

Wish I could meet Rose now, too!

Okay, I can answer you - black work is a type of stitching!! Ha, you see Adam knows something you do not. Now, if you use another colour thread, you could cal it green work and pink work. But smacking lions, hell Marko is brave!

Here are a sample of blackwork patterns.I truly think the one of Coral is lovely.(he he)
http://www.needlework-tips-and-techniques.com/blackwork-figures.html

Now, what the hail is smacking lions?? He's hilarious--as we say, the apple doesn't fall far from the tree, does it ;D

Marko sounds fierce!

Maybe Adam is just ahead of his time, and color codes housework, hairdressing, and Al Gore type work?

Everyone is super sensitive in London too. I even remember once going to a restaurant in Wembley (wembly high road for anyone who knows) with my flatmate from Zimbabwe. As the restaurant was full people had to share tables. Well, a black couple were offered a seat next to us but refused and wanted to sit next to other black people.

Great story - I can totally relate. Here in Louisiana, we have a certain sensitivity to race issues as well. Racism is alive and well in America, although tolerance is alive and kicking, too!~ I am trying to teach the importance of diversity to my 4 year old DD. When I asked her last week how her first day of school was (new school), she told me about with whom she played and what toys they played with etc. Then she said, "I did not play with the black girl." I immediately raised up and tried to explain that a better word is "African American" and I gave her a little speech about skin color and how we love people for what they are on the inside, etc. She looked very perplexed and said, "I mean the girl with the black HAIR." Too funny! My sensitivity on the issue made me assume that it was time for a life lesson.

Yup, my instinct would have been to cringe too. What a wonderfully innocent, funny story.

Race is definitely sensitive here in the U.S. One thing I have to say is that I do not believe being "color blind" is the answer. This was always a hot topic in grad school, because a lot of individuals - both black and white - liked to say, "I am not racist. I am color blind." Yet that does not do cultures justice. When we look at a rainbow can we not see it has many colors? In the same way, we should not be color blind, but instead fully aware of the variety in a manner that is both respectful and receptive to learning.

I don't know how S.A. or other nations look at their variety, but in the U.S. we often use the term "melting pot", but more recently researchers, counselors, teachers, etc. etc. have tried to incorporate the term "salad bar" or "tossed salad". Rather than melting into one big glob or pretending we don't see cultural differences, we should make a big family where we each still have our individuality and yet still comprise a whole unit.

I remember (years ago) one of my younger sisters talking about "home made people." We had no idea what the heck she was talking about. Finally we figured out -- she was talking about black people. To this day we have no clue where she came up with that term!

Just this morning, I was dropping off my daughter at her sitter. They were all sitting down to snack and one boy's mom had just left. The sitter's son (3.5 years) asked J, are you white or black, in a tone of plain curiosity (black dad, white mom). The sitter and I looked at each other, big-eyed, not knowing what to say, while J answered, very casually " brown" and the conversation moved on. Both adults felt that tension, but both boys clearly wouldn't understand why that would make us nervous. I'm wondering if we'll see the end of that issue in our lifetime.

My 7 year old nephew, having grown up in the Caribbean in a predominantly black society, never really had to confront the race issue directly and really has no concept if black or white people. People were just people and the few white people he knew were called by name, not described by race, while the others were likely to be tourists and described as such.
So one day-I think he was either 5 or 6, when I referred to him as 'black' he was horrified! "I'm not black," he exclaimed. "I'm brown. See?" he said, pointing to his skin.
I thought his comment was fair and reassured him that my statement (as he interpreted it) was untrue and he was, in fact, brown.
He recently moved to the US, so I suspect the issue of race is going to smack him upside the head in a week or two when he starts school there. Sad that racial tensions and racism will be his new reality.

I have a funny story from when my son was smaller that also left me cringing. We were in a long line in the supermarket and while we were waiting I saw my son staring at the newborn in the one ladies arms next to us. She was a very well dressed (ie Gucci etc) black lady, and her baby was adorable. So she says to him with a smile, "Must I give your mommy my baby to take home with her?" So he looks at her with huge eyes and says "No, your baby is black, my mommy cant have a black baby!" Well, I thought the floor would open up and swallow me!!! I apologised but she did not take it well, and turned away from us and pointedly ignored us the rest of the time we were in the line. The sad thing is, he didnt mean it in a derogatory way, he was 3 and would have no concept of racism. At school, in his class there are 9 boys, only 4 of which are white, and guess who he plays with, only the boys of colour. No reason behind it, he just seems to have fun with them.

I live in Alabama, grew up in Birmingham and Selma. So yes race is a sensitive topic in this part of the world. My son describes people of color as having brown skin and caucasions(which we are) have blonde skin. After years of infertility and failed attempts we are finally expecting number two. My son thinks his little brother may have brown skin, to him its like having blue eyes or being short/tall.

If I had a kid and s/he said something along these lines, I'd be concerned!

I grew up in Texas, in the Dallas-Fort Worth area which is a typical American metropolis - rather diverse but still predominately white. Since I'm white, I never thought of race as an issue - and never saw the racial problems. I had friends of different races.

My parents once told me they wouldn't want me dating/marrying a black man because of the difficulties we'd face. I was a teenager at the time and absolutely apalled. If it's the right guy, what does skin color matter? I think the most beautiful people in the world are of mixed race.

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