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Black, White & Hairspray

Same Difference is still here!hairspray-poster

Just putting it all out there because it has been a while since I blogged. In fact, I started writing this entry in January, and I just sat my butt down to finish it. And, yes, your calendar is correct … it’s the beginning of June!

My two little girls, Ms. Prissy and Chickenhawk, have been keeping me busy with pneumonia, school trips, and runny noses. But their new obsession, watching the musical Hairspray, requires a lot less work on my part! They love the latest remake, with John Travolta, Queen Latifah, and Michelle Pfeiffer. Since Mother’s Day, I’ve been forced to watch it morning, noon, and night.

As soon as we pop in the DVD, my 3-year-old falls into that frozen mannequin trance that only the TV can induce. And now both of my girls are not only singing the songs but doing the dance routines as well. But the most intriguing part has been the conversations the movie has inspired in our household, prompted primarily by my 5-year-old.

First, she asked me about the main character’s plump size. “Is she big throughout the whole movie?” she inquired innocently. I thought it was an odd question, but then it dawned on me that my daughter probably never sees larger-sized women on television, especially as a lead character.  I told her, “It is like my book, Same Difference. We come in all different sizes and complexions. No one is better or worse.”

Another time, while huffing and puffing from attempting to dance in unison with the movie, she flooded me with, “What is segregation? Why were blacks and whites separated? When did it end? And how did it change?”I was totally unprepared to answer an onslaught of questions about race from my child. I thought I had a few more years left before we had to have these kinds of conversations! So as simply as I could, I started to explain. I told her that segregation was a law that said black and white people could not live near each other, that they could not go to the same schools, sit together on buses, or in movie theaters. And even if a white person and black person loved each other, they could not hold hands or even walk down the street together.

After I finished, my oldest daughter looked at me in earnest and said, “I am glad the laws in America changed, Mom, because now you can go outside with Daddy and not be scared.” A bit stunned by the realization that my daughter thought I was white, I said, “No, baby. I am black and Daddy is black, too. Segregation would not affect us because we are the same race.” She responded, quite confidently, “No, Mom, you are white. Me, my sister, and Daddy are black.” Again, I attempted to explain “No. I am just a very light-skinned black woman.”

But I could see in my daughter’s eyes that she was not buying it one bit. She stopped dancing, walked over to me, and patted me on the shoulder and said, “It’s okay, Mom. It’s just like your book, Same Difference,” then went back to dancing. I guess in her own little way, she was telling me that race really didn’t matter. White, black—we’re all the same. All I could do was smile. And although our conversation will undoubtedly continue, she was right. We are all the same. No one is better or worse.

16 Comments Post a comment
  1. Love it! An awesome conversation with Skye. Well done Calida!

    June 1, 2011
  2. Glenn H. #

    What a great story. Thanks for sharing the honest perspective of a child!

    At the pace you’re writing in your blog, we should be due another entry by December. Can’t wait.

    June 2, 2011
  3. Monica M. #

    Love that! Same as our conversation.
    Completely connected with your story Calida. Eyes of children. Amazing! (Skye and Sage – Gorguz names) Such a superficial terms of film, television, characters and certainly real life.

    June 2, 2011
  4. LadyG3303 #

    So much unsaid but it came across loud and clear.

    ~ Same Difference ~

    June 2, 2011
  5. Love it! My 3 year old also is very inquisitive… try explaining why there is (well was) a “white” Michael Jackson and a “black” Micheal Jackson.

    I am so glad you are speaking to them like “mini” adults.

    Please keep blogging my “white” Spelman Sista!! (lol)

    June 2, 2011
  6. Garrett Winn #

    Out of the mouth of babes. Kids are always amazing and honest.

    June 2, 2011
  7. natalie #

    love skye! when i was her age i thought my parents were white and that i was black. (i also thought white people had to eat white bread and blacks ate wheat!)

    June 2, 2011
  8. Thanks for sharing. This inspires me to continue having conversations with my children.

    June 3, 2011
  9. Dani B #

    Cute story. My son Rocky has been throwing those kinds of questions at me since about age 5 yrs too. It’s weird to have to go there mentally and attempt to explain to a child how others can be so cruel when it comes to racism and segregation. I agree that the ‘Same Difference’ approach works well. I don’t want my kids to get to the point where they are as angry about our predicament as I used to be growing up. It takes away from your personal focus and ultimately affects your self esteem. Not a good place to be…

    June 3, 2011
  10. Thanks for sharing Calida. I had the same experience with my niece. She looked at my brother and I and said( you and Uncle Mikey are “wipe”( translates into white without baby talk) but she saw her self as black and us as other because his eyes are blue and out hair and skin is light.. not did she believe us when we explained that we were all the same. 🙂

    June 3, 2011
  11. Dr Verda #

    How wonderful when parents have honest and loving conversations. Excellent!

    June 4, 2011
  12. Great story Calida!Wisdom from the soul of little folks. Skye is awesome.

    June 6, 2011
  13. Thank you for sharing your story. I love it! I think is always refreshing to hear what our kids have to say about controversial topics. I know sometimes we as parents feel stress having to answer this questions in a sensitive, smart way. I think you did awesome!
    Love and kisses

    June 9, 2011
  14. Tony Garcia #

    Hysterical. I laughed out loud. I need to put hairspray on here to see if it is equally addictive. Calida you are the MOM of the year!

    June 9, 2011
  15. Angie S #

    I love that you shared this story. I myself have had many conversations with my children on the differences of our appearances, lately hair as been the discussion of choice. You did the best thing by being honest yet keeping it simple enough for Skye to understand. Kudos

    June 12, 2011
  16. Cocoa Platinum #

    Wow! What a wonderful convo that you had with your daughter! Makes me proud to be a fellow Spelman Alumna:)

    August 12, 2011

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