We’re just colouring…or are we?

Also written February 1, 2012, another glimpse of how racism impacts our family:

“Mommy, no one has yellow hair.”

“Hmm…you’re right, M. I don’t think I’ve ever seen anyone with yellow hair.”

“No, that’s silly.”

{Pause, while we colour}

“Mommy, I can’t find the colour for the princess.”

“You can colour her any colour you want, M.”

“No, Mommy, princesses are only the colour of your skin.”

“Actually, M, I think princesses can be any colour you want.”

“No. Mommy, they can only be the colour of your skin.”

{My heart breaking}

And here we are.

My four-year-old has come to think that princesses cannot be the colour of her skin.

I know what some of you will say, “Oh, but they have princesses who aren’t white now. It’s not a big deal. Just get her Pocahontas or Mulan or something, she’ll see other princesses.”

Of course, what she’ll actually see are highly racialized Disney characters. She may not realize it now, but if we bombard her with enough of this stuff, she’ll come to believe that women with different shades of brown skin behave in different ways. That some are better than others. And if we do it just right, we’ll make it perfectly clear to her that she can never attain the ‘ideal.’

The fact of the matter is the media, toy manufacturers, etc. continue to perpetuate particular cultural and gender stereotypes and, as parents, we have to go a great deal out of our way to ensure that our children know these are not realistic…and never have been.

My daughter will not be raised to think that blonde hair and blue eyes (of course along with white skin) are ideal; to think that she can never be thin enough, wear enough make-up, have her hair styled just the right way; to be always thinking of other people’s feelings first, etc..

I will empower her to feel comfortable in her own skin, whether that means she’s dressed up or dressed down; to lead a healthy lifestyle because it is good for her, not because it will make others happy; to think and speak for herself; to believe that she can be anything she wants to be…and then be it.

Here’s how we ended the conversation:

“M, did you know that some people think that my skin is white? And other people’s skin is black?”


“I don’t know. I don’t think I’ve ever seen anyone with white skin, have you?”

{Looking at me a bit confused, then I put my arm on the page we’re colouring and she looks down at it}

“Mommy, your skin isn’t white.”

“That’s right, M. I’d say we’re all different shades of brown.”

“Yeah, and you’re a little bit pink too.”