Family Magazine

Explaining Racism to My Child

By Lindsayleighbentley @lindsayLbentley

“What’s a racist?” Henry asked with wide, precious, innocent, five-year-old eyes.

I had just gotten off the phone with a local company and didn’t realize that he was in the room.

My husband and I went on to explain to him about all of the different races of people that God created, and how some people may look a bit different than we do (since both Hank and I are white) or speak in a different language, or have an accent that sounds different than ours.  We told him that there are some people who think that their race is better than the other ones.  That there are people who don’t like other people, just because of the way they look, or where they are from.  He was confused.  He really didn’t get it.


We gave him examples of our friend Jenny from Honduras, Jason whose parents came from Columbia, Banke was born in Ethiopia, Jay’s father is from India, Max’s parents came here from Mexico.  Friends of ours whose families have lived in America for generations but whose ancestors are from a different country, and so their skin may be light or dark, with hair curly, or shiny, black and straight,  and so on and so forth.  It was precious to me that he had never considered that any of these people look any differently from each other.  He had mentioned a few times about how beautiful my friend Jouleen is.  He has always been captivated by her dark skin and curly black hair.  Her parents are from the Dominican Republic and Henry seems to get crushes on girls with darker skin than mine, but today I realized that he never recognized the difference.

I hated that his innocence in this area was taken away.

See, we had a technician come over to the new house to install a security system.  He made a few remarks that caused me to raise an eyebrow, as well as mocking the music that our painter was playing as he worked.  But that night, the tech called to ask for the garage code so that he could lock up.  I told him that our painter was probably still there, and that he could just lock up once he left.

“Oh, Julio?” He replied.

“No.  I said.  His name is Omar, I introduced you earlier.” I responded.

“Julio, Omar, same thing.”  Was his snarky reply.

I was dumbfounded.  Did I just hear this?  I tend to forget that even racial insensitivities much lest outright racism is still alive and well in America.  I mean, it’s not even been 100 years since interracial marriage was illegal.

I’m ashamed to say that there were members of my own family, several generations ago, who were members of the KKK.  I can’t believe this is part of my history, but I am so proud and thankful that my parents and grandparents began paving a new way for our family.

The next morning I called the owner of the company and let him know what happened.  He was apologetic and agreed that that was unacceptable behavior.  I was so upset that I nearly cried on the phone with him.  Omar has become a dear friend to Hank and me.  We trust him in our home more than any other person working.  He has been kind, polite, hard working, and really enjoyable to be around.  He’s always been willing to help out in other areas if we needed it, and even offered to stay late one night while I was having to deal with a disgruntled worker that we had to fire, just to ensure my safety.  To think of someone treating him poorly for no other reason than the fact that he was born in Mexico makes my blood boil.

So today when I saw Omar I asked him if the tech guy had been rude to him.  “Yeah” he relied.  “It was so bad I had to leave early” (Omar has never left early.)   “He’s just a racist, it’s not your fault” He said when I apologized for allowing someone like that in our home.

He reluctantly described to me the techs behavior towards him.  Making crude, racist remarks and complaining about his music throughout the entire day.  Omar said he respected Hank and I too much to let a fight happen in our house but that if it had happened outside of our home he would have defended himself.

Is that a real man or what?  To walk away when he could have been fully justified in pounding the punk’s face in?  We respect him now even more than we did before.

So today I called the company back.  I let the owner know that his tech’s behavior was worse than I had initially thought.  That he was never welcome back in our home.  That if this was a shared sentiment within his company that we would find a new one to work with.  I demanded that they formally apologize to him.  I also suggested that they refund my installation fee in a check made out to Omar.  We shall see.

photo 3-46

Our home is our sanctuary.  It’s important to us that it be a place of harmony, love, and acceptance.  Even before we are even living there.  We’ve worked hard to find men to work for us that are kind, honest, and enjoyable.

So I’m not sure Henry truly understands, but his initial response was “woah, that’s really bad.”  He did seem to understand when we explained that racism makes God sad, because he created each of us, and loves each of us the same.  Just the way Daddy and I love each of our kids the same, even though they look and act a little differently from each other.

I love that my children are being raised in a time where racism is nearly a thing of the past.

So much change can happen in each generation.  Hopefully, by the time they have children it will be something they only read about in the history books.



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