Saturday, January 28, 2012

Meanness vs. Racism-Another Perspective

From my world wide web friend, L, who blogs at Wordy Girl...

L is also the mama to a little girl from Haiti.  Her girlie is in elementary school.

"We have been blessed by very diverse public schools, but we have not been exempt from those kinds of remarks being made to V. If I were you, I would mention it to the teacher so she can be on the look out for this child's similar behaviors and nip them in the bud. It might not be racism...yet. But it could easily develop into that if she is allowed to remark on people's race without any consequences. As a parent, I would absolutely want to know if my child said something like that so that I could address it with her. Perhaps the teacher could decide whether it warrants a remark to the parent.

One of the things I have come to appreciate is that racism is determined by the experience of the victim. If it feels like racism to the person to whom it's directed, then it is. PC and I have a rule - if it looks like racism and smells like racism, it is."

Many of the thing L said I actually thought about.  If my child were making mean comments regardless of what they were, I would expect the teacher to deal with it and to let me know if the problem persisted.    

I also think what she said about perception being true.  We've all heard that perception is reality and if someone is feeling slighted and perceives that race was a reason for the slight, then you can't talk them out of his/her feeling.  One of the best things I think I've read on racism and our sensitivity to it came from another adoptive mom in some forum.  What she said was that for people who are the minority, they often walk around "sunburned."  They have had previous experiences that have left them hurting.  But those of us who don't know them closely don't see those previous experiences.  For the "sunburned" person, a light pat can feel like a slap and a poke can bring them to tears.  Those previous experiences make certain situations extremely painful.  It is not necessarily pain that is forced or exagerated, but pain that is a part of who they are.  In other words, their what has happened in the past and what is happening now are shaping their perception of how they think others view them as a black person, white person, Asian person, etc..  

I know a lot of moms who are parenting kids of a different color who would have done just what L said.  They would have let the teacher know what their daughter said happened and asked the teacher to deal with it.  And there's nothing wrong with that.  It's another one of those mom issues that perhaps there isn't a right way to do it.  In my case, I had good reasons for why I handled it the way I did.  (My prior background with little kids and race, my prior experience as a teacher, the age of the child, the number of incidents.) And if L were faced with a similar situation and dealt with it in the manner she described, she would have had a good rationale behind her actions as well.  

There's really just one story here.  We both are moms who are keenly aware that we are not raising Caucasian children.  We're both moms who want to make sure our kids know that they can talk to us about issues involving their skin.  We're both moms who want to make sure our kids know that it is not okay for someone to make us feel badly, especially in regards to our skin color.  We're both moms who want our kids to be empowered and assertive.   It's one story just different perspectives.  

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