Tuesdays I take my boys to the local library. They play, look at books and have storytime while I collect the books needed for the week's lesson. Well, today upon our arrival, I noticed an older White lady kind of just sitting there waiting. She soon started to pass out papers. When I looked at mine, it was basically a breakdown of healthy eating, you know, according to the food guide pyramid. Me, being as well-versed in nutrition as I am, was like, okay, cool, whatever, I know all this.
So the kids are playing and making all their noise and enjoying themselves and she starts in on talking to "the mothers". Now, I smirked because she didn't even bother to find out if we were actually the mothers. Brown women. Brown babies. Ass-umption. Most of the ladies there are actually the caretakers/babysitters. Well, she continues on addressing us as "mothers". What annoyed me first and foremost was that Homegirl never introduced herself. Like, who the heck are you anyway and what qualifies you to be "educating" us? She never did say who she was and where she came from. She just started in on lecturing us. She never found out what we did know and what we didn't know. Just started to let us know that indeed, McDonald's is crap food and you shouldn't be feeding it to your kids. Well, as time went on, the lecture rolled around to whole grains. I thought I'd give Grandma a run for her money so when she said, "Now do any of you mothers know about the kinds of whole grains?" I said, "Sure, there's millet, amaranth, buckwheat, quinoa, oats, whole wheat groats, and rice." She genuinely looked stunned and retorted, "What kind of rice?" I said, "Well, brown rice of course." She turns to "the mothers" and says, "Yes, brown rice for your brown babies!" Wtf??
Well, the lecture hobbled along that way. She asked where you can get things like whole grains and high fructose corn syrup free foods "around here". And I said, "you can't get it around here . . . you drive 5 mins to Super Stop and Shop and you might be able to get a couple of good things; you drive 20 mins and go to Trader Joes, Mrs. Greens or Whole
I did speak to her after the session though. In a "Black Ambassador" kind of way. You know like, "Well, actually we've learned a lot about this stuff because we've had folks come before" and "yeah, I've always been interested in health especially since I was a vegetarian for a number of years" and "yeah, I've considered returning to school to earn my Ph.d in nutritional anthropology" and "yeah, you know my mother is actually a Columbia university educated nutritionist" and "Oh and yeah, I have a master's degree in childhood education and cook all our food from scratch . . . " The old biddy couldn't process all that--like, "You? A nigger? Wow."
As I watched this older woman today functioning under all these assumption about us as Black women, I just felt the enormity of what the daily struggle for people of color is in this country. This woman was ostensibly there to give out good information. I know she thought she was doing good. But the motivation behind her actions was all wrong. And because it was wrong, based in racism, she wasn't able to do an effective job. I think if nothing else, it crystallized what the problem with racism is--it makes building bridges, connecting with other humans based on our humanity virtually impossible. If we cannot connect, if we cannot build bridges, we cannot collectively grow and evolve.
Look, when Old Girl said that my kids "look healthy", I was hoping she wouldn't touch them. I would seriously have smacked her hand away or worse. It felt like another Color Purple moment (my life, it seems, is filled with Color Purple moments--LoL):
Mayor's Wife: Your kids are so nice and clean. Do you want to be my housekeeper?
Sophia: Hell no.
Mayor's Wife: What did you say?
Sophia: I said, Hell no.
Well, let's just be grateful she didn't touch them. My inner South Bronx girl might have made an appearance. :)