"Matthew, why are you black?"
"He was born that way," Matthew's brother interjects while he says nothing.
"But why?" the tiny friend asks, curious.
"He was born that way!" his brother says more forcefully.
"But why were you born black?" the boy asks again. His mother enters the room, thinking she may soon need to get involved.
Matthew is quiet, letting his brother do the talking.
"He's just black," his brother answers again, for him. Later, when the conversation was relayed to me, I found this surprising. Garrett doesn't ever refer to his brother as black.
Finally, the boy yells, "I'm not black! I'm brown!"
"Mom," the friend says, "is Matt black?"
"Matthew," the mom begins, "What color are you?"
"I'm brown!" Matthew informs.
"There you go," says the mother. "He's brown."
I am not ready for this. I wish it wasn't already beginning to happen. I know this boy and his family. I know that there was nothing racially charged about his line of questioning. He simply wondered. But in his curiosity, Matthew was questioned. Why are you black? As though it is strangely different. As though maybe it is not quite as "normal" as peach skin. A small part of my heart broke for my son.
Last night, while he was suspended in a fractured world between sleep and awake, I whispered to him. "You are beautiful. Your skin is the most delicious chocolate because God made you that way. I love you. You are wonderful. God made you the perfect color." And I hope that some of it soaked into his subconscious. I hope that as he grows, when he is made to feel less than, he knows that in our family he is more than. More than enough. More than what we prayed for. More than what we waited for.
"And look at the shades it comes in--the shades of your colorful skin! Your coffee and cream skin, your warm cocoa dream skin...Your chocolate chip, double dip sundae supreme skin! Your marshmallow treat skin, your spun sugar sweet skin...your cherry topped, candy dropped, frosting complete skin. Your pumpkin pie slice skin, your caramel corn nice skin; your toffee wrapped, ginger snapped, cinnamon spice skin! Your butterscotch gold skin, your lemon tart bold skin; your mountain high apple pie, cookie dough rolled skin! Now, look once again at your skin...And the skin all people live in...And like flowers in the fields that make wonderful views, when we stand side-by-side in our wonderful hues...We all make a beauty, so wonderfully true. We are special and different and just the same, too!" --Michael Tyler The Skin You Live In