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The topic of skin colour ! Need help to explain in the best way !

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#1 tobemommy

Posted 14 May 2019 - 09:59 AM

Hello wise mums

It's me again with more questions on how to handle some of the tricky situations we are hitting this Term !

DS (age 5) came back from school yesterday and said he wants to change his skin colour (we are from South East asian background) He said he wants to change to white and he doesnt like the colour of his skin.

A topic must have come up in the school playground yesterday where they must have been discussing "Where are you from"  And since my kiddo is a darker skin he was said to be "You cant be from Australia" where as the Asian kids with fair skin were in the "is from Australia" category.  Mind you we are in Chatswood where people are from various mixed backgrounds!!

So his gripe at the moment more than anything else is that he is "super tired" of explaining that he is from Australia. His logic::  Mummy and daddy are from X country as they were born there But I am from Australia as I was born here.  
How do I go about explaining this ?

#2 CallMeFeral

Posted 14 May 2019 - 10:46 AM

Oh I'm sorry he's said that, that's so hard. And ridiculously unexpected in Chatswood! Angles you can try, see what resonates with you

- discuss that people get confused and think that 'from Australia' means white, because of how history has written with the 'discovery' of Australia. But in reality nobody is 'from' here - humans originated somewhere in Africa (if that's still the current theory) and it's the Aboriginals who have been here the longest if it comes to length of residency. Let him know that not all people are educated about this so they make mistakes and wrong assumptions
- give him the choice to NOT explain - tell him he can tell just tell people he was born here and is Australian
- Discuss positive things about his skin colour. This will vary depending on what colour he is.
If he is kind of coffee coloured, let him know that all around the world, people aspire to his skin colour. In countries where people are mostly pale, they try to get tanned and even spray paint themselves. In countries where people are mostly dark, they try to get lighter and even try to dye their skin. They may not think about it that way, but his beautiful in between is what everyone wants to be.
If he's much darker and not in-betweenish, talk about how his skin is perfectly adapted to sunny climates, and how he's actually better suited to this country (hence why Aboriginal people who have been here longest have dark skin). Let him know that in countries like this, people with lighter skin have to go to great extents not to get burnt and are more likely to develop skin cancer, because skin-wise they are the ones who are not 'built' to be here, whereas he (while he should still protect from the sun) has the perfect skin for this country.

If any adults reading this take offence to any the above, please stop. I'm pitching it at a child level where there is so much bias on one side of the coin that there may need to be a bit of exaggeration on the other side, to even it up.

#3 aquarium2

Posted 14 May 2019 - 11:18 AM

It's very hard for your son to be put in a position where he has to try and explain because some children are so ignorant.

My daughter is half English, half Indian and now in Year 3. We're in Lane Cove, so not far from you.

Since Kindy at the first sign of any of these racist conversations/statements, I go straight to the teacher and ask them to discuss the issue with the class, so that my daughter doesn't have to continually defend herself.  I also ask that the comments are brought to the attention of the parent of the child making the comments. They need to understand the seriousness and hurtfulness of the what they are stating.

I agree you need to talk to children about these situations and  give them explanations etc, but there is no way they should have to tackle that on there own or be made to feel ashamed of there skin colour.

Edited by aquarium2, 14 May 2019 - 11:46 AM.

#4 j-gray

Posted 14 May 2019 - 11:40 AM

View Postaquarium2, on 14 May 2019 - 11:18 AM, said:

Since Kindy at the first sign of any of these racist conversations/statements, I go straight to the teacher and ask them to discuss the issue with the class, so that my daughter doesn't have to continually defend herself.  I also ask that the comments are brought to the attention of the parent of the child making the comments. They need to understand the seriousness and hurtfulness of the what they are stating.

Totally agree with this. We're anglo background and live in an area that is predominantly anglo (so much so that I find it impossible to find my children in the crowd at school pick up). Recently they discussed skin colour in the classroom, and I was pleasantly surprised (and embarrassed that I hadn't thought to raise it myself). We're now having all sorts of conversations around different family combos, and gender fluidity etc.

As to what DS says - agree with CallMeFeral... the answer is 'I'm australian'. That is the absolute fact and he should not have to prove that by detailing his heritage, maybe he can learn to elaborate as he gets older.

Does the school have any sort of ethics classes ? That is where it was brought up at my sons' school. Perhaps you could suggest that to the school ?

#5 Moukmouk

Posted 14 May 2019 - 11:51 AM

It would be worthwhile mentioning something to school In such a multi-cultural area, it's bound to come up. It could well be in kindy they are all trying to sort themselves out. At Artarmon they had some trouble with kids settling into the "indian" group or the "korean" (for example) group and not letting people in or out. Hopefully it will settle as they get used to each other.
I had a friend at uni whose parents were from Papua New Guinea. Of Chinese descent. Now that confused the busybodies who kept asking "but where were your parents from"!

#6 Baily

Posted 14 May 2019 - 12:58 PM

Since it’s happening at school.  I would talk to the school and hopefully the can address the issue.  They may be unaware.


Posted 14 May 2019 - 01:06 PM

People can be such turds OP.

I spent over 15 years living in Chatswood, Willoughby and Lane Cove and yes, there are lots of people from various mixed backgrounds.  I was typically the only one who described themselves as having an Aussie background.
All my friends would say that they were Greek, Armenian, Italian, Chinese, Vietnamese etc.

They would ask me and I'd say Aussie and they'd then go, "No, what's your background?  Where were your parents born?"  For them the norm was for parents not to be born in Australia.  So I think that it's rediculous for kids from around there to be so judgemental as to what an Aussie is.  

We wanted a big backyard and couldn't afford that around there, so moved to NW Sydney and it's not as culturally diverse, but is becoming more so.

My kids can go from having very fair skin to a chocolate brown after just a day or two in the sun.  It became a joke at their old school (they attended up until end of 2018) what colour they would be after each lot of school holidays.  In a friendly way though. My kids themselves still find it funny how much their skin colour can change after even one afternoon at the beach. Kids around here haven't bothered us, but what really annoyed me was when teachers at their old school would classify them as Korean!  Yes, DF does have a Korean background, but he himself grew up living in regional Australia, typically near the beach as his father was a marine engineer.  He spent his childhood at the beach, riding his bike and skateboard, etc., just like all the other kids around him did.  We still eat some traditional Korean foods, but apart from that, DF doesn't follow any other Korean traditions.  
My kids would get quite upset when teachers would classify them as Korean and ask what special things they do in their house that may be different to others in the class!  They had nothing to add and got so frustrated that teachers would tell them that they were Korean.  Don't get me wrong, they are not ashamed about being partially Korean, but they just get so frustrated as it's not all that they are.  

Initially I thought that it was just DD1's teacher, but the same thing happened to DS1 the next year, but different teacher and then again for DD2 with a different teacher again.  The teacher would put this map up and place the kids name on the map in relation to 'where they came from' and each time put my kids in Korea even after they questioned it.  I get what the teachers are trying to do, but it's not up to them to judge where they think a child's background is.

My side of the family have been in Australia from multiple generations and come from a mainly English background with a bit of Scottish and Irish in there too and their teachers all knew me, not necessarily my exact background, but knew that it was very unlikely Korean.  When arguing my point with one of their teachers over this one day I asked them so what would that make my children if I was Greek (first thing that came to mind as my BIL's parents are Greek, but you wouldn't pick it with BIL). The best I got was, "Are you?"

Speak to their teacher OP and see if they can have a chat to the class.  Hopefully they are better at it than the teachers at my kid's old school were.

Sorry, had a bit of a rant of my own there!

#8 annodam

Posted 14 May 2019 - 02:01 PM

My 10½yo  son gets really dark in Summer, his hair (long shoulder length) also gets lighter.
Recently, we travelled to Central AU & given he was still a little dark from our holidays over December/January, he got even darker out in the outback.
He was mistaken for an Aboriginal, I kid you not, it didn't help he was trekking through the resort & desert barefoot!

DH, myself & the kids are all born here, my folks & the ILs both born in Greece.
I do not say I'm Greek if someone asks me personally IRL.
I say Australian.  (On forums such as this, I say Greek background as it's just easier given my Religion is Greek Orthodox).
Now, I'm born here, I own an Aussie Passport & if I was ever O/S & in trouble, I would seek assistance from the AU Consulate NOT the Greek one.
When asked where my parents/ancestors are from, I reply Bulgarian Gypsies because yes, if you go way, way back that is where my dads side of the family originated from.  Wouldn't be at all surprised to find we have some Turkish in there somewhere, given both Countries are neighbours.
The skin tone/colouring of my dad, his siblings & my own brother is certainly a possibility.
The true Geeks were blonde haired, blue eyed many generations back.

DHs grandparents, probably crossed over from Yugoslavia or Albania (no one really knows as they were living right on the border, plus they're deceased now) but from what he's told me & I've heard from the ILs, they were threatened by the Greeks to change their surname to a "Greek" name, or face execution, so they did.

#9 DirtyStreetPie

Posted 14 May 2019 - 02:59 PM

Hi OP. My son thinks that anyone who lives in Australia is Australian, including my dad, who came here from India, and my husband, who came here from Canada. Skin colour is not part of the equation.

This is his belief because that's what I've taught him. Ideally, it would be great if every child had a conversation like this with their families, because it would nip ignorance in the bud. It is everyone's job to stop racism from spreading to the next generation, and if people aren't talking to their kids about it, then that gap will be filled by the media or by their peers at school, who may make racist statements such as "You can't be Australian" (and let's not pretend that this is not a racist remark).

But... my wish is really a fantasy, so the best option is to ask your child's teacher to address this issue with the class. As a teacher, I would happily discuss this with the kids.

(As an aside, I don't think that skin colour should be ignored altogether. People do look different to us, but we need to emphasise to children that colour is just that - a colour - and that it has no bearing on a person's value.)

(edited to clarify a point)

Edited by DirtyStreetPie, 14 May 2019 - 03:16 PM.

#10 aquarium2

Posted 14 May 2019 - 03:16 PM

View PostDirtyStreetPie, on 14 May 2019 - 02:59 PM, said:

(As an aside, I don't think that skin colour should be ignored altogether. People do look different to us, but we need to emphasise to children that colour is just that - a colour - and that it has no bearing on a person's value.)

Agree curiosity should be encouraged.

However in this instance when a negative connotation is attached to that thought process, it needs to be dealt with swiftly and firmly.

#11 tobemommy

Posted 16 May 2019 - 08:04 PM

Thanks everyone ! Appreciate your feedback !!  Have found some fun ways to educate my son. I think talking to his class teacher is a great idea, will shoot her an email

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