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Issue/Question:
One day when my 5-year old-son and I were driving home from the park, he suddenly said, "Mom, I wish I were white." We live in a racially mixed neighborhood, and I thought he had a positive self-concept and a strong African American identity. I felt like a failure.

Suggested Response:

You haven't failed your son. Most parents work hard to give their children a sense of pride in themselves and their heritage. If that heritage is devalued by society, however, the task becomes much harder. Before you worry too much, it would be helpful to find out what his remark means to him. Try to understand what prompted his comment. Has he been excluded from friendships or activities because of his race? Did television or incidents in the neighborhood prompt his comment? Did it come out of some other experience?

It is important that you react to a comment like this one in a calm and thoughtful manner as your response can help to begin an important conversation about what being African American means to you, to him, and to others. This would also be a good time to take a look around your home to determine if the images in things like books, art, music, and toys that your son is exposed to on a daily basis reflect African American culture. Reading him stories about prominent African Americans in history, pointing out African Americans in position of leadership in the community and country, and going to museums or cultural events that have as part of their theme African American culture could all also be helpful. Perhaps most important will be your ability to convey to your son your own pride in your heritage and culture.
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