Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Raising Black kids - and my white umbrella

Oy. This interaction has been stewing in my thoughts for several weeks....

So I'm at the school waiting to pick up the kids and per usual a group of moms are chatting together. Usually it is just the usual mom stuff - how much homework the teacher is assigning, who's kiddos is sick with what and so on. But not this day. It starts out innocently enough a mom talking about going to walmart just before pick up.... but then she starts in on a rant about black welfare moms with like 10 kids. Ugh. My neighbor quickly tries to change the subject - but this lady was not going to be derailed. Nevermind that in order to qualify for WIC (which is what I assume she was going on about - cause food stamps are nearly impossible to qualify for these days) you really really have to have a significant need... and really does anyone want kids to go hungry? and why do we pay taxes except to help those who are in a hard spot - because but for the grace of God.... 2 things were irritating me. One - 10 kids. Ummm what is wrong with someone having 10 kids? and frankly I doubt it was 10 - probably 4 or maybe even just 3 or the person in question was simply babysitting a number of kids. Why did she assume that they were all hers? just because the other woman was black? really? As for WIC - frankly I am greatfull that there are programs like WIC and free lunch so that kids don't go hungry. Any way in the next breath she looks at me and it dawns on her that I have 8 kids, and a bunch of them are black. And she is mortified. And I am furious. Furious that in this day and age someone could continue to make such racist assumptions. And furious that I wasn't better prepared with a reasonable response. Ugh Ugh Ugh.

Then just this weekend I was running out to the store and in our neighborhood a young man was pulled over... ( I am assuming for speeding - which is a huge problem right where the traffic stop was) and the cop had the teen (probably17 , probably a friend of my sons) sitting on the curb while he went through the car and the kids backpack. And it all jumped out at me because the young man was black. I wonder had it been my white teen boys how they would have been treated....

And the thing is that when my black kids are with me they get coverage from my white umbrella. I'm white and upper middle class white too - when we are out with the kids people buy us icecream and thank us for raising them.... Ugh. makes. me. nuts. Well the kids really enjoy the ice cream... and frankly it isn't just white people, it's blacks too, and that I really don't know what to do with. And those kind of racial assumptions are why my black kids don't go out to the store or McDs looking like they just rolled out of bed (and why I don't either). Society is stacked against them enough as it is. I have seen the suspicions looks my 9 year old black son gets when he is on the toy aisle alone.... and the smiles and indulgent looks he gets when he is with me. And I have been in Walmart with 7 or 10 kids and no one looks twice but if I were black they sure would and that is wrong.

So what to do - we live in a fairly accepting community but ingrained racism is everywhere - and as my kids get older we will be bumping up against it more and more. And as they get older my umbrella won't reach over them... and that scares me to death.