What’s a Black Person?

“Mom, what’s a black person?”

Gage just turned 12, and I was surprised by the inquiry! We live in a fairly diverse area, but this made me think. Our neighborhood is largely caucasian, but mixed, mostly with Chinese, but also with Latinos and maybe only a small handful of African American households. But the kid goes to school, and shopping, and out to eat, so he’s not just exposed to our immediate neighborhood. I have African American friends and acquaintances from work and from online, but he’s not really privy to my social circles for whatever reason. I was dumbstruck how he would not know what a “black person” is.

Then it dawned on me… It’s not that he doesn’t run into black people; it’s that he’s never investigated the term. He’s 12 and on the autistic spectrum, and for the most part uninterested in race. I’m remembering back to when I was little in the 1970’s and I heard someone use the term “colored people”, and I didn’t know what they meant, and obviously didn’t know about politically correct (a nonexistent term itself at the time) terms for race. In my 7-year-old brain I pictured people who were space-alienish, covered in sparkly, rainbow colors. So was Gage thinking there are people out there whom he’s yet to run into who are the color of charcoal? Are they sparkly? Where are they?

Anyway, after a peek at my Facebook and a browse through Netflix for black friends and actors, he’s all clear. And now I await future baffling questions. Perhaps he’ll wonder what white people are. I mean, really, we’re pink.

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