We’ve just come back from a really great 5night family holiday in Harties. When we left on Saturday, Riley commented that he can’t wait to make friends. I was quite surprised at the comment knowing that we were more than likely going to be alone in our Air BnB house with nobody else around, and that trips out in the area and dinners/lunches out would probably be just us especially because of COVID. Most places don’t have play areas open, and even if they do, the social distancing aspect is still high on our list of priorities during lockdown. Our rented house also had a pool in the massive yard, so I assumed that we’d spend most of our time there with temperatures reaching mid to high 30s for our entire stay which is exactly what we did!
But one afternoon, while the boys were playing on their tablets, I noticed two boys around Ethan’s age hanging around outside our house. I assumed that they had probably seen our boys and were “checking them out”. After some time of them walking around outside our house, I asked them whether they were looking for somebody to which they replied no. A few more minutes passed and they were still outside, so I suggested to my boys that they go chat to them. Riley – ever the confidant one, although being younger – ran out to make friends. Ethan is more reluctant to put himself “out there” so to speak, usually preferring his brother to do the dirty work for them both. So Ethan was still in the house and Riley was outside. I left him to his own devices preferring him to interact in his own way. About 10minutes later, he walked back into the house very sad. I asked what had happened. He said he waved at the boys (I need to say at this stage that both boys were white. My kids – in case you didn’t know – are coloured), the boys looked at him and burst out laughing. And then he asked: Mum, do you think they think that I’m invisible because my hair isn’t straight like theirs?
I then decided to take a walk with my boys around the estate. We walked past the same two boys who were still hanging around close to our house. We waved. They waved back.
When we got back to the house about 20minutes later, they were still outside on their own, and Ethan suggested to Riley that they go out again and ask the boys if they want to play. So off they went. 5minutes later, they both came in very sad. Ethan was really sad and he proceeded to tell me that he asked one of the boys if they could play with them. The boy said to Ethan that he’d need to speak to his friend and ask him. They then stood chatting quietly between each other and then turned and said to Ethan that they couldn’t play with them because it was home time for them. Ethan said he thought they were lying and that they just didn’t want to play with them. He indicated that he thought it was because of the colour of their skin and honestly, my heart just dropped.
Being a person of colour myself, I must admit that I’ve been very fortunate not to be a victim of direct race discimination especially as an adult. Well, nothing that I can particularly remember. I have a circle of friends of people of all different races and my kids have friends from different race groups. I see indirect race discrimination often, even in the work place and have felt this myself. I speak openly to my kids about race – they know that we’re coloured – I don’t believe in not speaking about races as I believe that you cannot help the race that you are or change it, you’re born that way. And it’s not something you cannot notice about a person. In fact, it’s probably the first thing you notice when you see somebody. What I do make sure that I teach them is that although we are all different races, it is completely unacceptable to treat a person differently because of the colour of their skin.
It’s funny how these things seem to be ingrained in the kids however without even speaking about it. Riley often says how he’s the “peachest” out of all of us. On our holiday, he actually asked me whether I was peacher then him or if he was peacher than me and I said I’m not sure, we’re about the same. He then said – mummy, you deserve to be peach. Weird coming from a 5year old who has 4 besties of different race – 2 white, 1 coloured and 1 Indian. But somehow, he seems to think that lighter is better, a concept engrained in people of colour for years and years.
I just don’t want my kids to be treated differently – especially in a bad way – because of the colour of their skin. I honestly wanted to go and have a good chat to those boys but hey, I don’t know if it’s just our pre-conceived self-imposed prejudices that come through every now and again…I mean, maybe the boys really did have to go inside, who knows. But my heart broke for my kids who assumed that the boys were making the decision based on the colour of their skin and the texture of their hair 😦 😦 😦