You scrimp and save and send your kid off to college to give them a better education than you received only for your kid to return home for a visit and inform you that you are a racist. Has this ever happened to you? Pleases tell me I’m not the only one.
My first response was, “No I’m not” because I really believed this to be true. I am a woman and Jewish so naturally I have two strikes against me. Just kidding, but let’s face it, l am somewhat familiar with receiving judgment based on things beyond my control. So imagine my surprise when I learned I was a racist.
Recently my daughter asked me to read a book she had just completed. I live for these moments as a writer and a mother, sharing an idea that she viewed as significant in some way. The book is called Waking Up White. Great! Something I can relate to, unless it’s summer and then I wake up tan. Ba-dum-tisk. On a scale of 1 to 10, I’m maybe a 2, but it’s still earth-shattering information to learn when you thought you didn’t have a racist bone in your body.
As the author, Debby Irving, eloquently explained how her entitled and WASPy upbringing led to her Polly-Anna view of the world, I agreed with her that many times I saw the world in a similar fashion. Knowing, but not knowing or having the words to articulate why white’s feel they are the superior race alluded me.
But this is the reason I’m sending my kids to college, right? So they may be sophisticated and intelligent members of society – and point out my many flaws. But as I continued reading, I came across a highlighted section on my daughter’s Kindle that said the following:
“By pretending the world was virtually problem free, my family culture left me grossly underprepared to solve problems.”
My first reaction was, “Well, excuuuuuse me. Sorry I made your life problem free.” But then it dawned on me, my daughter was absolutely right. While I’m not a “helicopter” parent exactly, I do my best to keep my kids busy and on schedule thinking this will somehow prepare them for life. Growing up, my family put the fun in dysfunction. That’s what I don’t want for my kids, but now as I understand it, that is a mistake. A little dysfunction is a good thing? Does being white equal being unequipped for the world? Bear with me, I’m trying to figure this out.
Of course, I challenge any parent holding their newborn to say, “Honey, let’s make life mildly difficult for Junior so that he won’t be grossly underdeveloped.” Protection is instinctive – though sometimes the protection can lead to smothering. I get it.
Back to me being a racist. I’m working really hard at becoming more aware of any exclusion I may commit because ignorance is no excuse. Having said that, if I’m walking down a dark alley late at night, I am equally leery of everyone. Man, woman, child. Dog, cat, rat. Especially the rat. But hopefully it’s not too late for my daughter to recognize her positive influence on me, though I may be overthinking it at times. For example:
- When writing with a pen, I prefer blue ink to black. Does it count that I’ll write in any color and dislike red ink the most?
- My rescue dog is a golden retriever mix. Does it count that my last rescue dog was black with white polka dots and he chose me?
- I once labeled Kanye West with “angry black man’s syndrome.” Does it count that I didn’t know it wasn’t a real diagnosis? Honestly I thought it was some kind of PTSD.
Okay, that last one probably makes me a racist, but my point is, I’m a work in progress. There’s so much to learn, does it count that I’m trying, even though my coping mechanism is humor? Did I mention I’m Jewish? (Don’t answer this if you’re my daughter.)