“Why are you black?” a little girl asked the young black boy playing next to her at the sensory table at Friday’s Play Shoppe – an innocent age-appropriate inquiry from an inquisitive child to ask.
As adults, however, we often cringe at this kind of child-like boldness. We might try to hush it, to even label it as impolite, insensitive, unwelcoming, embarrassing, taboo.
But actually this is the way young children learn, understand, accept, become friends, grow. This simple question is not based on fear or insecurity or dislike, but with an honest, genuine need to know.
In fact the pure simplicity of the question begs a simple answer. “People come in all different colors.”
At that morning’s art area, children were creating paper towel tube people. This was an open-process activity. There were no set rules or model from which to copy. There were several different paint colors – purple, black, yellow, green, pink ; ribbons, pieces of material, yarn, googly eyes.
Every paper towel tube person came out different – every paper towel tube person was an individual – and amazingly rich and colorful and imaginative they were.
So perhaps we can learn from the directness of this little girl.
Perhaps it is our responsibility – a combination of asking and responding to the questions, to the differences in our world – honestly, openly -both as children and adults – welcoming and inviting opportunities to learn, accept, discover.
And perhaps one day we will all be as comfortable and open to the differences in our world as these children were with their colorful, unique, lovely paper towel tube people.