The Night Racism Came to Dinner

“So, Roo, tell me about Jason,” I said with a teasing grin.

The look on her face showed shock, then outrage.

“Nonna!!!” she growled.

“It wasn’t Nonna!” I assured her. (Poppa had actually been the one to spill the beans during a recent family trip. Apparently, a new young man had put a twinkle in my seven-year-old daughter’s eye.)

“Who was it?!” she insisted.

“Look! I’m not giving up my sources,” I answered. “But, seriously, tell me more about Jason. I didn’t know you had started to like a boy at your new school.”

“Well, he’s really nice, and I think he’s kinda cute.”

The slightest shade of pink crept up her neck and spread across her cheeks.

“Why didn’t you tell us about him? Were you afraid I’d tease you?” I giggled nervously.

My mom guilt was kickin’ in hard. This was the first time she’d ever intentionally hidden information like this from me. Surely I had done something wrong to make her think she couldn’t trust me with this information.

“No. I just…

I thought you and dad would be mad.”

Mike laughed. I laughed.

“Mad?” Mike questioned.

“What? Is he a trouble-maker?” I interrogated.

“No! He’s really nice!” she exclaimed. “It’s just…he’s got brown skin.”

brownskin

My heart stopped beating…right before it dropped into the soles of my shoes.

“What?!” I exclaimed.

“Ruby!” Mike assured her, “We would never be upset about that!”

I was seriously struggling to understand how she could have possibly come to her conclusion. African art is the focal point on our mantle. We’ve got a world map hanging on our wall with as many hearts etched into Africa as there are etched into the United States. We listen to rap, and she’s trying to teach herself hiphop dance with the help of YouTube videos!

“What makes you think that would bother us, Roo?”

She simply shrugged her shoulders and gave me a look that said, “Well, what did you expect me to think?”

That’s when I realized that something had gone terribly wrong. And it was definitely time to start speaking up.

—–

This post is the first in a new series titled “But I’m Not Racist!” Please join me as I carefully tread this sacred ground.

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4 thoughts on “The Night Racism Came to Dinner

  1. Samantha says:

    I wish I could jump right out of the computer and give you a big huge hug right now! You and Mike have such big hearts, and your hearts are so full of love! I can’t imagine why anyone would think that about you. I am struggling to find the right words to say right now. I love you all, and am praying for you. Thank you for sharing.

  2. You know what is awesome though? You wrote this, and you are going to correct her misunderstanding. Sometimes we (and our kids) absorb some really hurtful and problematic messages about the world, even when those messages weren’t intentionally conveyed by anyone…. but being able to observe that, respond in careful and loving ways, and then educate ourselves (and our kids) about how to be better is an awesome example of growth and transformation. If all parents were this thoughtful, the world would be a better place.

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