A person on an internet bulletin board on which I post once mocked me saying that for me, it’s always all about race. As I pay attention to everyday life in the LB household, I think that actually she is right to some extent. Race is an undercurrent of so much of what we do and say that that it wouldn’t be farfetched to say that it’s “all about race” for us.
Topics brought up by LB lately included her musing about whether or not there were black cowboys and where they actually worked. That led to a discussion of a famous former football player who became a black movie cowboy, which led to a discussion about the first black professional football player, along with notice of the first black basketball player and the discussion about whether the Harlem Globe Trotters were really professional basketball players or not.
A few days later, LB wanted to let me know that the book the teacher is reading out loud in class involves a black character being called “colored”, and that she was offended by this. The book, a Newberry Winner called “The Great Gilly Hopkins”, is about a foster child with a lot of baggage, including racism, and her learning to trust people. From what I can tell the teacher hasn’t even gotten to the worst example of racism in the book, so I will need to talk it over with LB so she’s prepared. At her age, LB takes things like this personally, so I guess this is another example of how for us, it’s all about race.
Then the other day, LB announced that Barack Obama simply HAS to win, because “too many white people get elected.” She went on to list our mayor, the governor and “all the other presidents” as being white and that in addition to Obama standing for causes LB supports, he isn’t just another white person. She paused. “And you’re white too, Mom.”
I assured her that I couldn’t really do anything about that!
All kids of color-black, biracial, Asian, Native and Latino want is to see themselves reflected in the world around them. For most, everyday life doesn’t do this, unless you happen to live somewhere with a diverse population in many aspects of society. With talk of the election on every station and channel and on the front page of every newspaper and even the TV Guide, it’s perhaps the most prominent illustration of how white the world can seem. And I guess I am to.
This morning, before I was really awake, LB had a new topic to discuss. There was a report in yesterday’s paper about hate crimes being on the rise in the greater Seattle area. A simple chart broke it down by racial motives, religious motives, sexual identification and so on, and then by town. LB may have forgotten her science assignment, but she could recite the figures on this report as discussed in class, by heart. The location with the most hate crimes, not surprisingly, was Seattle, the others being much smaller towns. The most prevalent motivation for these crimes was race.
And again, it IS all about race. This report is about people like HER, and she knows it.
There are other less serious issues too. LB does not believe, AT ALL, that I can learn how to make proper fried chicken or ribs like her aunties. She also makes me promise that I will NEVER sign up for an adult hip hop class, even if it’s to lose weight and not perform. “Old” white mothers simply can’t dance. And I’d have to agree with her about that based on my attempts at home.
Lest you think otherwise, our everyday life really does include other topics, in fact, most of the time we discuss the weather, how our days were at work and school, and what we should have for dinner. We might have as spirited a discussion about the latest loss by whichever sports team is on deck at time as we would about politics. But our lives have a layer of racial undercurrent that I don’t believe most Caucasian families contain. As much as I rounded my older kids’ education to include the study of other populations, it’s not the same unless you live it. And I’m only part of the discussion by default.
Would I REALLY take a second look at the book LB is having read in class if my child was a privileged white girl? Would I even know who Woody Strode (the famous ex-football player/Hollywood cowboy) was? I know I wouldn’t feel the pain of a brown child complaining that too many elected officials are white.
Whatever the racially related topic, having LB, living with Lee and having the extended family that I do has been an education in itself. It’s more valuable than anything I could have studied in school at any level. It helps me “get it”-the big picture about race. And yet, I’m only beginning to learn.