I’m listening to NPR in the car. This American Life comes on, and one of the segments was on when to expose your child to race and racism. The presenter was a black comedian that married a white girl. He said that he had exposed his child to the concept of race (that she was black) at the age of five, but that he hadn’t exposed her to the concept of racism.
Instantly, I thought of my own upbrining. At no time did my parents sit me down and tell me that I was white and that I should be proud of my whiteness. It occurred to me what a vast disservice they did to the child in doing so. They are creating a self-fulfilling prophecy. They tell the child “you are different and separate based upon the color of your skin.” How could anyone expect that such separating identity would not persist into adulthood? And, in fact, if you heard of a white parent telling their kids about the grandness of their whiteness, people would be shocked and would decry it as racist, as would be befitting. I grew up with a sense of myself as me. I was not anything. I was not white. I don’t even really think I identified myself as a Southerner. First and foremost, above all else, I was an American. A flag-waving, unapologetic American. It was a bedrock that all my other beliefs are based upon. Of my personal heritage, I hail from English, Scott, Irish, and German lineage. I disavow all. I am American.
The concept of when to introduce someone to the concept of race? I feel it is unnecessary. Society will do that for you at some point. I think it is more important to treat such a difference as unimportant and be ready to explain the concept when the child asks. The man went on to talk about someone else that steeped his child in “the racism pool” at age five–telling the child of slavery and rape and murder. Is it any wonder that the five year old got up in her church and demanded whites and blacks be separate? How do you teach a child that an entire group of people are monsters, and then expect them to coexist with them?
Then the man goes into a story about being at a diner. One of the waitresses thought he was pestering this lady and her child. It turned out to be his wife and child. The waitress apologized and when back to work. Now, there are different ways I could see him responding to such stimuli. The first could be a magnanimous gesture. Laugh it off and go about your life. The next would be to get angry and let it ruin your meal. The most extreme response would be to storm out and never eat there again. However, he went another route. He posted the “ordeal” on facebook and youtube and called for a conference with media coverage and civil rights leaders and the owner of the diner and so forth. Leading me to ask… “Dude! How much free time do you have on your hands?!”
I keep going back to this…you know who I admire? Jerry Lee Lewis. He married his 13-year-old cousin. You don’t think people talked bad about him? Hell, I’m sure they did. I’m sure he was the butt of many a joke. Did he care? NOPE. Your opinion meant NOTHING to him. I’m the same way. I think it’s funny. I’m a white guy that married an Asian girl. Since she’s been up North for a while, people keep asking her about the racism in the South. Her answer? There’s not any. They seem disappointed. What about the controversy of our interracial relationship? Nope, not any. It’s never come up. Not once. No threats of disowning from my parents. No nothing. Sorry, rest of America.
What was funny was, the very next day, I’m in line to get out of Sam’s. There is a couple ahead of me. Smartly dressed. Obviously straight from church. Beautiful children, also smartly dressed. The man was black. The woman was white. If I had to place a bet, one daughter was from the black man’s previous marriage, and the son was from the wife’s. The other daughter, I believed to be theirs, together. They went to check out, and the black lady at the door checked his receipt. She then asked the lady for her receipt. The man laughed and said they were together. The lady apologized profusely. To which, the man said. “Oh, it’s okay. No harm done,” and laughed hardily.
Life is 10% what happens to you and 90% how you react to it.
Long Live the Constitution!