A Short, Unoffensive Matter of Race

Yesterday, Eve and I attended a Longaberger basket party at a coworker’s house. If you haven’t heard of Longaberger, they make very pretty baskets and sell them for hundreds of dollars – a single hamper literally costs several hundred dollars. I attended in order to support my coworker; I had no intention whatsoever of making a purchase (and I didn’t; I didn’t have $150 to blow, and I buy all my baskets from Goodwill and yard sales anyway).

Eve and I were the only non-white women attending the party, as I expected. Eve decided to be totally adorable by attaching herself to my coworker’s 7-year-old nephew, M. She kept grabbing him by the hand and dragging him around the house, and on a couple of occasions even hugged him for no apparent reason.

At one point she dragged him into a back room (I followed, naturally) and M chattered on and on about cats and cat food and other stuff. He mentioned a friend of his and asked me, “Guess what?”

“What?” I asked.

“My friend D is in my grade. And he’s the same color as you. And he has hair like Evie’s.”

“Oh,” I said. “That’s cool.”

He then changed the subject to something completely unrelated to race, possibly back to cats again (my coworker has six of them, so they were everywhere). All I could think in that moment was about how grateful I was that we had been alone in the room, that none of the white women at the party were there to turn his innocent comments into something a lot more awkward. I’ve seen white folks act horrified by their children’s observations of the differences between bodies, and that reaction is a whole hell of a lot more othering and obnoxious.

After reading and hearing so much offensive racist crap for so long, it was actually pretty refreshing to have a discussion about race (albeit a short one) that was, for all intents and purposes, completely neutral. It was a reminder that the harmful racial dynamics that permeate our society are learned, not inherent, and that means that we do have the power to change them.


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2 Responses to “A Short, Unoffensive Matter of Race”

  1. theroamingnaturalist Says:

    Reminds me of when I spent time in Africa with the kindergarten-age little girls that kept rubbing at my exposed hands and feet; white people didn’t live where they live, and they sure as hell never came to sing songs and play games. I never asked anyone if she was exploring the color of my skin, I just made that assumption, but she always gave me this curious look, like, “what *are* you?” I kind of loved it.

  2. Ivy Clinger Says:

    As a mom it has always been more terrifying for one of my very observant children to point out that a person is fat than what color they’re skin is , but even in those situations, they’re just making a matter-of-fact observation! Your children can’t say anything that is truly offensive if they’ve never heard offensive language or names!

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