“Loni, why are they black”?

Leon Gojani
4 min readMar 16, 2020
MCW Global, Young Leader Access Program 2017

It was a month before Christmas. I had gone home for a weekend and just woke up on a Saturday afternoon.

In the living room, my sister in law was helping my nephew with his homework — they were drawing something for Albanian Independence Day.

Noel is 6 and had just started first grade in September.

I sat on the dining table, drinking my coffee and scrolling through my phone. I figured the TV remote was near me, so I switched the TV on, and put BBC World. There was a story of young boys in the Democratic Republic of Congo playing football. The reporter was explaining that regardless of the poor conditions, these kids love to get together and express their talent.

At one moment, Noel turns to me and asks: “Loni, why are they black?”

I was stunned!

His mother couldn’t help but put a smile on her face, feeling proud of the curiosity of her little son.

For some reason, he wouldn’t take his eyes off me, and that’s when I realized that my nephew has never seen or met anyone of different ethnicity.

Throughout his entire life, he has only been exposed to white Albanian people and had no idea of different ethnicities or skin colors that are in the world. He is not to blame since Kosovo is a white-dominant society with only a few people of different ethnicities coming to work for international organizations.

Wow! I experienced an enormous amount of responsibility on how much information I will need to share with him and how do I approach it.

I began by telling him that the world is big and that some more communities and villages live outside our village. These communities speak a different language and have different skin colors. I told him that in my work, I am part of a mixed group of people and we come from everywhere. Some of us are black, white, Hispanic, Asian, American Indian — and the list goes on and on. It is just a way people categorize people based on where they are from. We are all people, and we interact, learn from one another and share the human race.

Halfway, I realized that I wasn’t answering his question — but decided to go on and draw a reality that I wanted him to see. I wanted my nephew to understand that there is more than one ethnicity in the world, and that’s our gift as humans. I wished for him to understand how wonderful it is to live in a world where you can work, live, and learn, with people that are not similar to your culture or ethnicity.

He completely lost interest in his homework, looked at me with curiosity and started watching the TV with me.

This situation triggered me to think about how important it is to help kids understand and digest a kind of reality that we wish to have in the world, even if it is quite different from what surrounds them outside of their front door. Of course, we don’t have to lie that everybody is equal, but we must take those examples of inequality in the world and turn them into conversations of how our kids should never do that to one another. Let’s tell the youngest ones that our inability to accept others just because we are not similar isolates us. It creates a bubble filled with stereotypes, mistrust, and negativity that affects our growth and has a huge impact on who we become as human beings.

Us, just like a lot of other nations and people suffered from regimes and societies that kept you down, mistreated, and did not allow to prosper just because you were different from them. We owe it to our kids, to create a reality where you recognize that something different is completely normal, and it is part of our shared world.

I couldn’t help but think how important that morning was for Noel and myself. He has learned something completely new and outstanding, and so did I.

I learned that the world’s simplest and most unexpected questions are hard to answer, especially to children.

Their mind and behavior are like sponges, who will carefully observe every single fact you give to them and make a mental note, to later get back and maybe act according to it. So next time Noel asks me a similar question, I know I need to make damn sure that my answer doesn’t involve hate, discrimination, racism, or supremacy of any kind.