Saturday, April 18, 2009

What Do You SAY to That?

Sometimes kids expose you to things you wish they hadn’t. I’m relatively certain that my mom wishes she’d never seen “Jizz in my Pants,” but I showed her anyway. And when I was in college, I spent one spring weekend babysitting for a family while their parents were on a trip. Unfortunately, it happened to be about six weeks after the original High School Musical came out. The Disney Channel repeated it multiple times that weekend, and those kids watched it (or at least had it on in the background) Every. Single. Time.

I wish I could say that was the worst thing I heard and saw that weekend.

Now please understand, I like this family. The kids are a little spoiled, but for the most part, they’re nice.  There are four of them, but the older three were mostly able to take care of themselves, and I just had to make sure nothing catastrophic happened. My job was essentially to take care of and entertain the youngest girl (9) and her cousin (11).

NOTE: For the sake of anonymity (and for the amusement of any UMD Theatre kids), any names in this story have been changed. Let’s call the youngest member of the family Little Sally and her cousin Young Jane.

Little Sally’s parents left me some money to take the kids out and do something fun, so on Friday night I suggested we go see a movie.  The three of us piled into my car and headed out to the Hunt Valley shopping-complex-extravaganza to see She’s the Man. (I’m not going to lie, I might have pushed a bit to influence that decision. I neither regret it, nor am I ashamed to share that fact here.) Things started to go downhill as soon as we pulled in the parking lot and started looking for a spot. The girls looked toward the entrance of the movie theater, and upon seeing people hanging around outside (because that, after all, is what the entrance to movie theaters are for – loitering), I suddenly heard from the backseat:

“Ew! Black people! They always ruin EVERYTHING.”

Excuse me? WHAT. Do I SAY to that?! I think I stammered out something like, “They have as much right to be here as we do,” but truly, I was far too flabbergasted to make any kind of response at all, because I had no idea how to react to this situation. I was offended and horrified, but it wasn’t my job to educate/chastise/punish these kids! So I ignored it and we went inside.

While standing in line for snacks, I told them that we were only going to wait once, so get everything they wanted. They had fair warning, but they still decided not to get drinks. When, 20 minutes later, they wanted soda, I reminded them that I was not getting back in line, and suggested they take a drink from the water fountain that was five feet away. (We had already spent, in one hour, half of the money for the entire weekend at this point anyway, which was my primary reason for avoiding over-priced Sprites.)

You would have thought I had suggested they drink out of the dirty toilets. “Ewwww, you are so disgusting! Other people’s mouths have been on that! I’m not touching that dirty thing!”

Seriously? News flash, you stuck-up brats: long before companies started bottling water from the fresh, clear springs of Deer Park, kids drank water from fountains.  I am neither dead, nor a freak of nature for having done so, as you are so strongly implying right now.

After the movie I took them to Cheeburger Cheeburger for dinner. I was fasting on Fridays during that particular Lent (something unfortunately probably tied more to body image than to Jesus, but I digress), and they couldn’t figure me out. Young Jane kept trying to force french fries into my face. “Just eat one.” I took this as an opportunity to explain a bit about how meaningful Lent can be. Their response?

     Young Jane: Oh yeah, that’s right, you work at Beachmont. (A local Christian day camp where I          was a junior counselor and then a swim instructor for a number of years.)

     Little Sally: Oh my gosh, like, EVERYONE goes to Beachmont.

     Young Jane: Yeah, OH, but except they don’t let Jews in.

Oh. My goodness. I calmly explained that yes, they accept campers of any race or religion. Everyone is welcome there, they just TEACH Christianity.

And in my head I slumped in defeat as I realized that these girls were, at such a young age, learning to polarize themselves from culturally divergent groups. A nine year old and an eleven year old spent the evening being racist, rude, offensive, and elitist. Where were they learning this behavior? Probably from their parents. Welcome to your post-race America.

Should I have said more? Years later it bothers me that yes, I probably should have. It just didn’t seem like my place.

And what, oh WHAT, do you SAY to that?

7 comments:

Ozkirbas said...

I suppose addressing the parents would probably the "best" course of action. I guess then you'll figure out, at least, if the kids are actively learning or just haven't been properly exposed to the concept of humility and understanding. Or... probably not. It sounds like you did the best you could with your given position.

Dialectric said...

NOOOO!!!! I know that I am not well known for my diplomacy on social issues... but "No, Little Sally, entitled little brats whose parents let them think they are God's special joy ruin EVERYTHING... black people only ruin your sense of moral superiority and the delf-delusion that white girls can dance," never occurred to you? Seriously - you say "NO!!" very loudly, and then you stop while you think what to follow it up with. Of course it's the parents fault, but that doesn't mean you let the kids off.

PS - and for Young Jane? "Well, of course, Honey - they killed Jesus."

Dialectric said...

PPS - God, I hope sarcasm comes through on the Intrawebz...

MLJ said...

Hey Girl. I hate that this has happened to me before, but as a Mitzvah Dancer you tend to bump into alot of misguided over privileged too grown for their own good adolescents, whose only contact with black folks consists of the token few they meet in their classes, T.I and ...Me..the Hired Help. I had a kid once call me out my name. He told me my name shouldn't be what it was but some name that sounded like "Shizzay" or "Sherray". This child was also kind enough to tell me that when he "gets really bad" he is "sooo black." What Did I say to that? What could I say to that? I was just there to teach him how to do to do the electric slide. Do I give lesson or do I get a paycheck.

Lexi from Pmac said...

I feel as though you're slightly overreacting to this situation. Were the kids obnoxious? Absolutely. Do they represent the majority of spoiled brat kids and their beliefs regarding other races? Probably not.

As a matter of fact, whites are more sensitive to racism against blacks than blacks themselves are. Now I'm not saying blacks aren't totally pissed when they come across a true racist, but I promise you that a white person's reaction is far worse. It's from years of this white guilt that society loves to pin on us, so whites get extremely sensitive if they feel as though a fellow Caucasian is representing them poorly.

Furthermore, having lived with/dealt with spoiled brat children who go to uppity public/private schools, I can tell you that they suck Obama's cock and then some. I actually think it's wrong how much they teach 1st graders about how Obama is our savior, but that's just me. I'm going off on a tangent here, as this isn't about Obama, but these kids have come home singing quite a few songs about tolerance for all ethnic groups.

However, having said all that, I am basing my opinions off east coast children. The midwest and the south might be a bit of a different story.

I'd also like to add that while rap/hip hop on the radio and television maybe aren't the greatest representations of black culture, white kids are the ones spending the most money on that stuff. It's pretty obvious to me that many suburban kids growing up today idolize their favorite rap artist. It might still be racist, but it's not hatred these kids are spewing.

B.Graham said...

Sorry, Lexi, I totally disagree. First, you sectioned off almost 75% of our country as not within the parameters of your opinion, and second, I just don't agree. White people are generally just as racist as any other race in this country, and just because it isn't shown on television as that way does not mean it isn't true. People are people are people, and some of them just suck, regardless of the melanin in their skin.

Lexi from Pmac said...

First of all,of course I'm sectioning off 75% of the country. I'm assuming (perhaps incorrectly) that Ali was dealing with children from this particular area.

Secondly, when did I say that whites weren't as racist as other races? I said nothing of the kind. What I did say was that whites (upper-middle class in particular) are especially sensitive to being considered racist, so they go out of their way to display the opposite. Out of all the races in this country, whites have to walk on the most eggshells so as not to offend anyone.

Regarding your misinterpretation of what I was saying about suburban white kids and the media... If anything, there's more racism in television than not, and I think I addressed that when I referred to white kids glorifying 'tards like Lil Wayne. See: "It might still be racist..." But I see that as the media/record companies being more racist than the children themselves.

I never denied that racism existed. I just don't think the red flags over these idiot children are necessary.