Saturday, April 24, 2010

The Census and Race

When we got our Census forms in the mail the other day, I looked them over and thought "Oh, this looks pretty simple."  For each member of the family, I needed to supply name, age, and...race?

The race question made me hesitate for a minute.  I was kind of tempted to check "other" and fill in the blank "human," but after a little thought, I decided that I wanted to represent for my multi-ethnic babies.  So I checked both "white" and "black" under each of my sons' names, feeling thankful that at least I could check more than one box, an option that didn't exist as recently as the 1990 Census.

I've tried a few times to explain "race" to Elijah, and there's something about seeing things through a five-year-old's eyes that makes you realize how ridiculous it all is.  I try to explain what it means to be black, and how most people would probably call him black; and as the words are coming out of my mouth, I'm thinking, he's not going to understand this because it doesn't make any sense.  And sure enough, he looks at me blankly, then tells me about how he is kind of lightish brown, Noah is darkish-lightish brown, Daddy is all-the-way-dark brown, and Mama is brighter brown, by which I think he means lighter brown.

Now if I can't even explain race to him, how am I going to explain racism?  Not that I haven't tried--for instance, on Martin Luther King Jr. Day, I tried to explain who MLK was; but in order to explain what he stood for, I have to explain what he stood against; and it's all just so ridiculous.  "Back in the day a lot of white people thought that black people shouldn't enjoy the same privileges they did."  "But why, Mama?"  "Uh, um, I don't know, because people are stupid?"  Except that I can't say that, because we don't call people stupid in our house. :p

I was thinking about this again today as I came across a couple of articles about the Census and race (here's an example).  I also came across this site:, which argues from a Biblical standpoint that "there is one race, the human race," an argument I've heard before from Mr. Voddie Baucham, and with which I'm inclined to agree.*  What I hadn't realized before perusing this site was the connection between race theory and evolutionary theory.  This site is also strong on the topic of interracial marriage.  I highly recommend that y'all check it out. :)

*I'm not saying that we need to be "color-blind" or that we should give up labeling ethnic groups entirely--I think it's equally silly to pretend that there are no differences between us at all.  Of course we have our cultural differences, and I think that we should make an effort to learn about those differences and to appreciate them.  And I think we need to be conscious of the fact that we tend to be afraid of people who are different from us, and be careful that we don't allow those fears to stop us from reaching out to those people.  Why do I feel like I'm being preachy?  Maybe because I am?  *sigh* Okay, I give up, no more blogging about race.


  1. I didn't grow up thinking about racism/prejudice until I was probably 10 or 12. Kids don't think in that vein, and I'm not sure it's healthy to even mention it until they're a little older, otherwise, it becomes something that percolates in their little minds and becomes an issue within their own hearts.
    I realized people had different colors of skin, but that's all it was and is--they're PEOPLE with different colors of skin, all in need of a Savior. Period.

  2. I think your comments are (as usual!) very thought provoking. Race and racism are interesting topics. I don't know that I'd agree with Ray.

    I often think about commenting on your posts but I'm not sure that I have time to get into discussion, and since the internet isn't the best medium, I'm a little afraid of being misunderstood :-)


  3. Hi Rachel,

    I've been thinking about your comment. I think I agree that it's best to shelter our children from the ugly things in life for as long as possible. However, most children of color will not have the luxury of remaining oblivious to matters of race and racism until they are 10 or 12, as they will have experienced racism long before that point. I've already heard a couple of disparaging comments directed at the boys while we were out and about; thankfully, they didn't notice. But I would anticipate that they will have learned the hard way about racism before too long.

    Also, I can see that Elijah is already reluctant to interact with people who are different from himself, especially if they are speaking a different language. I think this sort of thing arises at an early age. I have to remind him that just because that little girl at the library looks/dresses differently and/or is speaking Spanish, or German, or Hindi, or Khmer, doesn't mean she isn't a perfectly nice little girl! And I have to encourage him to interact with her just as he would with other children. (He does get along fine once he gets over that initial hesitation).

    I'm not pretending to have this all figured out...and I'm definitely not sure *when* I should be discussing some of these things with Elijah. I'm leaving the racism topic alone for now, and hoping that when the time is right, I'll know. :)


  4. That's cool that you are opening up the windows for them to see things the way the Lord would. At any age they are interested, inquisitive or show the least bit of realization that things are different is when it's time to talk to them. Whether it be of race or anything else. Some things are just to big for them to "carry" of course, as I recall my best mentor, Elisabeth Elliot, saying. It was either a quote from someone she read or it was her own, but the idea of carrying luggage onto the train, the dad had to carry it for her. Some things are too heavy for them to bear. The same goes for those more mature ideas, etc. The comments, the attitudes that people may attack our children with, we will also have to bear for them.
    Although my family is not mixed "race" since we're both caucasian, ethnicity is an issue and we often get the looks and such. LOL about the "stupid" comment--that is SO true. Our human ignorance can cause such problems and grief.
    But not to fret, it's only for a little while. We *must* be praying for wisdom AND for salvation of the lost. We can show our little ones TRUE tolerance and love them like Jesus would and they will quite possibly learn to do the same to others in spite of everything :0)


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