This has been quite the challenging spring. The Bald Genius has been away for military obligations, and Superkid-O really had a rough time adjusting to his absence. I am a protective parent by nature, but my protectiveness is augmented by any level of discomfort in my kid. He is only 5, and I naively believed that I could shield him from one of the harshest realities of living in this country…for at least a few more years.
We had a beautiful day at church yesterday. We ran into old and new friends, and hugged several people as we exited the building. While in front of our church, a person noticed Superkid-O’s shirt. It had a wild and crazy surfboard theme, with jungle animals on it. The person turned to my son and asked,”is that a monkey on that surfboard, or is that you?” Time stood still, and yet I only had a split second to decide what my reaction should be. Do I punch this moron in the throat for insulting my kid? Do I call him out on his ignorance in using such a ridiculous, and clearly racially insensitive comparison? Do I calmly educate him, and hope that my kid isn’t upset? I noticed that Superkid-O didn’t react, and was blissfully playing next to me. It was not the time to break out my kung fu grip. I calmly as possible let the person know that the question was inappropriate.
I elected to be dignified in the face of indignity, and modeled grace in return for disgrace. Why? Reacting violently would only perpetuate the common thought “see, I told you they were all violent.” Here’s the challenge: the person didn’t consider the comment to be racist or offensive. The person has been alive for many more years than I have, and witnessed the ridiculous exchanges between white and brown people in the southern region of the USA. This person should know better. The fact is, the person, like so many in this country, will never be forced to know better or care. Why? Because it is acceptable in this country to believe the negative, project the inhumane, mock or insult, and call it freedom of speech. It is acceptable to tell a joke, just as long as the punchline isn’t about ourselves. Many of us are guilty of this. It is funny, or okay to say and do, until it hits home.
My Superkid-O is beautiful, brilliant, courageous, compassionate, and humorous. He loves people, is proud of his family, loves his beautiful brown skin, and thinks that he wants to be President of the USA, an astronaut, and a racecar driver… I am sure that those career goals will change many times before he grows up. What I doubt will ever change is the notion that many people have in this region – – there is no need to think before speaking, care before acting, or research the truth before believing. I would love to dream that he will be respected for his mind, and loved for his heart, but I was sadly reminded that he will first, foremost, and most often only be seen by his skin color. And that makes me one mad momma.