Saturday, May 26, 2012

The Issue of Race

I'm still thinking these thoughts the coherency may not be the best...but I wanted to get this down while it was still semi-fresh.

Thursday Callie and I went to Home Depot.  She's interested in all things "life" right now, and so I asked her if she would like to plant some seeds.  I've never used pots to plant, so this will be a learning experience for me as well.  We bought a small pot and I let her choose the seeds.  She was so excited.  The rest of the day went well and she was excited about taking care of her new plant.  We even created a calendar that she can mark each day.  She's pretty stoked.

The interesting part of the day, however, that sticks with me was a comment from a man when we were at Home Depot.  As we whisked through the check-out lane, Callie helped me scan, and this man, very friendly and sincere, said, "She is adorable."  I thanked him.  It's not uncommon for people to comment about my kids.  They stand out.  They just do.  Sammy has special needs with a small head.  Callie is black. I'm white.  And as much as I would say that they comment because my kids are cute (because come on, they are), I know Sammy's head and Callie's skin are the first things they notice.  More on this in a moment...

He proceeded to say, with a big proud smile, "My daughter is married to a black guy.  She is so happy.  I have 3 granddaughters who are so smart and kind.  Every time I talk to my daughter, she tells me how happy she is."  I am so happy for this man and his daughter...and her family...but I was totally caught off guard.  I smiled and said, "Oh, that's so great."  I'm used to people approaching me about Callie.

"Ohhhh, she's adorable.  You know, I have some black grandchildren myself."

"Where is she from? My niece is from Ghana."  (They're always taken aback when I say Callie's from Detroit.  I guess it's not exotic enough.)

But this man was a little different.  There was an eagerness to tell me that information that I had never seen before.  It was interesting.  He was extremely kind, so my thoughts have nothing to do with mean, hateful racism.  But what it did was make me think about race, in general.  As humans, mostly, we want to make connections with people.  And his eagerness, and pride, were so evident.  And I thought of all the people who have approached me about Callie because of their own experiences.  I realized, it's still that uncommon that people feel like when they see someone who is white, with a black child, and their story is similar...that they need to connect.  Join the group.  Make it known that we're in this together?  I don't know.  I'm not saying people shouldn't talk to me, or that it's inappropriate.  I'm not saying that at all.  It's just...I've wondered why people talk to me about those things, when I have never had an inclination to talk to another mixed family to say, "I have a black little girl."  No one way is better or worse than the other, it just makes me wonder how people think.

It doesn't bother me that when people look at Sammy and Callie that they see their physical appearance first.  It's natural.  I just wonder how often people get hung-up there.  I really don't know.  It's just a question.  There are times when I notice people looking at us, and I really don't know what they are thinking.  It doesn't bother me, but I wonder...I'm curious.  Deep down, I know not all of them are thinking about what a great mom I am, or how adorable Callie is.  I know their thoughts are far different from warm fuzzies.  And it reminds me of the conversations I'm already having in my head, that I'll one day have to have with Callie.  I don't want her to face racism.  I don't want her to feel the sting of cruelty.  But I'm preparing myself the best I can for that day.

And until then, we're making ourselves a pretty tight-knit based on a whole lot of love.  Man, do I feel blessed.


Maren B said...

Sometimes it seems to me like people tell those "I can relate to you" stories because they are proud of themselves for not being "racist" [read: hateful] about it, but I agree that just the fact that someone's skin color is so noteworthy at all is still a sign that we are overly race-conscious (which usually comes with some inherent, unintended racism or stereotyping) in our society. Being overly loving and friendly because of race is still treating someone differently because of race. It may be the best form of racism out there, but it's still a form of racism. That has bugged me for a long time (as you can tell by the length of my comment :).

Adriane said...

You are such a great mom; your kids are so lucky to have you. I know you will handle those "difficult talks" so well whenever the time comes - it's just unfortunate that they have to happen at all! As Sadie has gotten older she realizes that people stare at Kylee, and she totally hates it. Don't know why people can't just mind their own business, anyway - make life easier for some of us haha.


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