Salon.com has an interesting piece by Clara Germani about growing up Mexican American. Her story features a tragicomic moment of self-mutilation:
When I was 10, I showed up at the breakfast table one morning with the sandpapery scabs of an experiment-gone-wrong on my face. I’d tried to engineer rosy cheeks by scouring with a wash cloth, thinking it might buff my olive coloring toward a more Norman Rockwell hue.
While my three-year-old has not yet engaged in such a dramatic act, he has been letting us know that he is becoming "color-conscious." The first time came seemingly out of nowhere. We were sitting at the table and he started to rub and pull at his arm like he had an itch. "I don't want this," he stated, rubbing and rubbing. "You don't want what?" I inquired. "I don't want this skin." I explained to him that he had brown skin like daddy and put my arm next to his to illustrate. He smiled. His mother, who was also sitting with us, said that she had "white skin" and showed him. His smile disappeared. "I don't want a white mommy!" Oh boy.
We knew this day was coming. Like it or not, we had officially entered the next phase of that journey where parenting collides with the politics of race. We started when, as a black man and white woman, we decided to marry and have children. We tried to prepare ourselves, to be intentional about helping whatever kids we had to navigate the waters of race in America. We made sure that our son had lots of positive interactions with folks who look like daddy. We chose to live in a thoroughly racially integrated neighborhood. We sent him to a day care center run by a wonderful Haitian woman in her home. Our son had still gotten the message that when it comes to color there's skin you want to live in and skin you don't.
For us as Baha'is, parenting in the face of the politics of race is not a secular enterprise. Our religion teaches us that social conditions are a reflection of spiritual conditions, that the soul is central to the advancement of civilization. We are thus challenged to consider the spiritual dimensions of our son's efforts to make sense of skin-color diversity among human beings. In the words of 'Abdu'l-Baha (1844-1921), Head of the Baha'i Faith from 1892-1921: