I never thought sending my kindergartner to a predominantly white school would lead to her being the only brown girl in class. Let me back track a bit. We moved across state with the help of my husbands military friend who was white. We wanted to be close to familiar face and he was the only one my husband knew in Texas. So we moved to a very nice residential, predominantly white neighborhood about three miles from my husbands friend. We researched schools in the area and wanted our daughter to go to the best academic rated school. Which led us to enrolling our daughter into a predominantly white school.
With no thought at all, did I realize my daughter could be the only brown girl in class. I was more excited about her acceptance into school a few weeks before it started. She also liked the school tour as as we did too. So when I learned that my little girl was the only little brown girl in her new class on the first day of school, I was hesitant but confident that she would be just fine. After all little kids do not see color right?! Issues with race are expected among older children, not kindergartners, right?!
She excitedly ace the first day of school. The weeks quickly went by and her days got better and better. She shared stories about how she made new friends and that she loved her teacher. But as time went by she started to ask about her hair being different from the other girls. She even wanted to have the same hair like the other girls in her class. I reassured her of how beautiful God made her and all of her from her head to her toes. Explaining that God made everyone hair different. Some have curly hair like hers even though she wasn’t seeing that reflected around her. Some have straight hair, brown hair, black hair and blonde hair.
Letting her know that it was okay to recognize the differences with herself but never to let her differences make her feel negative about herself was important. While adding always coming to mommy and sharing her feelings with me all the time was okay.
As fired up as I was and can feel right now, I closed off my emotions and showed more interest in how she was feeling. With acknowledging her sadness and asking how did their words make her feel, my heart broke when she expressed “she pretended not to hear them because what they said was mean.”
Why was I upset? For one, how could these little kindergartners have such a mindset. I’m talking about little five year olds. Then I discerned, it was not the little kids instead it was their parents and possibly their living environment. Secondly, how didn’t I foresee this happening, why was I so naive? I could have prepared my little girl for this day and prevent the immediate impact it had on her.
Altogether, I applaud my courageous little girl for showing strength and bravery when she decided not to focus on those hurtful words and still go through her day at school. Nonetheless, she needed to know she was correct to feel that their words were mean, in fact their words were very awful. In addition, I needed her to understand the importance of speaking up when someone treated her mean or hurt her in anyway. It was necessary for her to see how I handled this situation not only as her mother but as a brown skin female like her.
So how can we help our little brown girls open up to us about their experiences in school and provide them with the armor to overcome these challenges.
There is usually a change in behavior that indicates when something is wrong. I noticed after routinely asking many questions (by the way, there is no such thing as too many questions to ask) about my daughters day that her response this time was different. She lacked her usual enthusiasm and her facial expression was filled with sadness. That was when I knew something was wrong with my little brown girl.
Some other signs to look out for in your child are: crying to not go to school, not wanting to play with other kids in the class as before, expressing not liking school anymore. These changes in behavior signals something is wrong. Please pay attention and find out what is wrong.
When your kids express their experience to you please don’t go off into upset mode. Don’t go off like a pressure cooker either. I can’t express how important it is for you to listen. You do not want to discourage them from talking to you in the future. The calmer you are the more details you will get from your child to properly deal with the situation. Once I remembered that my reaction would impact my daughter telling me more information, I adjusted myself. I remained calm and asked follow up questions about how she felt and how she reacted.
A five year old should not have to handle such situations on their own. However, it is important to equip our little brown skin children with tips to help them in these times that are upon us.
As my brave little girl in her first racial encounter showed strength and bravery by ignoring those three little boys. This is the best first step I recommend for any kid to try followed by the next important step. Your kids must tell an adult right away. Unfortunately my daughter didn’t tell her teacher who was also white and very present in the class when this happened. She thought the boys would get in trouble if she told her teacher. As much as I admired her kindness and grace to protect those little boys and go through her day with her head held high, I was not content with her not letting her teacher be aware of the incident. So I explained the importance of talking to an adult or her teacher next time.
I definitely recommend taking action by setting up a meeting with the teacher. Having a face to face meeting is always good to avoid miscommunication. Plus you get to observe body language and pick up genuine reactions. Depending on how things play out the meeting you may or may not need to meet with the principal. If you know the offending child’s parents you can bring this up with them if you are comfortable.
If you are asking what did I actually do, you might be surprised by my response. I didn’t meet with her teacher as I suggested. That’s one thing I would have done differently. However, I sent an email the following morning to her teacher who has been nothing short of patient, sweet and caring all school year to my daughter. This was the best solution to the matter since school was one week short of being on summer break. The approach the teacher was satisfactory. She expressed remorse for what my daughter experienced. Then she addressed the boys involved in front of my daughter. Lastly, confirming the importance to my daughter about speaking up and letting her know when any other child is being unkind in any way.
My sweet brown girl ended kindergarten like the shining star she is. She graduated Kindergarten with honors and was awarded the Most Creative student certificate. I am so proud of my girl, my strong, smart, and beautiful brown skin girl. She sprinkled kindness on so many of her classmates. I received numerous emails from parents requesting for their kids to have playdates with her for the summer. We happily enrolled her in the same school for 1st Grade. With more black families that moved in the area, we noticed the black population of kids increased. She went from being the only brown girl to being one two brown kids in the class.
Have you dealt with anything similar? How differently did you handle things? Please share in the comments below.
Until next time!