Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Color Blind...

It is hard to imagine seeing the world through the eyes of a 6 month old baby. Everything is new. Everything is different than the time before. So many times are the first time. I was pushing Olive on a run this past weekend and realized that she has never seen the leaves on the trees change color. They have always been green to her and no they are becoming orange and yellow and red. I took her out in the back yard and a few days ago and sat her up on the grass. She played with the grass for a half an hour. Pulling up clumps, rolling it around in her hands. Brushing her fingertips over the tops of the blades. It was new, it was something she had never felt before and she was trying to absorb everything about it. Sometime you never know what is going to catch her attention, or why.

Which brings me to this point: Olive seems to really like black people. We aren’t sure what it is, but she takes a quick liking to those blessed with a little more melanin. I think we first noticed it while we had a Presidential press conference on TV and Olive seemed transfixed. Now, Olive gets transfixed by lots of things, but we started to notice a pattern develop. She would see an african-american in a store or in a park and immediately smile or kick or start talking (talking right now is just making noises, she isn’t that smart). My wife brought her in to her office on a few occasions and Olive immediately took a liking to her company’s office manager, who happens to be black. It was like Olive was reuniting with a long lost friend. She was smiling and talking and cooing. She didn’t care about anyone else in the room. We’ll be pushing a stroller down the street and Olive bird-dogs any black person that may walk by. I immediatly went and bought a big bottle of self-tanner in an attempt to get on her good side.

The first thought, of course, is that she is curious about people that look different from mommy and daddy. I have tried to look up experiments on how babies view race, and haven’t been able to find anything. Kenneth and Mamie Clark ran the famous “Doll Experiments” in the 1940s which showed that children may internalize racism they have seen or felt. Black children more often preferred to play with white dolls and would often draw pictures using a lighter than accurate skin tone. A really sad outcome, especially when you think that the experiment has been redone as recently as 2006 with similar results. Maybe Olive is rebelling against that and represents a new, more color-blind society!

Really, we have no explanation for it, but it has been a blast to try to prove our theory. I tried turning on BET one night, but they were playing The Matrix for some reason. We live in a diverse neighborhood, but when we are on our front porch, Olive is more interested in watching cars drive by than people walk by. I feel like printing 10x10 pictures of varying races and seeing if she reacts differently to one or another. It might be the only way. But barring turning my daughter into an experiment in latent racial biases, we’ll never know! She could have just liked the color of Barack Obama’s tie, or the bracelet that the office manager was wearing, or her smile; maybe the people she saw in the store were just really nice to her and she reacted in kind.

Or maybe, Olive, as a 6 month old, is ready to explore any new thing she can lay her eyes or hands on. Maybe she realizes that every new person, new face, new toy, new tree, new food, new picture, new color, that she sees is something to learn from and to absorb. Hopefully she stays just the way she is…

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