I have no idea how people manage to avoid explaining racial issues to kids all the way until grade school. I’ve had to explain race to Klara before she was three. And it’s not because I really wanted to but because she started asking questions.
“Mommy, is Jackie evil? I don’t want to play with her if she’s evil.”
“No, of course, she’s not evil. What gave you this idea?”
“Because she’s black! Evil godmother dresses in black and drives a big black car! Black is an evil color. Is Jackie evil?”
So of course I had to explain. I explained that “it’s not about the color or how you look. It’s about the kind of person you are inside. It’s really really wrong to be mean to people because of how they look.”
“Is it evil, Mommy?”
“Yes, that’s what’s really evil.”
I explained how racial differences came to be. “Jackie is from Africa (which she is). It’s very hot in Africa. So it makes sense to have the kind of skin that protects you from getting sunburnt, etc.”
Then I heard her teach kids at the playground who said they didn’t want to play with an overweight boy, “it’s not about how you look, it’s about the kind of person you are inside.” I felt very proud because the boy looked really sad to be excluded. And I can’t deal with seeing sad kids.
I have no idea how one can avoid having this conversation until the kid is way too old not to have drawn her own conclusions. Back in Ukraine when I was growing up, I was five when I was told that “some people are really stupid so they don’t like Jewish people.” And it had to be said because it had started to come up.