Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Why can't we all just identify as flavors? I'm peach, you're banana, and she's chocolate.

We live in the land of the white. Our area is rural... the land of the "good ole boy" and the pick up truck.

And a hotbed of racism.

Seeing a rebel flag flying on the back of a pick up truck or boldly plastered across a tee shirt at the grocery store is a regular occurrence.

Sure, there are a few black families around (African-American? People of Color? What is the politically correct term now?) but not many. My kids go to a primarily white school with primarily white teachers and primarily white kids.

I've tried to raise my children to be color blind. Race is not something that we typically discuss at home. I used to be thrilled when my kids would come home from school talking about someone they met and they'd casually mention that they were brown or caramel colored. They didn't even know the term "black" as applied to people.

I tried not to address racism, hoping that with their generation, those lines would be smudged out in the sand and never drawn again.

So when I took the kids to a park last week that was outside of our area, I thought nothing of the fact that this particular park was in a more, shall we say, ethnically dense populated area. It didn't occur to me that one of my children might have an issue with being a minority.

I'm not going to single out which one of the little goblins had the issue as I sense this being a source of embarrassment to this child and I don't want to mortify this child further.

Two goblins were playing just fine, but the one goblin looked sort of sad.

"I want to leave," said the goblin.

"But don't you want to play?" I asked, seriously confused. The park is always a hit... always.

"There are too many black people here."

I was floored. Shocked. Horrified.

Here I thought I was raising color-blind children, but this one had picked up on a part of human nature I had hoped none of my children ever would. This child saw itself as different and was seriously uncomfortable with it.

I did what any mother would do when their child has just loudly insulted an entire race of people and they are surrounded by those people. I sternly told this child never to say such a thing again, called to my other two children, quickly ushered them to the van, and made a swift escape.

And called a friend on the phone to express my horror.

And my friend laughed and asked me what I expected, raising my kids in the land of the white.

Just this summer, this particular goblin would not have said this. I know, because I took them regularly to the city library and fountains and waterfront areas, where they played happily with kids of every different shape, size, and color. This goblin never blinked an eye. Something has changed in the past 7 months and I'm really unhappy with it.

Obviously the school teaching the goblins about Martin Luther King and Rosa Parks during the month of February isn't doing a damn thing to help them identify with the kids at the park in that other neighborhood. And me beating them over the head with racially neutral comments like "there are good people and bad people of every color" isn't helping this particular goblin to feel any better when the goblin obviously feels that being different is a bad thing.

And unfortunately, the issue is so sensitive that no one feels they can talk about it with any sense of realism or productivity. So what does a mom, living in the land of the white, do to help her children see that we're all people and to give everyone a chance without prejudice? I'm still working on that. I'll let you know when I figure it out.


jacksmom4life said...[Reply to comment]

I like your post. I think it's something that so many of us have to deal with and would love to raise our kids to see everyone as an equal. However, I'm not sure that we as a whole are ready for that. Good luck.

jacksmom4life said...[Reply to comment]

I don't think you are the only mom or dad to feel this way. We all wish this kind of thing would go away, but until the adults of this world stop being racist and feeling as if being different is bad, we will never be able to teach our children that being different is perfectly fine.

Krisi Allen said...[Reply to comment]

I live in the deep south, where the scenes are much as you described. Even my good friends & family, while claiming to not be racist, make racist jokes and offensive comments. When I moved towns & my son began daycare at age 2, his teacher & her son, who was also 2, were black. They immediately became like our family. My son has never noticed (or at least acknowledged) a difference. Now that he is in school (I refuse anything but public schools) some of his best friends are black. It absolutely warms my heart to see him so colorblind. But, like you, I dread the day to arrive that he notices, or feels different, or even worse, is influenced by white friends who aren't as accepting. Good luck to us both as we continue to teach our kids to make this world a better place. :)