What Is Race?
Lets be real motherhood is one tough business. Explaining topics like race to a child is rather difficult and you never know how it may turn on you. Last week I decide to take a stroll with my baby Anne to the park. Baby! Hmph! She’s already 4 years old (how quickly time flies.) For now, to keep this short (or at-least short-er.) I’ll skip the long story of how we actually got to the park: there were many and I mean many detours!
We Finally reach the park and Anne right away runs off, playing and running around. I don’t know where she gets all her energy. Just so you understand how active my Anne really is, the entire family calls her an energizer bunny, she can go on all day and all night, and she’s so tiny too. I just don’t understand it.
Okay anyways back to the story, we’re at the park she’s up to her usual charades while I’m sitting on a bench, keeping one eye on her while re-reading The Great Gatsby (probably for the millionth time.) How I love that book, at this point I can probably rehearse it by memory. As a matter of fact, cute side story, my husband surprised me on my birthday a few years back. He knew of my obsession with books and this book in particular. He completely blew me away with a first edition copy of the great Gatsby. He did it all on his own too! Usually I have to throw twenty hints an hour around the time of my birthday so he can “surprise” me. But this time it was different: he completely blew me away, total surprise, a real surprise!
Okay, I’m sorry, I know, I totally digressed. I clearly have a problem keeping my head in one place. Okay okay, so back to Anne. She’s playing, I’m re-reading. All of a sudden a woman sits down next to me. Solely for this story and descriptive purposes, keep in mind, she has very dark skin. Her son (about 5 years of age) walks up to her. She gives him an Adam and Eve juice box and he sits down between the two of us. Quietly and calmly he drinks his juice while taking in the beauty around him, Hudson River Park is a stunning water park located on pier 25, a New Yorker favorite. If you haven’t been you absolutely must! Back to the little boy, he looks like he’s deep in thought, his mind calculating while sipping on a refreshing box of juice. He looks serious, yet relaxed and comfortable.
Anne sees this and runs up to us as fast as she can. She comes to a quick halt and with an inquisitive look on her face she stares down that little boy. Meanwhile, he’s minding his own business, enjoying his juice. I try to pull Anne away as she’s an inch away from him and she can at times get a tad to close up and personal.
All of a sudden as she steps back, points at him, and says “Black.” You can only imagine the horror on my face. I became numb. Where did she learn this? I had questions upon questions twirling around my head. Keep in mind, Anne is as pale as her father and has light blueish-grey eyes. Both traits inherited solely from her father.
Anyways, his mother looks at me with disgust in her face and I can’t imagine how I’m going to fix this and why Anne would even say such a thing. You see the first thing I thought and the woman besides me as well was racism, that was pretty clear to the both us. I was horrified because I never taught such things to my kids. People were all people, in my book. I never distinguished people by color, language, anything, and neither did my husband. So this came as a complete shock, and one I was not prepared for.
At this point a second or two have passed and Im starting to react. “Anne!” I say, as I’m trying to grab ahold of her and demand her to apologize to them both. Yet again, she surprises me. She puts out her hand, palm facing down and innocently says “I’m white.” Now my jaw drops, I understand my child is unstoppable and I’m definitely doing something wrong.
The woman besides me looks at me with squinted eyes, clearly I’m not her biggest fan. My daughter looks up at me with big bold eyes and a huge smile: “Mommy, opposites attract, remember you said it? We’re opposites!”
At this point, Anne pretty much jumps him, theres really no other way to describe it. Almost spilling his juice box, she gives him a great big hug. While they’re hugging it out we (his mom and I) burst into laughter.
You see children don’t understand racism. They have a purity which is rare and beautiful and one we tend to forget. Yes, she saw they were both different but that made her interest in him go up by a thousand percent. To be honest I don’t know when or why I even said opposites attract. I think she overheard a conversation I had with my husband which was based on a whole different topic of itself and thats where she got it from. The point is children aren’t tainted with stereotypes, racism, and all the other horrible nonsense. They see whats there and they find no reason to be racist instead.
It was here when I understood, I don’t want to teach my child not to be racist, I don’t want her to even have an understanding that something of that sort can exist. I would much rather she learns that theres beauty in all people and it’s up to her to find what makes each individual person beautiful from the inside. One day when and if she stumbles against racism I’ll remind her of this day and say nothing more than opposites attract.
Right now as I’m typing this up, its currently 1:54am on a Tuesday. Earlier today Maria, the woman sitting next to me and her son, Jacob came over for a play date. I made some virgin strawberry margaritas for Maria and myself while Jacob and Anne raided the house. It was actually quite lovely watching them play together. Yes, they created an enormous mess but Jacob has a very calming effect on Anne and Anne is able to bring his personality to life. I know this may be a bit to early but match made in heaven? Maria and I already started chatting about it!
- Jennifer Akiyama