I’m Chocolate, You’re Vanilla

I started a new book a few weekends ago and I am really enjoying it. It is called I’M CHOCOLATE, YOU’RE VANILLA by Marguerite A. Wright. This book has been highly recommended to me for a while now and I’m super glad I sat down to dive into it a few weeks ago.

If you have been around my oldest son Cayden for any time you know that his favorite color is white. Weird, I know, but none the less he is sticking to this as his favorite color. I have tried to tell him that really white is not a color, but yet the lack of color. I’ve suggested red, blue, orange, green, even black for goodness sake. Nope. White is still his favorite color.

A couple of months ago Cayden started noticing that him and his brother have different skin tones. He noticed that he is white (which happens to be his favorite color) and Deacon is brown. He also noticed that Mommy is brown like Deacon and Daddy is white like Cayden. Recently he has started convincing Deacon that his favorite color should be brown because that is what color he is.

We have never made a big deal out of this and always encouraged them that God made them perfectly how they are. God made lots of people in different colors and different bodies, etc. It has never bothered me before until recently Cayden started proclaiming that his favorite color is white because he is white. He tried to convince Deacon that his favorite color should be brown since he is brown. Once again we didn’t overreact to this and encouraged him that Deacon could pick any color he wanted to be his favorite not just brown.

I would cringe when I would think about Cayden someday saying this in public. It is one thing to say this at home in a safe place, but if someone would hear him they would think he was a racist 4 year old who must hear things like this at home. Reading this book has eased my fears so much about this. The truth is that Cayden has no idea that this concept of his favorite color being white because he is white could sound racist. He is four and doesn’t know the things that I know as a 29 year old. The author explained that preschool children don’t know race, but yet they know color. Cayden doesn’t know that his race is white, just that his skin is. He doesn’t know that Deacon’s race is black, just that his skin is brown.

I was so thankful to read this book and see her perspective on things. One of my favorite quotes from the book is on page 35 and it says this .. “Preschoolers are at a wonderful time of life that provides parents and educators with an exceptional opportunity to nurture their natural inclination to see people as individuals, not as stereotypes.” I love that! My four year doesn’t know the stereotypes that the rest of the world knows. Therefore I can’t expect him to talk in a way that monitors those stereotypes. He is a little boy who sees things just how they are and has no preconceived notions on anyone of any color. I love the eyes and hearts of children. Couldn’t we all learn a little something from them!

She says on page 54 that “For most preschoolers, people’s skin color, even Santa’s, is simply a physical fact; it carries no social baggage of the kind adults bring to it.” We must remember that our preschooler’s are just seeing people and not the stereotypes that our culture has already created.

I highly recommend this book to any person who works in the education field. It is a great wealth of information on raising and teaching black and biracial children in a race-conscious world. I will finish the preschool section soon and put it back on to the shelf until my kids get in elementary school. I have a feeling this will be a book I go back to many a times in the next 20 something years of raising kids.

Have you read it? What are your thoughts? Any other great books for a mom raising black children?

Anyone have a funny story of something your kid said that to adults sounds bad but to kids it doesn’t?

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11 responses to “I’m Chocolate, You’re Vanilla

  1. This book is on my list of must reads. 🙂

    When our oldest was 4, she asked my friend (who was nursing her baby and has brown skin) if her son was drinking chocolate milk or if it was just the regular white kind. It was an honest question from the perspective of a 4yo. 🙂

    Abby

  2. Wait….I think I need to use one more smiley 🙂 (tee hee)
    Abby

  3. No, but I heard about this one kid that kept saying Sh__! I guess adults might think it was bad, but the kids don’t seem to mind! Who was that ????

  4. I can’t think of anything my boys have said about skin color or anything. But it just struck me as I read those quotes that it is SO sad that our preschoolers don’t know stereotypes now, and yet in a few years they will know them without being taught them by us. Does that even make sense? As I’m typing it it doesn’t sound exactly like I thought it would. I hope you know what I mean. I guess I just wish they could always stay so innocent and accepting and loving!!

  5. Recently my youngest has been asking me if she ate from “there”. She points to my chest and is just tickled she used to eat there…

    To add to your discussion, I have been cringing when my children lay on each other or wrestle or whatever in a way I would deem inappropriate for older children/adults. I have to keep reminding myself they don’t know what s*x is, let alone have any reason to think anything badly about it. Again, this is the prime teaching opportunity to share the beauty of our bodies without making it a bad thing…just something God created for a husband and a wife.

    Now the latest in the house has been the LOUD explaining of the “I haf to doe (he doesn’t say go) poop” Youngest Boy has no problem sharing with the entire world!!

    Wow, that was a long comment, sorry 😉

  6. Hi Jamie~
    When my youngest was about Caydens age, he was telling us about a friend in preschool and he said that he was chocolate. He just knew that he had the color of chocolate milk.

  7. I am halfway through the book and love it as well! SUCH good information!!

  8. My daughter coaches gymnastics and yesterday she had a very small kindergarten class so they finished their routines early. They were playing in the pit pretending that the Easter Bunny was after them because they were candy. Haley asked what kind of candy were they pretending to be. One of them piped up, “Chocolate and banilla! She looks like chocolate and we look like banilla!”

  9. Haven’t read it yet but I’m totally going to now! There’s a woman that came to speak at a “wives” night here on campus named “Mrs. Chocolate.” She has worked w/ young children all her life and didn’t like her plain name, she wanted something fun. So, that’s the name she picked b/c it’s sweet. A couple days after she spoke to a kindergarten group at a school she saw a couple of the kids outside at a daycare. They started yelling, “Mrs. Chocolate, there’s Mrs. Chocolate!” Of course, the first thing the care-giver thought was that they were making derogatory comments, and she kept telling them to be quiet and stop saying that. Mrs. Chocolate came up and told her it was fine that that’s what kids call her. It’s sad that the first thing the lady thought was that the kids were being racist—like you said, they don’t even know what racism is- they were being completely innocent and friendly!

  10. I love that book too. It is a good one. My son is also in that preschool discovery phase. He has pointed out numerous times that his palms are white like mommy’s, but the rest is brown.

    Have you read “Black Baby White Hands”? That was an eye-opener for me, too.

  11. thanks for sharing the book! i will have to pick that one up. please share any other good finds…i am gonna need them 🙂

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