Ask ARP: What should I do about a conversation about skintone that misses the point?

Dear Anti-Racist Parent,

My daughter’s preschool teacher had asked me last month if we had any preference for classroom books on family diversity, and I said I had no preference there, since she expressed no two-mom-related issues. But that she’d been very upset earlier in the week, and said that she didn’t want to go out in the sun next summer because it made her skin brown, and she hated having brown skin. So maybe some books on ethnic diversity would be a good idea. There are 28 kids in her room; all but 3 are white, as are all of the teachers. My daughter is half-Asian; there’s also another biracial (half-AA) boy and an AA girl.

I happened to be in class when they read The Colors of Us last week. This might be a great book to read in a diverse classroom. I suspect that the well-meaning teacher believed it to be a great success.

What I saw:

  • The AA girl saying quietly to no one in particular, “Everyone is peachy tan, except me.”
  • A bunch of pasty-white kids loudly proclaiming themselves to be honey / caramel / cinnamon colored. (My daughter did a survey over the summer, and fully half the kids in her class have backs of their hands the same lightness as the palms.)

I suck at being race-conscious – it took me from Friday afternoon until Sunday night to figure out that what I could have said in response to the “everyone is peachy tan, except me” comment might have been “I bet that’s really hard sometimes.” But I can’t help but think that the class sort of missed the message – and the other kids missing the message isn’t good for my kid. I have no idea how to clue them in, though. Heck, I don’t know how to clue the well-meaning teacher in.

Any suggestions? Thanks!

From Phoebe in Tulsa, Oklahoma

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