Prejudice finds my brown-skinned 5 year-old girl.
About three years ago, I signed up for a weekly evening class called “Watching the Nighttime Sky” at a local college with my first-born, Lola. Lola was 5, a crazy-voracious reader, way into learning about the solar system and the universe. Little girl could name Jupiter’s four visible moons (Io, Europa, Ganymede, Callisto), modeled the solar system in our living room — I sing thee, planet model! — and could tell you why Pluto is no longer a planet (“Daddy, I feel bad for Pluto!”).
The class was taught by a retired professor, an elderly white guy. On clear nights we peered at the sky through a telescope; on cloudy nights, we heard a lecture on the history and science of astronomy.
Fun subject, daddy-daughter bonding, what could be better?
A 4 year-old Asian American girl — let’s call her Amy — lives down the street from me. She’s a truly lovely little girl — friendly, curious, fearless.
The first time we met face-to-face was in a restaurant. She and her mom were picking up some carryout as Melissa, our girls, and I were finishing up a meal. Amy looked at me, walked over, and stroked my cheek. She reached up to touch my hair, then held my hand, talking all the while. It was awesome.
The next time I saw her was at a neighborhood block party. She saw me, came over, and plopped down in my lap. Then, as before, she talked nonstop, asking questions, making observations, showing me the ropes.
Please don’t freak when your kid notices race
Growing up in Ecuador no one taught me about racism. In school I learned that we were all victims of Spanish colonialism, indigenous and mestizos alike, and that much of our poverty as a country was because they stole our gold and our dignity. It was easy to blame the Spanish conquistadors for everything.
But later on I started hearing words like “indio,” “longo,” “chagra” — all racial epithets against indigenous people — and slowly understood that there was a clear difference between the two groups, starkly marked along class and racial lines.
Then one day in high school I was shocked to find out that “runa,” a word we commonly use in Ecuador to describe street stray dogs, actually meant “human being” in Quichua, a north Andean native language. I had used that word myself hundreds of times.