The Black Man Stopped Me

Posted on Sep 17, 2015

Kids say the darnedest things. If I could recall the litany of embarrassing things my two year old daughter has said in public you might feign interest for my sake until I shut up about how cute she is. But there is one thing she said today that caught my attention and sparked a brief conversation I will never forget: “the black man stopped me.”

We were asking her about the truck she found on the playground. She happened to say this odd phrase while we were sitting right next to a father, a man of colour, and his two daughters. I found her choice of words odd but then again she’s two. She says plenty of weird things. I don’t think she fully understands everything she says and says them to try on the words and see how people react. Sometimes I think she just has a vivid imagination and makes up all kinds of stories. So I didn’t make a big deal out of it and we nodded to the family next to us and continued on our way home.

We didn’t get far before my kid found a hopscotch drawn on the sidewalk. She hopped back and forth. And fell.

The father, watching us as we left, arose from the bench and came to see if she was alright. I was appreciative and assured everyone she would be okay. I thanked him, gave my kid a hug, and we continued.

We didn’t get far when I heard someone calling after me. I saw the father and thought I had dropped something. Turns out it was my kid who did the dropping.

His daughter was wondering why her father had risen to help my kid. She had heard the comment and wondered, “Isn’t a man just a man? Why did she say ‘black man’?” As the father was explaining all of this to me the embarrassment started to sink in. I think he was trying to show his kids that it was probably harmless kid talk. “She’s still little,” I tried to explain, “she makes up all kinds of stories. She doesn’t know all of the words she is saying yet.”

I did know where his daughter was coming from. We are all more than the sum of our parts. Why do some parts matter to some people more than others? Where did this little girl learn to say, “black man?”

I just hope that it means we’ll get to talk again another day in the park. It took a lot of guts for that father to approach me and start that conversation. It was a learning opportunity that doesn’t come often enough for all of us. I am grateful for that.