Monday, October 30, 2006

For us...for our children...

Another thanks to Chookooloonks for another great link. I headed over to check out a new blog...Photobucket - Video and Image Hosting and came out on the other side informed and relieved. Relieved because frank, honest talks of racism are not common. I hear over and over about how everyone I know is not racist. Bullcrap. Sorry. but folks we all are. And until we acknowledge our own racism we can't begin to address it personally or as a nation much less as the world.

So, here. I'll go out on a my racism manifests itself...
I grew up in lower middle class white suburbs. There were no children of other races in my grade school and three in my Catholic all-girl high school. I lived my younger developmental years believing that I was not racist. Well, of course I thought that! I'd never had to face it! It reminds of me of when Dearie and I took a call at a church in northern Minnesota. We were in a town of 2,000 people. No African-Americans except for a few children who had been adopted by white families. When a discussion of racism came up, the Minnesotans couldn't stand for how racist the southern states were. They looked down their snoots and criticized up and down at the "Southern Racist Whites." I couldn't help but chuckle to myself. When called on it, I explained that racism was not just a white/black issue. Just earlier in the conversation they had been cursing the Mille Lacs band of the Ojibwe tribe because they were making all this money from the casino on their reservation (reservation, people!) and they had to go work for the Indians, all the while the Indians got to take more Walleye from the lake that was on their reservation (reservation, people!) than the white people did. How unfair! Now, sitting from my side of the room where I had not grown up with close proximity to and the racism involved with Native Americans, this seemed as ridiculous a mindset as they did about racism involving African Americans. None of us are racist if we stay in our homogenous bubbles.

Dearie and I are now at church in an urban transitional neighborhood. It is an incredibly diverse neighborhood ethnically, racially, and economically. This is both its strength and its weakness. It is a tight knit neighborhood, but also at times it can be a pressure cooker. It is here that I have had to look the ugliness of my racism in the face. What I have a difficult time discerning most days is what is my racism and what is my classicism. Not that one is worse than the other. I'm battling them both. When I look at my internal responses I realize that I never thought twice about having a black woman for an OB-GYN. I would vote for Obama in a heartbeat. I remember being worried about walking to my car one evening because a rather sleazy white guy was walking out at the same time as me, but felt comforted by and stuck close to a black man in a suit. But, it concerns me that I really notice it when it I see a black father interacting with his chlidren in a loving way or that it sticks out to me when I see a regular black couple kissing, just a regular old kiss, on TV. or that I cringe when my 4 yr olds refer nonchalantly but loudly to other children's skin color. Like a mother who'd hush her kids asking about a man in a wheelchair.

I am most unloving to the youth and this breaks my heart. Not all of them, by any stretch of the imagination, but unfortunately the ones who need it most. So many idle kids standing around. First, I'm self-conscious. "What will they think of the white lady?" I've heard the things the adults tell the kids that come to our church. That we don't really care about them. That they are just charity. That they are just our ticket into heaven. I hate that. I've thought hard about those things, to see if they had ant worth, and they aren't true. Second, I'm scared of many of them. Their lot sometimes seems so hopeless and desperate. and third, and this is the one I hate most to admit, I see no hope for them. I'm tearing up right now just thinking of the sinfulness of that thought.

But that is where children get their moments to teach their parents. My kids basically assault anyone walking down the street. They run up to them and shout hello and ask them how they are doing...etc. You should see the "tough guys" walking down the street with their pants so low they have to hold them up and their sleeveless undershirts that hang down to their knees and their gold teeth and attitude. My kids don't know they are supposed to be scared of them. They shout hello and honestly start talking about the weather or telling them about something they had done that day. And that's where the magic happens...the toughies, they melt. The exterior evaporates and they smile and talk to the kids. Sadly, sometimes the toughie look at me with a kind of fearful expression, like "Is it ok to for me to talk to them?"

Perhaps the children need to start a website "For Children Committed to Raising Parents with an Anti-racist Outlook"


Chookooloonks said...

What an amazingly honest and refreshing post. I'm here to tell you, I wouldn't worry about your kids in the least -- sounds like you're doing a great job.

Thank you.