Another drive home from school with the kiddies. The radio is playing "That's Not My Name" by the British group, The Ting Tings. My daughter recognizes the song because I recently put it on her new iPod. She especially likes music with girl singers. We chatter away about it for a bit, and then she said this:

MissSix: I think she is brown.
Me: Brown??
MissSix: You can tell from the voices.
Me: If someone has brown skin or not??
MissSix: Yes.

I paused, thinking what I wanted to say about that to her. Part of me cringes, as the good-hearted liberal enlightened parent that I try to be, to hear her mention skin color at all, even though I know it is inevitable. I do wish we were all color-blind in that way. It is so silly.

She lives in a much more racially-mixed world than I did growing up, although I think I saw more economic diversity than she does. There were no brown or black people that lived where I lived. Everyone was a white Lutheran or Catholic. All I knew what what I saw on TV, heard on the radio, read in the paper, or picked up from grown-up conversations, that were always quietly unpleasant.

My Racial Perceptions, As A Young Child:

-- all people with dark skin are POOR and live in THE CITY in BAD HOUSING

-- all people with dark skin are SAD

-- all people with dark skin are good SINGERS and DANCERS

-- all people with dark skin have NO RIGHTS

-- all people with dark skin are NOT AS SMART as white skinned people

-- all people with dark skin used to be SLAVES

-- therefore, it is BAD to have DARK SKIN.

All this, with no one ever saying one direct word to me about race, or culture, ever. The only idea I had about Mexicans was the Frito Bandito and Speedy Gonzales, the Indians were all on reservations and were backwards arrow-shooting drunks, and according to "Love Child" by the Supremes, sometimes black people had children WITHOUT BEING MARRIED.

I think about what my daughter said. I, too, used to identify songs on the radio by color, although there was a time period where I thought everyone was black, including the first time I heard "Whole Lotta Love" by Led Zeppelin. None less black, there.

So, what I end up saying to her is that sometimes singers have light skin and sometimes they have dark skin and sometimes there are characteristics to a voice that does correspond to skin color, but often not. I tell her that we think about all these things, differences and similarities, because we are always trying to figure out who we are in relation to everything and everyone. I then tell her the best thing is that we can enjoy cool music and are lucky to be able to hear so many different kinds because it makes the whole world better.

She agrees, and goes back to arguing with her brother about Pokemon cards.

Her Ting Tings assessment was wrong, by the way.