Taking a deep breath, I respond to my daughter with a wish of my own.
I've begun to see that it’s not about having the “right” answers when kids ask about race. Don’t get me wrong: I think there are better and worse answers to offer. There’s also a lot to be said for having a calm, thoughtful answer in the first place, sending the important signal that it’s fine to talk about race openly.
At the end of the school day this past fall, I drove to pick up my 5 year-old daughter, Estella, from kindergarten. As we walked down the steps outside, Estella said she felt like walking instead of driving. It was a beautiful day, and so I happily agreed to take a walk around the block and then drive home.
We were at the tipping point of the New England autumn. Some of the leaves were beginning to turn yellow, and a few were already burning red. We were admiring the colors as Estella skipped along, her little hand in mine, when she said, “Daddy, I wish that we lived in a world where people couldn’t change their skin color.
I’m a white mother of six children, five of whom are children of color, and four of whom came home to our family through foster-adoption. When I’m out and about with my kids, I often field questions about how my big, multiracial family came to be, and I try to receive them with generosity and openness — to a degree. I want to give people the benefit of the doubt, and I hope that their curiosity stems from goodwill and perhaps an interest in adoption that comes from lived experience, or even from plans or hopes to become adoptive parents.
But I have to admit that I chafe at some questions that seem rooted in limited and limiting assumptions about race. One that really sticks in my craw is:
“Where are they from?