Ignorance or prejudice

Last week my friend's 5-year-old son, who is African-American, came home from school and reported that a girl in his class, who is white, told him that "a peach girl can't marry a brown boy."

What I hope is that the girl just put that together on her own, and maybe the only couples she knows and identifies as "married" are couples in which both partners are white. I'm thinking about the chapter from NurtureShock called "Why White Parents Don't Talk About Race" that shows that kids put together patterns based on things they observe that may not be what jumps out as *us* as being the salient points of the situation. (If you weren't reading or don't remember, pop over to our discussion of it to get the quick-and-dirty.) So it's entirely possible that a little kid could live in a very ethnically-mixed community, but by the luck of the draw not know any white people who were married to people of color, and pull that out as a rule.

For me, it reinforced the idea that we need to be talking talking talking, verbalizing what our values are, even when it seems like it's overkill. And explaining the situations we see around us, the parent combinations in our kids' schools, etc.

Of course, it's also possible that the girl's parents told her that. I'd have thought that was unlikely, but then another friend a few months back was told by her daughter that a girl in one of her afterschool activities asked her, "Are you [Religion X}? Because my mom says I'm not allowed to play with anyone who isn't {Religion X}."

That makes me sad, both for my friend's daughter and for the little girl who has a rule enforced that is going to make it extremely difficult to be a fully-participating American. Think about not being allowed to play with anyone who wasn't just like you. And I get why subcultures want to stay together for protection and pride, but, as my friend said, when she was taken to task about objecting to her daughter having been told she wasn't good enough to play with, "I already know *why*, but none of those reasons make it right or fair to people on the receiving end." (She also taught me the term "Oppression Olympics," which I think is a nice companion concept to "Misery Poker.")

Being a decent person doesn't mean you have to assimilate. It does mean that you have to give each individual person a chance. Especially if they're a little kid! Both because being rejected based on something you have no control over is a brutal experience for the child who is rejected, and because rejecting people based on things they have no control over, without even attempting to know them individually, dehumanizes you.

Thoughts? Has anyone else been verbalizing values more since reading that chapter of NurtureShock? (I'm pretty sure my kids are tired of my talking about how they can marry any boy or girl they want to when they grow up, or not marry anyone.) Have your kids been on the receiving end of ignorant or prejudicial talk? How did you deal with it?