Work Hard! Dream Big! Lady C’s Lunch With a Black Rockette

A few weeks ago Lady C went to see the Radio City Spring Spectacular featuring the Rockettes. We’ve been to the Christmas Spectacular several times, we’ve had dinner with a family friend that is a Rockette, several of them signed a souvenir doll for Lady C when she was a baby and we have even done a backstage tour but… she never met a black Rockette and didn’t know they existed.

After the Spring Spectacular, Lady C came home with a question that rocked us. She asked her dad:

Can I only be a Rockette if I am tan?

If you’ve read our blog before, you will know that we’ve explored the topic of race and color with Lady C. She uses the term tan to refer to white people… which includes her little sister… (and that’s a discussion we are still working on… that her sister is not, in fact, white).

Man, we were devastated.

Here we are… a family with a mother with a law degree, a dad with a Masters degree, each of us with careers that make us proud.

Here we are, a family that watched the inauguration of Barack Obama while Lady C was a baby, in utero, and we cried because our child would only know a world with a black President.

Here we are a family who felt like we could tell her she could be ANYTHING …. and it would be true.

But here we were with a five year that feels like she cannot do something because of her brown skin.

Whoa!

This moment was so timely because there was a lot of social media discussion around Black Girls Rock, First Lady Michelle Obama’s appearance and whether the Black Girls Rock movement is a racist one. The fact of the matter is that ABSENT representation is just as detrimental as NEGATIVE representation on the self-esteem, aspirations and ambition of young children. They need to see it to believe it!

So what did we do? We did what any rationale person would do… we cried to our mommy. Lady Cs grandmother, GG, has had a part time job at Radio City for years and a great relationship with many Rockettes.  So GG asked Danielle who is not only a black Rockette but was one of the marquis ones for marketing during their most recent season.

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That’s Danielle!

Danielle agreed to meet Lady C and they had a fabulous lunch and even did a kick line together. Danielle told her about her career, when she started dancing and about other brown women dancers. Apparently Danielle is now invited to Lady C’s sixth birthday party… ha!

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Danielle and Lady C

wpid-0422151655c.jpgWhen she got home I asked Lady C about her experience and whether I could record it for other little black girls. She agreed.

Here it is…. enjoy.

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Lady C’s video message

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Explaining “Black People” to a Five Year Old


united-colors-of-benetton-kidsThis weekend our family drove on the Jackie Robinson Parkway in New York. We asked Lady C (our 5 year old) if she knew who Jackie Robinson was because we previously told her about him and wanted to see if she remembered the history lesson. She said he did something in football (cue her father rolling his eyes) which we corrected to baseball. Then we told her he was the first black person to play major league baseball.

She paused a little and Aisha asked… “Do you know any black people?”

Lady C confidently said “NO”.

Ok… so, we asked if she knew any white people and she named several of her classmates and explicitly excluded a black girl in her class … let’s call her “Kelly”. We asked her what Kelly was and appropriately, she said Kelly was … a brown person… aha!

Lady C said: “She’s brown like me and you and daddy!” At this point, we didn’t realize that she left someone important out…

So we used the reference to brown people to explain that when people refer to black people they are talking about brown people whose ancestors are from the African continent. We had to have some discussion and correction there because she thought it was riiiight next to America. We let her know “Africa’s far”! Then came the interesting part… she said that Lady H was not black. She was a white person because she was tan like white people…

And then she asked us if allllll brown people are black people.

Whew… *Pause*

It ended up being a wonderful conversation about the fact that black people whose ancestors come from Africa come in all sorts of wonderful colors of brown ranging from the color of her little sister, all the way to the color of her mommy. We also told her that some brown people come from all different parts of the globe and not all brown people are black people…

It shed light on the very important and often overlooked fact:

Talking about race is NOT easy! 

When people want you to simplify things they say, “Explain it like I’m a 5 year old!” But ACTUALLY explaining race to a 5 year old is not that simple!  In fact, we had to draw from a bunch of different sources to get the point across:

  • From Mulan, the movie (to explain ancestors)
  • From Crayola (for the names of different skin tones: tan, brown, etc)
  • From her classmate (to give examples of non-black)
  • From genetics (to explain why Little Sister looks different from the rest of the family)

So clearly race shouldn’t be treated like it’s an easy topic. Maybe more people would  get along if they didn’t treat race like it was a black and white issue…literally!

How do you discuss race with your kids? In fact, WHEN did you start the discussion? Did you wait for them to come to you or did you “prime” them when they were about to start playing with other races? We’d love to know!

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