Being Black: So Easy, Anyone Can Do It

Just Follow the Directions and You Too Can Be Black!

Hi Meltingpot Readers,

Yesterday morning, my eight-year-old son came into my bedroom and saw my copy of Baratunde Thurston’s hilarious book, How To Be Black on my dresser. He picked it up, thumbed through it and casually announced, “Hey mom, we should send this book to Abuelo y Abuela in Spain so they can be Black like us.” And he was serious. He waited for my response. And while I wanted to laugh in the worst way, I realized he really was serious. So, I nodded my head and said it sounded like a splendid idea. That was enough for him. He put the book down and went on his way.

Dear readers, I share this story with you not only because I think it is hilarious, but because it’s one of those perfect meltingpot teaching moments. My younger son could best be described as beige, and until recently he denied that he was Black. Not when his barely brown skin told him otherwise. He just didn’t see it. But then big brother schooled him on the one-drop rule. He put it like this, “Dude, mom’s Black so that means we’re all Black.” Now, what my younger son heard in that little lesson was that our Kinky Gazpacho family is Black. Including el esposo. You see where I’m going with this, right? Clearly the eight-year-old has realized that the color of the skin has nothing to do with one’s racial classification. And so his pale, pink daddy can be as Black as he wants to be. And with the proper training, apparently his Spanish grandparents can too. It’s all so easy.

In my humble opinion, this little experience perfectly demonstrates, just how  confusing the concept of race really is, for young and old alike. Because far be it from me to explain how people of every shade from dark to light, can be Black but not White. (Hey I’m a poet and don’t know it!)  Think about that.

So, dear readers, do you have an answer for me, or my son? You know I’m listening.



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14 Thoughts to “Being Black: So Easy, Anyone Can Do It”

  1. We learn “race” at such an early age, don’t we?

    I know you’ve probably seen this already, but thought I would share the link on Nina Jablonski’s new book Living Color. The TEDtalk embedded in The Root site is great, too.

    1. Ms. Meltingpot

      Thanks Jenny for the link. I hadn’t heard about that book. Will definitely check it out.

  2. Susan:)

    My four yr old niece likes to describe people by their color, and she does it very literally. She and her sister and parents are all very naturally tan, and she says they all have brown skin. I am one of those fair skinned folks who turns red at the slightest hint of sun. My niece describes me as having pink skin! I guess we haven’t really talked about race, but we do talk about how people come in all colors. We talk about how people have different colored hair and eyes and skin, and that’s what makes us interesting. For now, I think my niece just likes talking about colors. When we look at pictures of people, she mostly just describes what they are wearing rather than what they look like. It’ll be interesting to see how her perceptions evolve as she grows.

    1. Ms. Meltingpot

      This is so funny. But it really shows how kids notice color difference at an early age, so we should be ready to discuss it. But we’re so afraid that it’s going to lead to something bad. It’s us adults who need to learn from the innocence of our kids. Different colors just make things prettier.

  3. Oh man… I have a feeling I’m going to be kicking it here for awhile. Loved this piece! My daughter is only two, but is already classifying us by our skin colors. Did it ever pain that he thought of himself as something other than what you are? You probably have… I’mma go look 🙂

    1. Ms. Meltingpot

      Please feel free to kick it here on the Meltingpot as long as you want! And to answer your question, yes, in a way it hurt that he didn’t see himself as Black like me. Actually it felt more like middle school rejection, by my own kid. I hated to admit that I felt it, but deep down, I did. So, I’m kind of happy that he now realizes that there’s a book on how to be Black and everyone can just sign up 🙂

  4. Wendy

    I just loved this story. I have read it a couple times.

    1. Ms. Meltingpot

      Glad I could make you smile. Enjoy as much as you want.

  5. Soy yo

    No answers, but that was cute!

    1. Ms. Meltingpot

      Soy Yo,
      It’s true, kids do say the funniest things.

  6. Cyretha

    Wow!!! There is a lot that can written on that subject, but I am going to keep this on a rather lighter note. Do you know of PSY? He is a Korean rapper. I kid you not. His song “Gangnam Style” debuted at number one on the Gaon Chart in July.
    So may be your son is on to something.

    1. Ms. Meltingpot

      I am still rolling on the floor laughing. This is awesome. And the funny thing is, I saw this guy on SNL on Saturday and had no idea who he was. Now that I see his video, I’m laughing even harder. I have to go do some research now because I want to know if PSY is taking himself seriously as a rapper or if he is spoofing the lifestyle etc. I’m on the case. Thanks for sharing!

      1. Cyretha

        It seems he is spoofing the lifestyle, but taking his rapping seriously. His idols are/were Jay-Z, Dr. Dre, Eminem and Tupac.

        1. Ms. Meltingpot

          Check out my post today, I couldn’t let this one go.

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