My younger daughter celebrated her fifth birthday last weekend. One of her gifts was a small white plaster fairy. The gift came with paints and a paintbrush with instructions for personalizing the fairy. The illustration on the box was a fairy with fair skin, very similar to her skin tone. After setting up the fairy and paint on top of a paper bag with a cup of water I walked to the sink to wash dishes.
After five minutes I returned to her side to observe the progress of her masterpiece. I immediately noticed that the porcelain white arms of the fairy’s arms, legs and face had been painted black, the dress was blue and the mushrooms surrounding the fairy were a variety of colors with spots.
Looking over her shoulder I said, “I see you painted the fairy’s arms, legs and face black.”
She responded, “Daddy, that’s because there aren’t enough black fairies. They’re all brown and white.”
“You’re right,” I said. “Why do you think there aren’t black fairies?”
“I don’t know, daddy,” and she continued painting.
Although she doesn’t know why most of the fairies in books and shows are brown and white at this moment in her life, it is clear that she’s been listening to the messages around her. Fortunately, the messages she has received are unlike those of most white children, including the ones I received as a child.
When her older sister came home, she looked at the fairy and said, “that looks like an angel, not a fairy.”