Sally tells us about being put on the spot with her honesty policy.
I am fostering a young black child who is bright and rather curious about everything. He has put my own honesty policy to the test when he one day at the age of three asked, "Mommy, why do brown people drive in taxis and pink people in cars?"
A moment of silence stretched between us as I contemplated telling him the truth about apartheid, oppression and bantu education. How can I tell him this without him inferring that he is now inferior because a minority many years ago declared it.
I replied as honestly as I could, fearing that at 3, he would not have the maturity to appreciate our country¹s past and I was deeply afraid that he might internalise this message.
"Well, Nu many years ago pink people thought that brown people were something to be scared of, they forced them to live far away. They made it hard for brown people to go to school and even get good jobs. But a few brave brown people decided to fight. And its because of them that things are now better."
I then pointed out all the brown people driving cars, and noted those living next door, even made reference to a few of his friends at school.
He fell silent and moments later dropped the issue. A few days passed, as we walked past a car guard at a local shopping centre, my little boy rather loudly asked me if Œhe¹, pointing at the car guard, was one of those brown people who never got a chance to go to school and if this was the best job he could get?
Again my policy was in question, I replied about each person have different reasons for where they find themselves but yes I would imagine that he may have done better had he been given a fair chance. My little boy smiled, then stated just as loudly that he thought it was a pretty cool job, and since he loved cars so, maybe he could just miss school all together.
I burst into laughter and honestly told him that although I place no demands on his future, I was expecting him to do much better than that.
A lesson: only tell children what you are happy to hear repeated back at you, days, weeks even months later and in situations that could potentially embarrass you.
Thank you this great question, I have so enjoyed revisiting this moment.