Friday, January 19, 2007

Person of Color

In two separate incidents, my children question my ethnicity:

Incident 1:

Rivka (5, dancing around and singing): Martin Luther King, Jr! Martin Luther King, Jr!

Me: Who was Martin Luther King, Jr?

Rivka: He was a very important man. He brought peace between the white people and the brown people.

Me: Okaaaayyy....

Rivka (stares at me for a second): Daddy, are you a brown person?

Incident 2:

Chana (7): Mom, here's a picture of Martin Luther King, Jr.

Mrs. R: That's very nice. What did Martin Luther King, Jr. do?

Chana: He was a very smart man. He tried to help make peace between white people and brown people.

Mrs. R: Close enough.

Chana: Mom, is Daddy brown?

Keep in mind that I'm as white as anyone else in my family. Maybe I have a bit of olive in my complexion, but it's hardly noticeable. I don't really understand where any of this is coming from.


Anonymous said...

Where did they get that term, "brown people"?

Sheyna said...

As a student teacher in a classroom with 1/3 of the students recent Somali immigrants, they were confused by the fact that I dressed modestly and covered my hair (at the time). Now, one could never, even were I to tan, consider me "brown" (except perhaps if I stood next to someone with albinism). Too much of the redhead in me and so far my freckles haven't grown together. One of the Somali girls came over to me, took my hand in hers, inspected back and front, studied my face and my snood, and said, "You're kind of whitish."

After Martin Luther King Jr. Day, we had great fun discovering that in our family, our skin colors range from "pancake batter white" to "light brown sugar."

Ralphie said...

Ayelet -

They both had the same kindergarten teacher (Rivka now, Chana 2 years ago), who is black. Um, brown. Er... Anyway, I assume she came up with it.

But the truth is that's a better description of MLK's skin color than "black," and kids tend to be pretty literalist (literalistic?)