Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Discrimating Minds

People are bumming me out.

Plain and simple, I'm getting disgusted with those around me. Odd, cause that's not normally my nature to even be all that aware of what's going on around me, let alone ticked off by it.

Discrimination can be very subtle. I think that's why we so often don't notice it or are able to thoroughly ignore it.

Sometimes it's really a weird sort of pity discrimination. I experienced that on Monday. A stranger went out of her way to tell me about a program going on. After I politely declined, by explaining that because of all my foster kids our schedule was unpredictable at best, she changed her tune. Now, I for one, should know better. Never, never talk about having foster kids, it brings out the weird in everyone, but then the whole scope of the conversation changed to this fake sort of pity thing. All I heard out of her mouth for the next few minutes was how great it was that I would "do such a thing for these poor kids", "what a blessing you are to them" and the ever popular, "I could never do that".

Barf, gag, vomit, roll eyes here.

Yeah, these kids come with crap and carry baggage all their lives, but so do plenty of kids who aren't in the system. Their less than ideal family situations rapidly become public domain material and it shouldn't. Um, blessing to them, well, yes and no. Sure, I'm filling lots of needs, basic needs; food, shelter, a safe place to live. I keep them clean and get them to their appointments. I lobby for additional services I think they might need from counseling to medical tests to school or sports. Nothing spectacular there.

Mostly, they bless me. They keep me humble. Even though, I'm now basically a professional mom, there is nothing like a couple of kids with baggage to keep you humble. I have no delusions about my ability or capacity. They keep me fully engaged with the Lord. There is no possible way I could do these things or live this life if I wasn't fully in relationship with God. I can't tell you how many moments of my life in the last few years have been spent with a child in some sort of crisis or tantrum or sleeplessness on my lap and my heart and mind deep in prayer.

The next sort of discrimination is also very subtle. It's the occasional strange story or excuse to make sure that you keep your distance. This happens with the people who know you and sort of like you. They tolerate you, but would like to see you less and have less contact with your kids. Any sort of odd story will do, illness, bad behavior at a play date, a broken toy, whatever. You will never receive an out right accusation that your child committed the sin, but you'll get those weird calls of, "I just wanted you to know." Those are weird and irk me to no end. I'd much rather have someone just flat out say, I don't want to be around your kids because their black and Hispanic and Autistic. That would be rude and still make me mad but it would be a different sort of mad and a situation that I could more easily walk beyond.

The third kind, I'm actually guilty of in my life before foster care. This is the kind of sneaky discrimination that you don't really know your doing when your whole existence is lived in a pretty little bubble. Today we experienced this at the park. Yes, right here in my very diverse city.

When I walked up to the park with my two ethnic children, the park was a busy and happening place. There were quite a few moms with 2-4 kids each. They were all white. We got some side long glances and suddenly the moms were much more involved in supervising their children's play time at the park. My attempts at conversations were met with curt, yet polite responses and then the moms would remove their kids to another play area, going from the swing to the slide or teeter totter. Okay, I thought, whatever. We're only playing for an hour and leaving anyway, but then it happened.

A preschool or day care or summer program came to the park. There were about 10 to 20 kids, mostly minority kids. There were a few in wheel chairs and a few "normal" white kids. A good mixed group. I was happy to see them because I thought, finally, some kids that will play with mine. Sure enough, several of them, all minority kids, came over and played with my kids. Then I looked up and started to see the scene. As these kids would come over to the swing area or the slide areas the moms would quickly start saying to their kids, lets go to the teeter totters or lets go to the climbers. Thankfully all these minority kids seemed oblivious to this, although I'm sure they were aware. Kids are smart like that. The kids would almost seem to be following the mom and kid group to the next things. After a short time, less than 10 minutes really, the moms were quickly gathering their kids and actually leaving the park.

I could see and hear them leaving the park. I could overhear the bits and pieces of justifications. "They're loud and unruly." "They didn't seem very clean." "They're not very polite." "They just weren't taking turns." And on and on and on.

You know what? They were really just 10 to 20 minority kids in some sort of care program being kids. They weren't any more rude or dirty or loud or selfish than the white kids.

It's a really hard sort of discrimination to swallow. Mostly because I know I'm guilty of being that white mom in the past. The one that sees the minority kids come to the play ground and cuts our playtime short. It's hard too because as the white mom, you really can't put your finger on it. You're really good at making all sorts of excuses that make it seem like it was okay, and yet...there it is.

So overall, I'm a little bummed out today. I'm sad that no one is looking at my kids and seeing the fire in their eyes or hearing them say please and thank you. I'm sad they aren't getting the opportunity to have some of these special kids climb on their laps, give tremendous hugs, and whisper I love you mama in their ear. I'm sad they see only kinky hair, brown skin and flat noses. I'm sad they only hear accents and ethnic names and foreign languages. I'm sad people are joking about ghetto this and that. Let me show you sometime where ghetto is and meet the people who live there. It's not a joke. It's not cool. It's some one's life, whether they chose it or not.

Where else are we giving out that subtle discrimination? Is it against the weak, the poor, those we think are committing sins worse than ours? Those women who choose abortion instead of life? Those who have addictions? How about the people with alternative life styles? Tattoos? Piercings? Single parents? The divorced? Which is it? Which groups are the ones we so casually say, "Oh I have XYZ friends so I'm not guilty of judging."? As Christians we can sometimes be the worst offenders. We so smugly stand behind our statements like "love the sinner, hate the sins." Blech. Let's be looking in the mirror.

Okay. Done crabbing for today.

1 comment:

debbie said...

Wow, Jen. I got nothing to comment, say, or add. You said it all. I think you have a very unique perspective because you can stand by the side and here the real reactions of people, before they realize you are part of the "group". I hope this piece gets lots of exposure. I think every person who reads it is guilty on some level. Thanks for laying it out there.