The incident that happened last week at the school has made a lasting impression on my daughter and I believe my household. I don’t know why, but I just did not expect it to happen so early and not here in California. I’m originally from California and NEVER experienced any type of colorism or racism. I spent about 10 years in the South and I believe I had experienced prejudice, but it was kind of blatant, like people ignoring you and not acknowledging your presence. Also, I had more positive experiences with White people than I have ever had in the South, so I have been sitting here thinking about what is the issue here.
First, let me say that the school my daughter goes to handled the situation quite well. The day after my daughter was told she couldn’t play because she was Black by another little girl on the playground, a conference was held with the little racist child’s parents, she was made to write a letter saying she was sorry, and they also made her come up to me and apologize for hurting my daughter. I thought that it was a great way to show my daughter that the little racist child was wrong; however, I thought it was overkill. I jokingly call this little girl, “little racist child”, but she was only doing what she has either heard or seen. I didn’t think she should apologize to me. I thought her coward parents should have come to me and apologized, but that won’t happen because they are coward racist parents. The funny thing is that my daughter and her are becoming fast friends and playing together, so I guess racism aside, everything appears to be going well. Go figure.
So…what is the issue here in this little California town? Why do I feel so uncomfortable here as opposed to where I just moved from? I believe the answer is that although California may seem progressive, it is not as diverse as people would believe it to be. I just moved from the South, but my neighbors were White, Black, and Jewish. They were not the type of neighbors you just wave at from time to time. My neighbors were people I actually spoke to from time to time and genuinely cared about. I have noticed that this city is overwhelmingly segregated. I finally found the Black people here and they live in apartments very close to the mall. The Hispanics live there too. In my neighborhood, which is all single family homes, there are very few Hispanics and Blacks, a conservative amount of Asians and Indians, and overwhelmingly White (about 67%). The issues here could be more about class and less about race, but segregation could be the root to the problem.
I must point out that I didn’t grow up a fan of Martin Luther King Jr. I was raised by a Sunni Muslim father who had just left the Nation of Islam and he kept a great deal of his “Black supremacist” ways of thinking even though he was an Orthodox Muslim. Yes, I grew up singing songs about the White man being the devil. I also grew up spending weekends holding a sign that read “DON’T KILL YOUR BABIES” in front of an abortion clinic. Anyway, I knew very little about Martin Luther Kings Jr. because he was not celebrated in the private school I went to and at home we focused most on “revolutionaries”. Looking back, my childhood was quite comical. I had a Christian mother who was quite passive, but quick to throw a jab at how lowdown some Black people could be and a father who firmly believed that the social ills that plagued Black people were the dirty work of the White man. I was confused to say the least, but it gave me an incredible amount of insight on race and religion. I’m going off topic, but what I want to point out is that I am now a fan of Martin Luther King Jr. I always saw integration as something that tore down the Black community growing up, but as an adult I can understand the logic in segregation being wrong.
Obviously, no one is outright telling people that they can’t live in one area over the next, but because everyone is sectioned off in their own parts of this city, individuals are not seeing one another as human beings. When your neighbors look just like you, thinks like you, and prays like you, anything other than what you perceive as “normal” is wrong, especially when the images coming from the television portray another race as criminal, hyper-sexual, an unintelligent.
I’ll give a personal example, when I was deploying to go to Iraq there was a girl in our unit that I became quite close with. She was a nice person. I hurt my leg while I was at the mobilization site and ended up on crutches. This girl helped me to no end. One day, we are walking to the dining facility and she says, “I have something I need to tell you because I’m tired of lying to you”. Of course, I told her that she could share anything with me because we were “battle buddies”. Well, she tells me that she is gay. I had never met a gay person before in my life. At that point in my life, I was very much against homosexuality and anyone who supported it. It was ungodly to me because that is what I was taught. When she told me that, it took my breath away and I felt incredibly conflicted because how could I view someone as a friend that I firmly believed was going to burn in hell. Quite quickly I had to rethink all that I had believed because now I had a face, deeds, heart and soul attached to homosexuality. My views no longer applied to “them”. My views now had a name and a face of someone I knew would give their life for me if it came down to it when we crossed over to Iraq. I finally found the humanity. We are still friends to this very day.
I know some people won’t agree with that, but the same thing happens with race. It is quite easy to hate what you don’t know. It is quite easy to stereotype what you believe to be true on television. Remember, I don’t exist in real life. My family and its dynamic are not shown on television, so what can I expect from my ignorant neighbors? I believe this is the point where I have to (even though I don’t want to) have amazing strength and put myself out there, like my friend did, and show the humanity of me and my family. All Black mothers are not like those women on the Real Housewives of Atlanta or Basketball Wives.
I’m having a play date tomorrow with one of the mom’s and her daughter from my daughter’s class. We will see how it goes. Hopefully, it goes well and I’ll make an acquaintance or even a friend, but at the very least I am making an effort.