Tuesday, February 16, 2010

I can't say anything nice, so, what a great time for THIS

All day today I racked my brains for something nice to say here, because, to tell you all the truth, this past weekend really sucked. I came up with zilch, a short amusing anecdote about my son demanding eggs, just so you all would know I was alive. Still, I have nothing nice to say, but, I do have something I want to talk about.

Jen over at Diagnosis: Urine is talking about race today. She is pondering the hills and valleys of moral and philosophical parenting. She has a daughter who is 6, maybe 7 now, who is wondering why only black people have a month dedicated to their history, and why white people haven't done enough good things to earn a month of their own yet. I'll admit it, I laughed. It wasn't just cute and funny, it was beautiful. A child's innocence is innately beautiful in my eyes.

She also has one of her twin boys who doesn't think he likes dark skinned people. She is really worried about this. Honestly, I don't mean to make light of her concern, because I've been there. It was several years ago with my oldest child. He went through a phase where he became acutely aware of the differences in people and what attributes made him unique. It started with outward differences, and progressed to wanting to learn about his heritage and all of the different cultures it is comprised of. It was very stressful and scary for me as a parent at that time though. The fear that I had somehow screwed up, and that my child wouldn't be the loving, accepting child I wanted him to be.

One of the differences between my situation and Jen's, is that my son disliked white people. Now, I want to point out that this period in time was immediately after 09/11 and my son, a mere baby (four year old) at the time, took a lot of shit at the Baptist school he was enrolled in at the time. He and my neighbor's children (their last name was Abdullah) all took a lot of shit. They were made a spectacle of during a speech from a visiting pastor, trying to explain to the children at school what happened on 09/11 and why it happened. The situation, like many when race and prejudice become involved, was a cluster fuck.

My husband and I stressed that it wasn't okay to judge other people. Care about the person, not their skin/hair/eyes/Gods...show respect, but, let your heart guide your emotions. In short, we did the best we felt we were able to do to explain the situation...and then we backed away. We outlined what our expectations for his behavior were, and assured him that he could feel whatever it was he was feeling as long as he stayed within our expectations of good manners and respect. After a couple of months, his fascination faded. He doesn't remember it now, if he does he gives no indication, and his own friends are a group so diverse that I am certain we did the right thing.

My own feelings about race were influenced by my parents. I remember being at the zoo as a child and seeing a black man kiss a white woman, I remember how uncomfortable it made my mother. I remember feeling from my mother's reaction that there was something very wrong about it. It is easy to think of my father's roots. The Southern Baptist stronghold his family came from. The very thinly veiled prejudice against dark skinned people. My parents always said the right words (almost, always) but, words can have an emptiness about them. I ended up marrying a Muslim from Iran.

While I won't lie and say that it didn't hurt to hear my son say that he hated me because I was white. I will say that nobody ever told me that parenting would be easy, or that I would ever have all the right answers. I'm glad that time has passed for us. I'm grateful that I have that badge on my motherhood sash, because I learned from it, and I grew from the experience...just like my son.

Tell me how you dealt with this situation with your own family. Let me know at what age you encountered this issue. I'm curious. I want my children to make their own decisions. I want them to grow unfettered by their mother's beliefs. I want them to believe in the principles they choose to be guided by and to know why they believe in them.

Send your hate mail to me, and your encouraging words to Jen.


  1. Ha! That last line cracked me up. Just knowing my kid isn't the only preschool racist out there makes me feel a lot better. But knowing he's likely to outgrow it makes me feel even better.

    I can't imagine what your family went thru right after 9-11. That was an ugly time. I had a Middle Eastern coworker who told everyone he was from Jordan to avoid all the comments and suspicion and crap. I mean, I tell people I'm Canadian all the time but that's because it seems more exotic.

    You helped me immensely today. Thank you so much.

  2. I'm so glad to know you are still here! Although I can't post much right now, I'm still lurking! Sorry your weekend sucked... :(
    Igrew up where there were not very many people of a different color, but my mom was always very kind to those who were different, and always treated all as if they were the same. Except for stupid people that were rude--them she treated as if they were stupid, no matter the color. :)
    When I was 22, I lived in Guatemala for 1 1/2 years, and I really stuck out like a sore thumb. I'm 5'9'', and at the time, very blonde (my hair has darkened with each kid born). I was all of a sudden the minority, and I didn't like it so much. It was very eye opening to me and I discovered that it is easy to have prejudices and stereotypes that just aren't very accurate.

  3. That was a great and honest post, thanks for putting it out there =)

    I'm not a parent so I'm not sure how much I can help you, but I am of mixed race with a dark father and a light mother. Growing up, my parents did there best not to ever make it an issue, I don't even remember talking about it, in our house, people were people and we were taught to respect everyone. I wasn't even aware that we were different in anyway until I was about eight years old and a friend of mine asked me 'how did it feel when you found out your dad was black?' That was strange and I didn't know how to answer her at all.

    It's possible that if the whole 09/11 cluster fuck thing that the moronic pastor put your child through hadn't happened, your son, could have just gone on unaware of any difference until he was older, especially since he doesn't remember it.

    All of the about probably hasn't helped at all. But, for mixed raced children (or any children) if their parents love them very much, and are good people, they're going to grow up ok,

  4. hey. i posted about this too, in response to jen's posting. it sounds to me like you're doing great with your kids. my brother doesn't date whities...:) doesn't mean he doesn't love his sister, me. different strokes for different folks and we have to wait for the kids to get older and be the adults we are grooming them to be - before we know how it all turns out.. your son might be right to be sort of cautious about whities, you know... just not you mama...

  5. If I am to be totally honest, I think your son is entitled to distrust white people as a whole. I agree with you that he should embrace each person as an individual and let his heart be his guide. But it doesn't hurt to handle whites as a whole with a little hesitance -- a love the person, beware the race kind of thing.

    Given the historical and current oppression by white people in the world, we've certainly earned skepticism and reluctance at the very least. I think your son's early recognition of racism is a sign of his intelligence.