Tuesday, March 7, 2017

Don't Be A Hairist

The other day, my daughter Miara happily talked about how she wanted a new hairstyle and the various colors she might dye it. With my own hair quickly disappearing, I accused her of being a hairist and showing callous indifference to my condition. Hair-enabled people need to have a little more sensitivity for the follicle-challenged among us.

The subject of -ists, however, reminded me of an experience with her from many years earlier, where she taught me a little about diversity consciousness. When she was about four years old, we lived in a fairly multicultural neighborhood—at least by majority-white Utah standards. One child had a Latina mom and Caucasian dad. Another family had Polynesian and white parents. And of course my wife is Asian and I’m white. One neighbor, whose husband came from Fiji, called our group the “half-and-halves.”

One day Miara and her younger brother came home from playing with a group of these colorful kids, one of whom was African American. She started telling me about something silly this child did. I knew who she meant, but pretended I didn’t, to see how she’d describe him. I asked what he looked like, and she gave clever descriptions of his short hair, his height, his clothes, and where he lived. But as much as I pressed her, she never once said anything about his skin tone or described him as black. I envied her childlike colorblindness.

A couple years later, after we’d moved to a neighborhood with much less diversity and Miara had started first grade, she came home from school and related another cute experience. But this time, she described the boy in her story as “this black kid.” She obviously didn’t mean anything negative about it at all, but I realized she’d lost her colorblind innocence.

I’m not trying to put any kind of spin on this, or accuse our society of horrid atrocities. I just think it’s interesting how children can see other people as just people. But as we grow and find ourselves part of a bigger society, we start to see all the differences within that society.

By the way, Miara chose purple.

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