Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Not So Hidden Racism

Okay, so every Black person I know has a story of how they've felt racism--overt and covert. I always find it interesting the times/places where racism rears it's ugly head.

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 PaycheckFoods." She looked at us so pityingly I almost wanted to say, "Don't worry Grandma, most of us poor Black folks own vehicles and drive." I guess because these "mothers" were there at the library at that time, they couldn't be gainfully employed or otherwise educated. The whole thing was in sharp contrast to another White woman who came to give us a presentation on lead poisoning. She respected us. Engaged us. Introduced herself for goodness sake. We left feeling positive and having received some useful information.

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. :)


80sBaby70sSoul said...

Thank you for taking the time to educate this lady on the possibility of intelligent black mothers. I pray that after this she will rethink her assumptions. And she's old, so give her a little break...she'll be dead soon anyway!

OG, The Original Glamazon said...

WOW!! Yes sometimes the white liberal guilt kinda racism is far worse than the I hate you niggers ...well actually neither is worse than the other.

Its like chosing if you want a love one to die quickly and suddenly no pain no awareness of death coming or suffer with a death sentence.

Great blog. You are right I'm glad we have such strong shoulders.

-OG said...

Hey there Chi-Chi,

That was my favorite scene in "The Color Purple"! *LOL*

I liked the church scene too, when Shug burst in singing "God Is Trying To Tell You Something".

I do agree that this woman's condescension SHOULD have been confronted...but if we pay attention to the statistics on black mothers and nutrition, MOST are not doing what you are doing at home, Chi-Chi.

It doesn't mean that they do not KNOW, however.

I live near a major city and I often ride the subway and I see black children at 8:00 AM eating Cheetos and a sugar drink in a box while holding Mom's hand. That is breakfast?? I don't think it is racist of me to make some assumptions based on what I have repeatedly SEEN and so perhaps this lady has been in numerous communities speaking to black mothers who DID NOT know what she was presenting...I wish you would have asked her about the knowledge she has gained from the audience in doing these presentations.

The flip side is that JUST as whites make assumptions about what is SOOOO ODD and UNUSUAL for a black person to be, we have seen from the Obama-worship that there are also SOME blacks who have assumptions that it is SOOO ODD and UNUSUAL for blacks to be Ivy-Leaguers and in solid marriages.

In the last 22 months of the campaign, I kept noticing that it was the blacks who were looking at the Obamas and exclaiming "wow they're SOOO together!"... as if blacks like the Obamas were so rare. Is it RACISM to have low expectations? Or PREJUDICE? Or something more...

{shaking my head}


Anonymous said...

Girl, I'm glad she didn't touch em either since I know the Mama Bear would have come out. More later, just got my computer fixed so hopefully I will be able to comment now. (smile)

Chi-Chi said...

@Nya . . . LoL, girl you know you ain't right!

OG, I know . . . what a dilemma. No form of racism is better.

Rev. Lisa, excellent points. "Is it RACISM to have low expectations? Or PREJUDICE? Or something more..." . . . I wonder this all the time.

Hey BlackgirlinMaine!! Glad you can comment again! :)

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