My son turned four recently and received a Superman outfit for his birthday. It wasn’t the sort of thing I ever would have given him, and he loved it. A few weeks after he received it, he asked me if I would get him a Superman face to go with his outfit. I told him that he had a Superman face. He said no, Superman is white. I told him that maybe one of the actors who played Superman in a movie was white, but that didn’t mean that Superman was white. What is special about Superman are his special powers, not his skin color. My son, whose heritage is from Nigeria, India and Holland, said that he wanted to be white. I told him he was beautiful, but was crushed to hear my son start to internalize this system of racial hierarchy in our country.
A few weeks later, we were driving along Grand Avenue. I saw an African American man waiting for the bus. “Look!” I shouted to my son. My son saw the man’s t-shirt, emblazoned with the Superman logo. “It’s Superman! He’s getting on the bus!” We followed that bus down Grand Avenue, my son shouting in the back seat, so excited that he had seen Superman. And indeed, that man was my superhero, for helping a little boy dream big dreams.
(The opinions expressed are not necessarily those of St. Louis Public Radio.)