formerly Diane's Addled Ramblings... the ramblings are still addled, just like before, and the URL is still the same...
it's just the title at the top of the page that's new

Thursday, February 12, 2009

A Slap In the Face...

I’ve mentioned that my ex is Mexican. Born and partly-raised in San Antonio, Texas, Spanish was his first language. But his mother separated him from his extended family and his culture when he was very young, so there is little about him that speaks to his heritage (beyond his love of Corona and homemade tortillas), except for his looks. He’s very dark – skin, hair, personality (though I’m sure the personality part is just him and not due to his ethnicity). I think his looks are what drew me to him in the first place (it certainly wasn’t his sparkling wit). Though I don’t have a ‘type’ and have been attracted to many (vastly) different men in my life, I do like dark looks as a rule.

The summer after we got married, we drove from Virginia to Texas to visit his family. The best man in our wedding, who happens to be Filipino (and also very dark), came with us. On our way home, after more than a week in the Texas sun, we stopped at a Tastee-Freez in Podunk, Arkansas for lunch. The parking lot was full of pick-up trucks and Harley Davidsons and the diner was full of rednecks and Hell’s Angel types.

When we walked in – one whiter-than-white girl sandwiched between two very brown boys – the whole place got quiet. People actually stopped eating and stared at us. They whispered behind their hands. It was very disconcerting and I tried to tell myself we were in a small town, off the beaten path, where everyone knew everyone else, and they were just wondering who we were. But I knew that wasn’t it. We looked different from anyone in the place. Well, I didn’t, but my ex and our friend did. Uncomfortable, we got our food to go and left. Back in the car, we made light of the situation, joking that the Tastee-Freez gang probably thought I’d been kidnapped by two ‘foreigners.’

Sometimes bigotry just slaps you in the face.

You wouldn’t think that I, the whiter-than-white girl, would have had occasion to feel the sting but, in fact, bigotry has slapped me more than once. Since I was a teenager I’ve surrounded myself with people who are different from me in various ways and my association with them has often resulted in prejudice rearing its ugly head. Most of the time it's come from strangers but, sadly, there have been times when its ugly head has been masked by the faces of a few of my own family members. I remember the first time it happened – the shock and disappointment and sadness and anger I felt. I remember the last time it happened – the shock and disappointment and sadness and anger I felt. I hate it when it happens.

I’ve taught my daughter to be proud of her beautiful brown skin and the features that affirm her Hispanic and Native American heritage. I’ve also taught her that what’s far more important is what’s inside her heart and her head; that we are all people first and foremost. Our ethnic, cultural, religious, spiritual, and educational differences are important, because they are what help to make us individuals, but we can peacefully co-exist, regardless of how different we are. We can and should embrace the things in ourselves that set us apart and learn from others, taking what we love for our own lives, respecting what we don’t.

And she gets it. She’s accepting of everyone; she sees our ethnic differences and she appreciates them; she doesn’t view them as a barrier. Her idea of beauty encompasses the typical and the atypical. Even at nine, she thinks on a surprisingly global scale. She tries to understand the things that make us different… she’s still working on the whole respecting part in some cases (but to be fair, so am I).

This morning she told me a little girl in her class couldn’t do a report on James Armistead Lafayette, one of the most famous patriots during the Revolutionary War, because he was black and her father wouldn’t allow information about him in their house. This is the same child who wasn’t allowed to attend a play about Martin Luther King last week, or perform during the Christmas show because one song was being sung in Spanish. When I heard about all of these things, I felt sick and sad and angry. I asked Ryan what she said to the little girl…

Ry: I just told her that she doesn’t have to think like her dad, Mommy. I said that I hope she doesn’t think that way because if she does, we won’t be able to be friends, since she won’t approve of me or my family. (Note that Ryan has cousins who are half-Mexican and half-black)

Me: What did she say?

Ry: She said she likes me and she doesn’t think like that.

Me: Good. Then there’s hope.

I simply don’t understand the pervading mentality of intolerance for diversity and cultural differences that exists in our world. I believe it will destroy us if we can’t, as a race – the human race, change our thinking. When I spend time with my friends in ‘real’ life and in Blogland, I’m lulled into thinking that everything is changing. Then I get slapped again and I feel the sting. But kids like Ryan soothe it. I just hope there are enough kids growing up now to soothe the world. Kids like these little ones...

39 comments:

jill said...

oh....my heart hurts for children being raised like that little girl. i'm thankful that Ryan is her friend and that you have taken time to explain truth to your daughter.

and i love that picture!

Heather said...

Once again, Ryan has proven herself insightful beyond her years. Another testament to the wonderful job you're doing as a mother.

mo.stoneskin said...

Kids really do know best. What does make me happy is the diversity within my own workplace and how people get on.

swenglishexpat said...

To quote an old song, "Teach Your Children Well", (like you do) and hopefully the world will be a better place. Just love the picture, despite the fact they are carrying them the wrong way round. But it adds to the message. :-)

A Woman Of No Importance said...

Diane, thoughts beautifully illustrated by your words, your deeds, your raising of Ryan in such a fantastic way, and your heartfelt images, which I love.

We have to believe that our behaviours will change these ignorant, bigoted people, over time. It may take years, centuries even... We can be disheartened, and yet we will never give up... xox

Heather, aka Jake's Mommy said...

Aww, this one was a great post. I know all too well about racism in today's world with being married to a Moroccan. ... It's just truly unfortunate that people are placing such barriers in their lives. And, worse than that, some people are trying to pass on such travesties to their children. :-(

Lex the mom said...

Powerful thoughts in a society that still needs powerful actions. Your daughter is amazing and her friend just may be affected by that, too.

It will always shock me how biggoted people remain. It's everywhere.

Protege said...

I think intolerance comes from fear of the unknown. Everyone feels threatened by what they do not understand and the easy way out is to dismiss it as something bad, instead of taking the time to get to know and appreciate the difference.

Growing up as a child of immigrants, I know first hand how it feels to be "different". But it was wonderful people like yourself and your great kid, who embrace the unknown, that made my childhood a happy one.;)

SouthernBelle said...

I grew up pretty sheltered from bigotry; I had friends from heaps of different backgrounds, and didn't really encounter it 'til I was a young adult, so it still shocks me. Also I tend to think of racism as the domain of people who are much older, and were raised back when it was more accepted, which I'm sadly coming to realize is not true.

Thank goodness for people like you and Ryan who are helping people like that little girl to break that training.

blognut said...

I think it's so sad that people are still teaching that kind of hate. I learned a lot about some people I work with at/around the election when these sworm democrats were voting republican just because of race. It makes me crazy!

christine said...

Great post. It is maddening. I'm always shocked by bigots and I'm sure there's a lot that goes by under my radar. We just have to keep standing up to it... doesn't seem to be going away on it's own.

blueviolet said...

So well stated, Diane, and very near and dear to my heart as well.

Kristin said...

My children are of mixed backgrounds too. We do feel the effects of ignorant hateful people sometimes. Unfortunately my kids are beginig to notice it. I use those situations as times for them to learn about equality, tolerance, and diversity. Sounds like you are doing a great job with your daughter. Keep up the good work.

Shanna said...

It's frustrating to know you're raising open minded, kind, loving kid(s) but knowing there are still those people out there who are teaching their children to be hateful and unaccepting.

I think my oldest and your daughter would have alot to talk about. 'Charlie' is always coming home with things the 'other kids' do or say and she tells me how sad she feels for them because of their inability to see past all the outside stuff.

Jane! said...

But don't you think it's getting better? Maybe I'm deluding myself and I don't live in the south but that father you talked about? He had a lot more like-minded friends 30 years ago. I think kids who speak up, like Ryan are changing it, though. At least I hope.

ps - some of us deeply envy the color of her skin!

Blu said...

I have never understood this fear that some people have of others who dont look like themselves. We can learn so much from others.

Glad to read that your daughter has such a understanding outlook on life.

That Baldy Fella said...

I guess the way to look at it is that, thanks to you, there's one more person in the world who isn't influenced by petty prejudice and bigotry.

theoddduckling said...

I have a saying I developed to counter my mom's argument that to white people, they always see my colour first.

"Well yeah some people are like that, I can at least make that first step. Sometimes that's all it takes."

Mama Wheaton said...

I think this next generation will be more tolerant of diversity than the last. And those that are not accepting are being weeded out and brought to light not only by others but by their own kids.

SouthernBelle said...

Also, I know this is flippant and I hope not offensive, but I've always thought that people of mixed races tend to be the most attractive people you'll ever see.

Cases in point: Johnny Depp, Jessica Alba.

Rachel Cotterill said...

Well, I feel proud of Ryan for that and I'm not her mother so I can only imagine how you must feel! :)

I was completely oblivious to race as a child, apparently I told my parents that one of my friends had lovely long black hair but not that she was also Asian...

Lisa said...

i am a strong advocator of tolerance and gratitude- so many people out there carrying so many angers and fears , that dont even really belong to them.
an insightful post, thank you xx

beth said...

Was this post written in 2009? Still cannot believe people have such awful thoughts!

Braja said...

What a wonderful world and all that? Yeah...

Sometimes Sophia said...

We think we moved beyond bigotry, then, wham, it's staring us in the face. Stories like the one Ryan told you, are a silent subtext in parts of our culture. Let's hope that future generations are able to finally shake this kind of intolerance. Surely, kids like Ryan will lead the way.

Anonymous said...

Well said...

My sister's husband came to the U.S. from Honduras when he was six.
I see him as just my brother and their kids are just my niece and nephew. It NEVER occurred to me that they could face bigotry and discrimination simply because of their hispanic last name, till my brother in law mentioned it one day and the reality of that stung my heart...
Heather's M

Lee said...

Blogland is a shield, I have found. I took great comfort in the fact that so many people's views agreed with mine until I realised that those who disagreed just went away and, ultimately, like attracted like. I have on occasion ventured into a a rightwing blog of an Ohio journalist and it is a different world, full of people with views I just cannot relate to. I try to engage, to debate but insults and put-downs are teh responses of choice. So I go away.

Mel said...

I love my confident goddaughter. She could teach the world a thing or two, even if she has to do it one person at a time.

sherri said...

You are doing something right Diane. Raising such an insightful young lady.

I'd give anything to have her brown skin.

Of course, I'm the only lily white red haired Italian I've ever seen (besides my siblings)so I've ALWAYS wanted the dark skin and hair.

She's beautiful, inside and out. Maybe her generation will set the stage for true acceptance.

I can't imagine someone thinking I was beneath them because I have freckled skin!

Them's fightin' words!

hebba said...

Beautiful post, as usual. Keep spreading your wonderful thoughts.

Michelle said...

I could not have written this any better Diane!!

You wrote it brilliantly!! Ryan is a beautiful girl and she will be fine in this world.

That photo is priceless!!!!

Thanks for another wonderful post Diane!!

Amy McMean a.k.a McSunshine said...

I don't understand how people can think like that.

Ryan proves everyday what a great job you're doing as a parent.

She's a very smart young lady. smarter and more mature then most people twice her age.

SouthernBelle said...

Oops I was actually thinking of Keanu Reeves (Chinese/Hawaiian dad, white mom)when I mentioned Johnny Depp, although Depp has some Native American ancestry I believe.

Halle Berry is another gorgeous one too. And those are just the famous ones!

Anonymous said...

No surprise at all since you were and are in crackerland, aka The South. It would be interesting to hear if you recall any experiences of this kind of thing when you lived further north. I'm sure you can as people all over have race and color issues, but come on, you're in crackerland, conservative hell, what do you really expect?

HLiza said...

It's a universal issue. In the company I'm working, I'm the one of the only two Muslims and I'm so used to people turning head, looking and staring at me as if they can't believe there's a Muslim gal who can enter the sales world. It doesn't help that I cover my head..most conversation will start with them saying something about my difference.

Maithri said...

Tears....

My friend I 'get this' so deeply...

And what I get... what i understand more than anything else... is the deep desire in your heart for things to change..for love to rule...

Screw the haters... (or something a little more loving than that lol!) Look at the lovers in this world... these babies... Your beautiful daughter... You!

In the end,

Love wins,

Maithri

Jenners said...

I know this is all too true, sadly.
I'm working really hard to raise my son to be open-minded and accepting of all kinds of races, lifestyle choices etc. I really think you learn this at home ... and I'm glad that little girl seems to be rejecting her dad's backward ways.

And that photo is sooooooo cute!

Cathy Winsby said...

It's a slow process but with each new generation peoples views and behaviours are changing.

Tolerance of each others differences is more the normal way of things and is being taught in the school system.

Sure, we will still get that 'slap' here and there but with each step back, we are taking many more forward!

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