African American children in Mennonite families bridge two worlds

African American members break popular stereotype

By Carolyn Davis

The Philadelphia Inquirer

Published: Sunday, Jan. 8 2012 5:00 a.m. MST

Malachi wonders about his biological relatives. "I just want to see them again — they're really nice."

He doesn't think he feels different from the boys and girls around him, though some children from a Mennonite church the family doesn't attend have said mean things.

Malachi looked down toward the playground's shredded blue rubber surface and lowered his voice. "They say, 'You have ugly black skin.'" Malachi shrugged when asked his reply. "They just don't play with me."

Said Autumn, standing nearby, "I always hoped my own kids wouldn't face things like that. But I told myself, 'They will.'"

She has warned her children that people might say unkind things about their skin color, that the words will sting, that the they should tell Autumn and Justin how they feel when it happens.

The parents also advise them to walk away from those situations or calmly ask the other person, "What is it about me that you just can't accept? You know color is only skin deep.'"

As she talked, Autumn seemed to feel pangs from her past.

"In God's eyes, we're all the same. There is no race," she said. "Of course, when you look around, there are all kinds of colors. In the real world, there is a difference. It's not always easy when the difference is you."

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