“I wish I was white”

Last week while we were watching My Date with the President’s Daughter, Halle turned to me and announced “I wish I was white.”  For those of you who haven’t seen the movie or are star-challenged, the movie stars Elisabeth Harnois, who is a very pretty girl with long silky hair (see picture).

I got clued into the challenges of instilling healthy self esteem in children who do not look like the ‘All American Girl’ when I was pregnant with Halle, which is when Ro’s oldest daughter, then 12, was spending the summer in AZ, and a great deal of it in the pool.  Half Puerto Rican, half Sudanese, and all hair that she had no idea how to take care of.  Unfortunately, neither did I.  Which is actually how I met Arria… I went into the Parents of Color bulletin board at Babycenter.com and begged for guidance.  I’m pretty sure Arria was the only person who responded, and that was the Universe at work, let me tell you. 

Hurriyah used to break my heart by telling me how she wished her hair was pretty like mine.  She’d been told all her life that her sister had ‘good’ hair, and she did not.  With Hurriyah’s low self esteem in mind, I’ve tried to be conscious of what my children see represented in books and media in our home.  We have books featuring children ‘of color’, which aren’t always easy to find, and our porcelain doll collection includes dolls that are strawberry blonde, brunette, hispanic, black, and native american.  We have white and black baby dolls, and Halle has barbies of almost every race and ethnicity available… white, black, asian, hispanic, and middle eastern.  She plays with all the dolls, but tends to favor her Cali Girls Summer and Lea, whose skin tone are of medium complexions. 

So when Halle opened her mouth and uttered that she wished she were white, it was all I could do to keep my mouth from falling open.  I pulled her onto my lap and hugged her and asked her why. 

“Well… because white people don’t…” (and paused, finger on the side of her mouth in deep thought).

“White people don’t what?”

“White people don’t have hair that’s…    different.

I’ve always expected her to be incredibly vain about her hair.  Through the preschool years complete strangers would walk up and pet her like a poodle and comment on her curls, and since she entered school her classmates have picked up that torch. There wasn’t much I could do other than remind her that my hair is also a little different, and say again how much I love her curls.

originally posted July 11, 2006 – Tuesday 6:44 PM at Cyndi’s myspace blog

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  1. October 20, 2009 at 9:42 AM
  2. October 25, 2009 at 8:56 PM

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