6.23.2006

Playground Race Cards

Every month of so, a member of the Deadwood Moms' Club will shoot off a detailed email regarding observing but not actually doing anything about an evil Hispanic "nanny" mistreating her charge on a playground. I have had enough of this offhandedly racist nattering, so when the latest one came, I shot off the following response in a huff:
If you truly thought the baby was in danger, then you should have said something along the lines of, "Do you think she's old enough for this swing? She seems scared."

I would recommend talking directly to other adults on the playground if safety is a concern. Better to irritate a stranger than passively endanger a child.

Also, I am curious what the appearances of the baby and nanny have to do with this scenario. Or that the woman might not have been the baby's mother. You are writing about safety only, correct?
Another person wrote back:
I understood the detailed descriptions as ***** trying to help someone identify the nanny and the child, not any type of racial statement.
My pissy response:
That is possible. Racism is a slippery subject, and is often not something we want to admit to ourselves.

However there are many biracial or adoptive families in this area with children who are very different in appearance from their parents. This is why it's best to ask directly before making assumptions.
***more email about how she was just trying to help (which is true), and why are we bashing her.***

Me, irritated again:
My hope is that we all continue to look out for each others' children (as ****** was trying to do, and her intentions were good) while also being mindful of our assumptions. Unintentional racism is still racism.
I am disappointed in the parents who were blind to the original email's racist overtones, but I am more disappointed in myself for those acerbic responses. I should know by now that people don't listen to me after I've accused them of being assholes. I wish Ep had written in instead; she uses diplomacy to disguise polemics better than anyone.

Ask before accusing. Simple to state yet incredibly difficult to absorb. This is a mantra I am trying to drill into my own head as well as that of my impulsive older daughter.

Anyhow. I am off to reserve a special place in passive-aggressive hell for the playground mommy who, after one of DoubleTrouble's autistic sons splashed water near her precious toddler, said loudly enough for all of us to hear, "That wasn't very nice of him, was it?" Stupid cow. ASK!

(All these scenarios are good example of why I avoid playgrounds, and try to socialize only with people I already know, or who have been introduced to me by a trusted source.)

------

Addendum: Ep took them on after all! After a bunch of emails saying for shame, the original mom was trying to be helpful and that is ALL that matters, Ep courteously and thoughtfully told them that they were all dickheads:

And yet...

If the intent of the original email was to ask advice about how to handle a
situation where a child was being mistreated by an adult in public, the
details of everyone's appearance would be irrelevant.

If the intent was to let a parent know that a nanny was harming her child,
then the details would be important, so the parent would know they were the
target audience.

It was hard to figure out exactly what the original posting was about, in
this regard.

For a long time the media would use race as a means to identify suspects in
news reports. Members of many minorities complained about why this
information was included. To some people a story about a bad Hispanic woman
and an innocent white child is rife with hidden pitfalls of possible
offense, and those people would suggest being overly sensitive when telling
it. We don't have a lot of Hispanic members of this club, but someday we may
have more, and then we will need to be even more careful about these issues.

My two cents, anyways.

-----

And then Badger posted her own thoughtful points on the importance of discussion in a community. I'll post it here if she gives permission. She cited this link as well, which I probably should have read before this whole fracas:

http://www.amptoons.com/blog/archives/2005/12/02/how-not-to-be-insane-when-accused-of-racism/


6/28: Badger's full message, which I hope everyone absorbed:

Weighing in with a couple of points I think are important:

- This is not actually a flame war! It's a healthy discussion, that I am
grateful we get to have, and it shows what a strong and caring community
we are.

- Bringing up race and power dynamics is not a bad thing. For a cool short
essay on talking about race and racism:

http://www.amptoons.com/blog/archives/2005/12/02/how-not-to-be-insane-when-accused-of-racism/

- Consider: if the person pushing the swing had been someone the original
poster felt more comfortable talking with, what would have happened? How
much of that is the "nanny" part, how much race, how much "person I don't
know"? We don't have to see that discussion as a personal attack -
instead, let's take what's productive and interesting from it, and apply
it in our lives.

There is a fuzzy line between "parenting drive-bys" and trying to reach
out. I remember reading a reallyl great post on someone's mommyblog about
how she reacted very strongly to seeing a young mom with toddler in a
grocery store, and the situation was clearly that the mom was about to
lose her temper - and she did and she smacked the child - not hard, but
in anger.... The woman
writing the essay said something neutral and sympathetic, something like
"It's so hard, when they're tired, and we're tired..." and the angry mom
just about melted.. and they had a chatty conversation and the mom's anger
was defused. So, a moment of genuine empathy, and friendliness, and
conversation, probably had a very positive effect.

So, if I saw someone, nanny or mom or dad or whoever, pushing their kid
too high in the swing, and thought they were not paying enough
attention... I might try to talk to them, directly. We've all had those
moments. I've had my own less-than-ideal parenting moments! Sometimes
knowing that other people were judging me negatively...

Anyway, that's longer than I meant to go on, and I think that the original
poster clearly had good intentions... that we all recognize... and yet
there were some things said in response that were also well intentioned
and important to say! And, again, we are stronger as a community for all
taking the time and energy to bother having those conversations, and for
caring.

Best,

Badger

No comments:

Post a Comment

Respectful disagreement encouraged.

Related Posts with Thumbnails