Saturday, August 14, 2010

Give Me The Floaty - You Dorky White Kid

The other day while visiting a friend's pool club Ava and her friend picked up a floating raft that no one was using and started playing with it.  To my knowledge they were playing happily for a while with this raft.

I was not paying too much attention, since they both swim well and instead was concentrating on Olivia's new boo-boo on her chin that had happened about 15 minutes prior.  Yes, Olivia's chin seems to get bumped and bruised each and every week, but that is another story.    

The next thing I know I see Ava's friend hopping out of the pool yelling at me.  "Those 2 boys (she pointed them out) were mean to Ava," while retrieving their raft. Apparently, the mystery was solved, now we knew who the raft actually belonged to.  They called her a Chinese (insert racial slur) while pulling it back from the girls.  Ava pulled herself out of the pool and started crying, "Those 2 mean boys took our raft and called me a Chinese (insert racial slur)."   I was stunned, although probably not justifiably so.  Maybe it is because Ava is now 8 1/2 and more independent, attends school by herself, and goes to play dates by herself but I just don't hear too many racially slanderous comments tossed our way.   I calmed Ava down explaining that what they said was very mean and completely wrong.    Ava's normally tenderhearted and docile friend was hoppin' mad and wanted to kick their little butts.  Her mother 86'd that idea quickly...espousing retaliation probably wouldn't end well.  I told the girls they were to avoid those boys.

Which they did.

And now it is several days later and I think I might have made a mistake.   Yes, I validated her feelings and did not make too big of a public spectacle since it was not OUR pool, we didn't know the boys or the parents.  Although, it certainly would not have been too hard for me to physically track down those boys and confront them about their use of racially offensive language.  I suppose I could have even asked where their parent(s) was sitting and perhaps notified them.

Here Is My Question To You 
and chance to play armchair quarterback.....

When you don't confront children who use racial profanity are you in essence condoning it?

If you do what I did and console your child but choose not to risk a public drama are you showing your child how to "turn the other cheek" modeling composure? (Which admittedly at the time, I thought I was doing.) 

Are you teaching your own children of a different race not to make waves, shake it off, words don't hurt...when perhaps we all know that they can and do hurt. 

Would it have been out of line as a guest at a pool club to track down the offending children and ask for an apology as a teachable moment on the ills of racial slurs? 

If you are parenting a child of a different race, what do you do in these situations? 

Thinking Back 

Perhaps I should have asked Ava if she would have liked me to track the boys down for a talk. Maybe that would have given her more power.  At the very least I suppose I owe her an explanation that this is bothering me and ask now that she has calmed down, if I handled it the way she would have preferred.

Ugh, parenting with the full metal isn't for weaklings.  But then again, being raised by racial majority folks in their own sandbox, without lots of good experience, well that isn't for weaklings either now is it?


Diana said...

I really appreciate this post. I've had a few experiences where I didn't say too much not wanting to cause a scene, but then wondered how my daughter interpreted the whole situation. She's only 5, but I love the idea of asking her how she would like to see things handled in the future.

Elaine said...

That's a tough one. I would probably be as shocked as you were and probably would have reacted in the same way. And then had the same second thoughts. It is very difficult for white people to deal with racism - it hasn't been in our experience. I think that discussing it with Ava would be great. She and ZW are the same age and of similar temperament (from what I gather) and I know ZW would benefit from talking about the incident and hashing through it.
Rumor Queen happens to have a nice set of links re: racism up right now. You might find some helpful stuff there.
Dorky white kid indeed.

Single Mama to Ngoc said...

Even though most people think I'm white, I'm 1/2 Cherokee. I stood out in school because of my dark hair, tan skin, weird name and of course my Family always seemed to fit into the sterotypical "Indian" look. It didn't help that almost every child in school was blond hair/blue eyes. I also grew up in a very racist area and the clan was very prevelant. I was about 6 the first time I remember being called a racist remark. I remember being so hurt and crushed because it came from someone I thought was my friend. I ran to my Mom crying and told her what happened. She confronted the boy's parents. Never raising her voice or anything. Needless to say it didn't go very well. Children who say racist remarks, usually hear them from their Parents. So even though you may have confronted the parents and the boys, more than likely you would have achieved nothing. You can't change someone who is a racist. I think you should talk to her again. Tell her that you didn't brush the problem under the rug, that it bothered you too. But also point out that most of the time, those boys are repeating things there parents say. It doesn't give them a free pass but talk to her about how people are taught hate. I remember my Mom said that people are going to say hurtful things, things that will make you cry, it will hurt for a little while but those who speak hate will be the ones who are miserable because they can't understand tolerance or love.