Last week, while at the check out, little man, said “hello” over and over again to the woman that was checking us out and she ignored him. Little lady said “hello” and immediately the woman said “hello” back and smiled at her and then commented to me about how cute she is. Little man was standing right next to his sister and this woman refused to acknowledge him. As little man tried to get her attention once again, I tried to distract him while we finished checking out. I know damn well, that this woman has a problem with him being dark skinned and I wanted to protect him from knowing this.
I knew that she had a problem with me too, because she treated me in much the same way. His sister is very fair skinned with very blond hair. People assume I am their mother and see I have two children that obviously have 2 different fathers and they come to their own conclusions about me. This is not the first time this has happened and I know it will not be the last.
When we are out and about, little lady will be given attention by others and often times little man will not, unless he is relentless in his attempts for their attention and then sometimes it will be given reluctantly. There have been comments said just loud enough for me to hear, by other shoppers. I pretend not to hear these things that go over his head but not mine. There was one time that little man took it a step further and said to the person, “What about me? I’m talking to you too.” And the person just looked at him and walked away.
Racism is alive here in rural Minnesota and it is ugly. Little man is clueless of it at 3 ½ and although I could see the hurt in his eyes as this man walked away, he had no clue to why he was rejected. He see’s his sister being accepted and he has no clue it’s because she is white.
I don’t understand any of this. No matter how hard I try to understand meanness I can’t. I don’t get it. I don’t understand hating someone for things that have nothing to do with the person they are on the inside. I can not comprehend being mean or mistreating people period, let alone, for something that is not in their control. I cannot fathom judging someone based on the color of their skin, let alone their religion, beliefs, sexual preferences or orientation or what they look like.
When I was dating and almost married a black man, many of this family, were racist against me for being white. They judged me for the color of my skin. Some of them didn’t even want to get to know me…didn’t want to even give me a chance…all because the color of my skin was white. I remember how much this hurt me.
When I went through drug treatment in the mid 80’s, I met many wonderful people there. Drug addiction and alcoholism shows no preferences when it comes to skin color, religion or beliefs, social or economic status, sexual preference, age, body size or physical appearance. Every color of skin was represented. There were those with a lot of money, those with none and many in-between. The very beautiful to the average looking people. Obese, average in size and anorexic thin. There were those that were hetero sexual, lesbian and gay. Young, elderly and many in-between. Homeless, to housewives, to professional hockey player, to a man in the mafia, to college students, to professional gamblers, to doctors, policemen and lawyers. Catholics, Muslims, atheists, born again Christians to Buddhists.
All people trying to get their lives cleaned up…all trying to find hope…all trying to find sanity in their insane addictions…all at rock bottom(or close to it since some had not reached their rock bottom yet). Each one of us, different human beings, with one thing in common. Addiction. There were many that came to treatment with their prejudices against various groups of people but the beauty of being in rock bottom is that when your with a group of people that are in the same place as you, you unite.
Walls of racism were torn down. People with ugly hate inside for people outside of their “group“, laid down their ignorance and fear and embraced those people they previously hated. I watched as a gay man and a man that claimed to hate gays hug as they worked through something they both struggled with and become good friends. I watched a very obese woman sob and a man that had admitted to being prejudice against heavy people, hold her while she cried. I watched a great friendship evolve between them. These are just a couple of examples of many, that I witnessed the beauty of walls coming down. It was a beautiful thing seeing hate and meanness broken down and ripped away. It was like the blinders came off their eyes and hearts so that they could see people for who they really were.
As much as I hate racism, I realize that I do discriminate. I discriminate against those who abuse children, the elderly, those with disabilities or anyone for that matter. I am against people who bully or inflict their meanness on others. I am against evil of any kind…against those that inflict pain or judgment against a person or group of people because of the color of their skin, their religion, their sexual preference, their size or appearance, their intelligence, their financial or social status. I am against those that knowingly exploit, take advantage of and profit from those that are weak and vulnerable, such as children, the elderly and the disabled. I discriminate against racism and those that support it. I discriminate against those that deal drugs, rape or abuse women and children and intentionally kill. I discriminate against the words nigger, fag, retard, Jesus freak, fat pig…ect. Any words that are meant to put down or inflict pain upon. These words make me cringe with their ugliness and their intention to put down.
I am trying to understand where this meanness, ignorance and fear comes from. I am trying to understand this racism toward my little man, whom doesn’t deserve it. I am trying to understand the thoughts behind the people that cannot see beyond the color of his skin and see him for who he is…for the beautiful, kind, loving, good little boy that he is. But, many people will miss out on him because they are blind and narrow minded.
For now he is oblivious to all of this and we are able to protect him from them that judge him.
But, what happens when he’s older and no longer oblivious? This scares me and hurts me all at the same time. I know I will not always be able to protect him from this. I know that someday I won’t be there to protect him or distract him from racisms arrows. I pray that I will have prepared him enough to stand against evils arrows…that I will have done a good enough job at helping him believe in himself and his worth and that he will know that his true beauty lies in not just the beauty of his dark skin but in his beautiful heart.
How have you experienced racism? To those of you with children, how do you teach your children about these things?