In the early 90s, I attended kindergarten in a Toronto suburban elementary school. I was the only non-white kid in my class. As I grew older, kids would often throw around comments about my race that were rather confusing to me – namely the term “Paki”. I never found this offensive (and still don’t understand why it would be); my mom always said that ignorance is best ignored.
Nearly twenty years later, after I finished my B.Ed., I landed my first job as a teacher in a suburb just outside of Toronto. It was like kindergarten all over again. I was the only non-white staff member.
At the tender age of 4, my skin color was irrelevant. At the age of 23, I was the
pink elephant brown flamingo in the room. But, I dealt with it.
When I announced my engagement, I was asked if it was arranged and if there would be any goats exchanged during the wedding ceremony.
Smile. “No, not arranged. No, there will be no goats. Apu will also not be attending our wedding. He’s working late at the Kwik-e-Mart as usual. Sorry to disappoint.”
Clearly, ignorance was widespread; and, often times, it was tough not to burst out laughing hysterically at comments. It was even tougher to hold back my hand from accidentally hitting someone in the face.
So when little ol’ borderline-feminist me, who would rather be caught dead than watch women parade around on a stage like show horses, spotted her twitter feed explode with ignorance, only one thought came to mind.
Please. Don’t. Procreate.
Yes, that’s all I have to say. No flaming rebuttal. No face palms. No SMHs. After decades, NO, centuries of racism, are we seriously still doing this? Really?
I’m not sure if ignorance has any genetic component, but I do know that ignorance begets ignorance. Which means the people who made racist and outright stupid comments about the new Miss. America will most likely produce offspring who may one day share a school, a playground, or a classroom with my son.
Now THIS bothers me. A LOT.
Martin Luther King Jr.’s speech resonates with me at a different level now that I am a mother. He didn’t talk about himself – he knew he had the courage, the will, and the strength to deal with ignorance. He spoke about his children – his impressionable, young, innocent children. His children who had a lifetime of endless opportunities and experiences ahead of them – so long as they were given a fair shot at life, and not limited by their physical characteristics.
The mere thought of my son being bullied, teased, and hurt – because his eyes are a beautiful brown instead of blue, because his skin is a soft tan instead of creamy white, or simply because of his Indian heritage – brings me to tears. It makes me want to hide him in our safe home, hold him tight, and shield him from this hate-filled, ruthless world.
But, I can’t do that.
I can only hope that the ignorant educate themselves. And, until they do, I can only hope they are not reproducing.