Precious in His Sight: Red, Brown, Yellow, Black, and White

Bright lights overhead illuminate a fun space. My eyes take in shelves with animal puzzles, bins with textured balls, sets of play tools, baskets of plastic fruit and veggies with pans for the play stove in our classroom. On my right – xylophones, bells and colored cushions. On the left side I see a box of string-a-beads, and on a shelf underneath – friendly-looking doggies and kitties that push or pull.

It’s Sunday morning, and I’ve entered the pre-school resource room at my church holding a white plastic basket for carrying items I’ll take to our classroom.

You see, two-year-old youngsters like to play. That’s how they learn. These children confirm the idea that “Play is the highest form of research.” (Unverified quote attributed to Einstein)

fbckidsxylophone

I continue circling the “toy” room and stop in front of the doll display now, dolls arranged in families: mommy-daddy-brother-sister. “Which sets of dolls should I pick out today?” I stop and wonder out loud.

asianblackfigures

hispanicwhitefigures

Children who walk through our classroom door have family origins in Viet Nam, Myanmar (Burma), Nigeria and Bosnia. Although our attendance records show Taylors, Elkins, and McCalls, the list also includes Biak, Torres, and DeVevo.

Friend and co-worker Gloria, who'd rather hold real babies!
Friend and co-worker Gloria, who’d rather hold real babies!

 

Why the Ethnic Dolls?

We obviously don’t point out differences with young children at play. I have never said to a two-year-old, “Look, this doll is hispanic (or black or white).

Of course not!

Then what’s the point?

When children see an image that looks like them, they can identify with it intuitively. We volunteer teachers aim to communicate to these impressionable little people that our world includes families with many different skin colors and facial features. The good Lord loves them all – and so, obviously, do they.

 

 

Spontaneous hug
Spontaneous hug

“Jesus Loves the little children” video + lyrics

* * *

Another Question

Recently author, journalist, and lecturer Gail Sheehy asked the question, “Is Trump out to make America white again?” Recent developments before and after our contentious election in America may warrant such a concern.

Our answer as pre-school teachers: Not if we can help it!

doctorcarpenterfbc

You may want to check out a Mennonite voice, Becca J. R. Lachman, whose blog expresses a wish to keep “a welcome sign [to everyone] lit in neon.”

* * *

Your turn: An anecdote, an illustration, a contrasting point of view. All are welcome in this space . . .

Coming next: 7 Ways to Stay Young: Nuns Reveal Their Secrets

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49 thoughts on “Precious in His Sight: Red, Brown, Yellow, Black, and White

    1. Thank you, Arlene, for starting the conversation here.

      Your comment prompted me to do some checking and found, not surprisingly, that less than half American children live in what was once thought of as a traditional family. Here’s the link: http://www.pewresearch.org/fact-tank/2014/12/22/less-than-half-of-u-s-kids-today-live-in-a-traditional-family/

      Most live in single family homes and many live with other relatives often grandparents. Many we need dolls that look like grandma or grandpa – ha!

      Liked by 2 people

        1. The Mennonite church I grew up in was very accepting of all races for which I am thankful.

          Quite a while ago a family in the church helped raise twins who happened to be black. Whether they were adopted or in foster care, I don’t know, but I remember the mother handling the children lovingly. At the time, they had 2-3 children of their own and I remember thinking how generous they were to reach out to a family in need. Yes, Arlene – so many different, wonderful families!

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  1. Good morning, Marian! This is an Interesting post.
    Our daughters had dolls–mainly Barbies–of all races. Our older daughter’s very first Barbie was an African-American Barbie. She named the doll Mary.
    I think it’s also important to have books with diverse characters. We enjoyed Ezra Jack Keats’ books, such as The Snowy Day and Maggie and the Pirate.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Your daughters are younger than my Crista. Although she had Barbies, I don’t recall seeing a variety of races on store shelves back then.

      I’d like to check on the Ezra Keats’ books. Thanks for giving the title here. Others may check it out too. Fortunately, in our two-year old class, children can see different races on the pages of their books, a good thing.

      Liked by 2 people

  2. If these bins were in an open classroom, I’d prefer they be labeled “Children” and “Grown Ups”! From my observation very young children recognize human first and age second; ethnicity seems irrelevant to them. As they get older we must strive to acknowledge ethnic differences exist without stereotyping them. Children learn what they live.

    Liked by 3 people

  3. What an interesting post. I’ve always known that we all have our biasness,. But we’re taught that we acccept all people. It wasn’t til this election that brought back open prejudice. So much so that when my grandchildren born here with four generations of Americans were told after the election: I thought you were deported? My grandchildren are light skinned Latinos who don’t speak Spanish fluently yet understand every Spanish word and are starting to practice speaking.

    My community is predominantly white and we’ve never had a problem. So sad that this president elect brought this out. I taught my children and grandchildren to accept all people and by example I serve all people of any religion, color or race. I’m glad that my grandchildren handled it appropriately without offense. Just responded yes I was deported here to my country USA. I would have loved to have been sent to another country to see how they live and get another experience, so if you and your family are willing to fork up expense I’d gladly go. I laughed and told Samantha great response. What did the person say. She said nothing – everybody laughed and said ooh she got you good. I’m glad that here it was gentle banter in the city. It’s different now. It hurts because our country came a long way to live together to now have this come out again. We have a lot of work to do, to keep our hearts tender and keep loving and serving and teaching that we are all one people. Yes, it starts at home and with young children. Thank you for another thought-provoking post.
    Gloria

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Although we have serious work to do as a country, humor goes a long, long way in helping to bridge the yawning gap that seems to be growing wider every day.

      I’m glad you are preserving your language with the grand-children. I never learned PA Dutch/German as a child possibly because the generations before me felt embarrassed to identify in any way with Hitler and the Nazis regime. Or, perhaps they wanted to identify completely with the dominant society. Whatever the reason, I wish I too were bi-lingual.

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      1. I know for Spanish people it was forbidden to speak Spanish in public. It was so bad that the older Spanish people never spoke Spanish outside of the home. In one way it was good because they had to learn the language. I tell a lot of my clients the importance to learn it.

        Liked by 1 person

  4. I think it is important for young children to understand that there are different types of skin, hair and eye colour in the human race, but even more important to point out what unites us, rather than what makes us different or divide us. 👍

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you, Fatima. for weighing in on this important issue. We are more alike than we are different no matter our race or creed. What can’t we learn that? Such a simple lesson, but apparently not an easy one for those who want domination over others.

      Liked by 2 people

  5. Not so sure about young children not having prejudice. We lived in Africa when our children were small, and when we went to visit fellow missionaries in Botswana (white like us) our daughter played with her tea set and served everyone tea, except one man. She had asked me before why our friend had no hair on his head and I told her because when men get older they sometimes lose their hair and it’s a condition called baldness. When this man asked why he didn’t get any tea she said “I don’t serve tea to bald men!” Black people were not a problem to her, but bald white people were!

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Oh, my word!

      If your anecdote is any indication, what is different or unusual can be a sticking point at any age. You daughter was young, and her comment can be understandable, even funny, in retrospect. What is disturbing is when people who should know better are closed-minded and act like bullies.

      Thank you for shedding another perspective on this important issue, Elfrieda.

      Like

  6. Marian —

    I thoroughly enjoyed reading this heartwarming, arms-wide-open post.

    I haven’t been over to Becca’s blog yet (will head there next), but I deeply resonate with KEEP A WELCOME SIGN—TO EVERYONE—LIT IN NEON.

    I heartily second the motion!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I know from both your words and actions you concur. It would be wonderful if our world could be a peaceable kingdom, but unfortunately it is not. Still, I remember a reminder from Aesop: “No act of kindness, however small, is ever wasted.”

      (By the way, I saw a compact car with huge GREEN wheel covers this morning and thought of you. And I think you know why!) 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  7. My four grandsons are growing up with brown and black skinned childcare providers in day care and private homes in separate cities. At one of their churches, I was babysitting two of the grandsons during a memorial service for an older church member, so his parents could participate meaningfully in the service (not my church). In the church nursery, there was a beautiful wall hanging of children of different races and my almost-three grandson pointed to one and said it “looked like Nadrah” (his Muslim caretaker from Pakistan). The only similarities were the tone of skin. I’m thrilled that they are growing up in multicultural educational/childcare situations but I no longer believe that children don’t notice differences. We live in challenging times. I say a prayer today especially for the survivors of the AME Wed. evening Bible study church shooting in Charleston which I understand happened a year ago?

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Thank you for reminder at the faithful worshipping in the Charleston church which I think occurred June 17, 2015. Much good has emanated from a horrific act, including forgiveness freely given by survivors in victim’s families. And for lovely anecdote of your grandson and his caretaker – very heart-warming. I too am thankful that my grandchildren have friends from a variety of skin tones — and body shapes, even.

      Like

  8. Oh, I’m guilty here of not reading someone else’s complete FB post. I certainly had the wrong date. But allow me to share the post and good idea, for clarity:

    “The trial of Dylann Roof began this week. He has confessed to killing nine members of the Mother Emanuel AME church in Charleston, SC in June 2015 during a bible study. I imagine that the congregation is going through another level of grief at this time. Someone suggested that we send cards of comfort, prayers, and love. I am mailing my card today. If you would like to send a card or note here is the address:”

    Mother Emanuel AME Church
    110 Calhoun Street
    Charleston, SC 29401

    Liked by 3 people

    1. Thank you for the clarification here and especially for the mailing address. I will try to send condolence/encouragement. And I imagine the compassionate readers in this column will want to participate as well. Knowing we are not alone in grief is of great comfort. Thank you again, Melodie.

      Like

  9. What an interesting collection of reflections, photos, and links. I am sure the two-year-olds in your charge at church are learning that Jesus loves all the little children of the world. And their books and toys reflect the beautiful diversity of many languages and cultures and skin colors.

    I agree with Gail Sheehy’s political analysis and Becca Lachman’s lament/psalm. Thanks for sharing them.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. You must have heard “Jesus Loves the Little Children, all the Children of the World” too in your Sunday School classes at Lititz Mennonite Church.

      Your last sentence implies the dynamics of blogging as a forum for exchange of opinions. I had no idea when I posted these questions that there would be such a wide-ranging “take” on the topic. I notice too when you publish a provocative post the comments take the discussion deep and wide. Thanks for being part of this one, Shirley. 🙂

      Like

    1. You are the first reader to point out the hug. The little girl comes from a family of huggers and passes the love along. I love observing the spontaneity and wonder of children. It’ll be hard to give it up when I’m an old lady – hahahaha!
      Thank you, Marylin!

      Like

  10. I’m with Marylin with hugging but I think it’s a liberating thing to do. . I didn’t grow up in a hugging type family ( not their fault of course ) it took a lovely friend to teach me …that friend could have been yellow con pink ( sorry that was my mum’s word not big on hugging but had some crazy sayings ) or green or blue it wouldn’t have mattered .
    Emmm I’m not sure you should explain differences to children just wait till they ask . I remember explaining something to my son once ,that he didn’t ask for , and he looked at me like I’d just come from another planet …so I just waited for him to ask .
    Cherryx

    Like

    1. Yes, Cherry, children of most temperaments are naturally affectionate, but most don’t give hugs as this little girl is doing with her friend in the picture.

      And, no, we don’t try explain about race or any abstract idea at all in our classes. But we do try to expose the children to diversity: their minds are taking in what they see, we think. They wouldn’t understand an explanation. These wee ones are just babies on fast legs and in constant motion. They hardly stay still for more than 30 seconds – unless we blow bubbles . . . then it’s arms up in the air – ha!

      Thanks for stopping by with your own special slant on the subject, Cherry!

      Like

  11. Well, it’s got me thinking – belatedly coming across to your post which I read a day or so ago but a bit of time only now to offer my 2 cents worth …

    I don’t remember having dolls as a child, I wonder if my sister did. Nevertheless I’m very aware of the ongoing Barbie doll phenomenon. And how a girl child just HAS to have the latest one etc in modish clothes, in some instances very little clothing. So this makes me anxious about girls ‘fixating’ a bit on this –

    I know that here in South Africa where the black population is 11 times larger than the white population, that little black girls go for the Barbie – maybe she’s embedded in our consciousness in some way, wanting to be more white maybe and perhaps the advertising media cleverly latched onto that. Yes, Barbie does epitomise much – pretty, flowing locks, tiny waist, gorgeous clothes etc etc …

    I know that a year or so ago, a black woman entrepreneur made the most beautiful black baby dolls, beaded, different hair, different clothing .. they really were gorgeous – but, no or little interest.

    Marian, this was supposed to be short. It’s a lovely post. I love all the smiling families! And yes, to have Grandma and Grandpa each of different stripes would be wonderful!

    Dolls can certainly be used as a teaching aid – different origins etc – when the child is old enough. Both boys and girls …

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you for offering a South African perspective on this issue, Susan. I am surprised that little black girls in your country like white dolls for whatever reasons. I too have an issue with Barbie dolls in general as they tend to objectify the “perfect” and unrealistic body image.

      Kudos to the entrepreneur who makes beautiful black baby dolls. I hope she continues with her enterprise. It seems to me if she had some backing, she’d could market to a larger audience.

      Liked by 1 person

  12. Interesting post… Back when I worked with children in our church, I taught them this verse to a well known song: Jesus loves the Indian boy, bow and arrow for a toy; big Filipino, wee Chinese, born afar across the seas. Yes, Jesus loves them, yes, Jesus loves them, yes, Jesus loves them! The Bible tells me so!

    Liked by 1 person

  13. Kudos to you and your colleagues for making sure that ALL children are included! My husband and son have Native American as well as Asian and white blood, so I’m a first-hand witness to the extraordinary and wonderful results of racial diversity. I appreciate your work to make sure that love triumphs over hatred and prejudice!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Yes, your Sage is a case in point of the richness of a blend of races and ethnicities. Thank you for leaving an example here! We all know about the frightful results of in-breeding.

      The divisive election seems to have spurred fine folks on to commit to more intentional acts of kindness and love. Doing my little bit to stem the tide of hatred is both a duty ~ and a pleasure, Rebecca.

      Like

  14. Beautiful post Marian. As it should be. We live in a diverse multi cultural world, thus the children should have toys and dolls to identify with themselves and all others. We need to keep preaching this so Trump’s “Make America White again’ never comes to fruition.

    Liked by 1 person

  15. What a beautiful and relevant message, Marian and your wonderful writing brings me right back to my own childhood classroom. For those people who were not brought up with the message of equality and tolerance, perhaps a refresher course in is order. Thank you, as always, for bringing us right back to center!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Your expression “bringing us right back to center” reminds me that it is very easy to get off balance – eccentric, really. I’m glad that this post triggered memories of your days in church school. I know from all your writings that your faith has been the mainstay of your life. Soli Deo Gloria!

      Liked by 1 person

  16. Thank you, Marian. You’re doing the on-the-ground grass-roots work. I think this is the best thing we can do now.

    My most racially mixed experiences are with friends and also at hospice with staff and families. Also with my mother-in-law’s health aides with whom I’ve had many illuminating political discussion this year with Baptist black women who moved here from the south and local woman who don’t have enough money to get their teeth fixed. The health aides got together and agreed to lower their wages because of our concern we’ll run out of money for health aides before Virginia runs out of steam. I refused their offer. Their lives are hard enough without a cut in pay.

    Yesterday, one of my favorite aides told me to pray and hand politics over to the Lord (she raised her hands to the sky and, I swear, electric sparks came off her fingers). She’s younger than I am, but has taken to mothering me (as well as my mother-in-law). I’m grateful–and she’s right.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Noble and right are two words that ring true in your illustrations. You, the noble one for refusing to lower the wages for sweet folks already living on the edge. And your favorite aide for her strong faith and perspective.

      There’s a quote I can’t put my hands on right now that speaks to our times . . . something to the effect: We can’t fix the world, but what we can do right now is “help the next person that comes to [us] in need.” We are both doing that, our little bit that counts for big – in the long run. As always, I appreciate your insights here, Elaine.

      Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you for meeting here today. I so agree that children are accepting of others’ difference, and if they are encouraged to do so, will carry unbiased opinions into adulthood. I’m glad we have this connection now. Again, thanks!

      Liked by 1 person

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