With all of Hope’s difficulties at home and school, I was totally caught by surprise this weekend. A black friend who provided respite this weekend took one look at Hope’s hair and said,”She can’t go out in public like that!”. I was speechless. Joe has a nasty bite on his hand, I have 2 emails and a phone call from the school just in the first four days and I should care about her hair?
Hope had her hair braided today. She looks cute. She has never left braids in for more than 3 days and she won’t let me touch her hair.
I am sure it is cultural. I will make it a point to ask other friends who are black. With Hope’s current problems, I didn’t think hair was on the radar screen.
Hope has been taking swimming lessons in a special needs class. She enjoyed the first few classes and can even keep herself afloat a little bit. Yesterday, she had a problem. She had a new instructor. He was black. Hope has said from the very beginning that she doesn’t like black people and wished she was white. She will talk about it if you insist, but really doesn’t seem to know where the feelings came from.
I took the opportunity yesterday to talk about her feelings in a concrete way. I told her everybody was different and skin color was only one of the ways people could be different. I told her she needed to deal with people, even if there was something she didn’t like about them. I also told her I loved her and she wouldn’t be her if her skin was white and that would make me sad.
I know I missed the boat and our conversation was totally inadequate. I don’t know what I could have done different. Any suggestions?