In preschool I fell in love with a boy named Roland. He was purple, according to my mother’s remembrance of my pre-pubescent ramblings, and amazing for his ability to burn ants by magnifying the sun through his thick glasses.
Chances are he grew up to be a scientist … or a sadist. Hopefully not the latter, but who knows? I don’t remember him after the age of four.
By Kindergarten I’d moved on to more macabre things.
After school playdates with a girl named Leisha gave me an unusual fascination with skeletal remains. Her mom made us chicken feet soup and was kind enough to let me collect the remains and bring them home tied around a little cord worn around my neck — much to my own mother’s chagrin.
That they were Chinese or that Roland was so dark I thought he was purple was of no consequence to me or my mother. She had bigger fish to fry, dishes to clean and rules to enforce. She had to get to that colour wheel and make sure I made it through kindergarten at the very least.
The whole thing, in a nutshell, is just an example of how children view race — it’s nothing more than an afterthought, or a minor detail in a larger story.
How do people forget that as they age?
If humans were better, we’d cherish what we knew when we started out into the world.
We’d remember that there’s no hierarchy based on superficial traits, like pigment.
White supremacists would be relegated to the margins of horror stories, not a regular feature in newspapers across the globe. They wouldn’t be killing people. They wouldn’t be spreading hate. They would be gone. Nazis would be a shameful chapter in our shared history.
The misery of Charlottesville has reminded us that’s not the case, if the comment sections of our local news pages didn’t open our eyes enough already. Try raising the issue of Syrian refugees, if you think this is a non-issue.
In a few weeks I will send my son to public school and while I’m excited for him to meet his own Rolands and Leishas, I know this is where allegiances are built, misinformation takes root and he’s going to start having more access to information that may be both scary or confusing.
I want him going out into the world without fear. He needs to be polite and respectful to strangers and with a desire to help, not a fear of being harmed.
But I also know that I will need to speak with him about all of these things uglier things and more.
I hope he can take on all he learns and keep being the person he is today because so much of what we all need to know to make this world a better place is with us before we even go to kindergarten.