I've greatly appreciated watching Sofi become aware that not all people look/sound/act alike. In particular I've enjoyed watching her adjust to the different races. We live in a town that is fairly diverse, particularly for a town its size. There's a large population of Hispanics, Russians, Asian exchange-students and (of all things) Kurds, in addition to your usual Southern-small-town smattering of African-Americans. So she's gradually been introduced to a wide variety of people that do not look or sound like her. And you know what? She's been fine with that. It hasn't really affected her beyond a casual curiosity about what it would be like to have different color skin or eyes or hair.
And there's the key. The thing that inspires me.
I grew up in the South. My parents were in no way even remotely affected by race, but the larger community around us seethed with undercurrents of racism. As I got older I became more and more aware of this, and more and more uncomfortable. A local pool that we joined had an unspoken policy of segregation. An acquaintance mentioned that her pastor taught that "blacks were of the accursed race". My dear Great-grandmother, saint that she was, called the 30-some year old African-American man who cut her grass, "the colored boy". Etc. It was all around. And it made me become self-concious about the way I spoke around people of other races. Afraid that something I said might be mis-construed or cause unforeseen offence.
But at six, Sofi has not yet been corrupted by those undercurrents in our society. She refers to her African-American friend ("BEST friend, Mom") as "black-skinned". I think that is profound. Black- skinned. Not "black", not "different". She recognizes the superficial nature of racial differences. It's only a difference in skin color. It's not a label, it's descriptive. It's not a devide between us, it's a curiosity. Like having red hair, or detached earlobes, or a hitchhiker's thumb, or any of the myriad of other genetic differences that don't cause war and hatred and oppression and division.
I pray that she is able to keep this innocent perspective as she grows. I pray that the taint of this country's history of racial division doesn't stain her precious childhood friendships. And I pray that her generation will continue to take our society further and further away from its shameful history of racism and suspision of those who are different.