Sunday, November 4, 2012

Latte Baby (A note on diversity)

When I worked at Banana Republic, I consumed alooooot of Starbucks.  My drink of choice was a venti 6-pump vanilla nonfat Caramel Macchiato - I usually had two per shift. I cringe now at the thought of how much sugar and caffeine I needed (wanted? survived on?) or thought I needed to get through the day.  So upon leaving BR for Habitat for Humanity, I kicked the my habit and introduced plain old black coffee  into my routine. My friend Jeremy and I used to work together and he'd make our coffee run each morning (at least until I was pregnant) - my order was always the same: "grande coffee with 1 splenda and half & half to the color of this" - and pointed to the inside of my arm. And when my coffee came back, swirled with enough dairy to indeed match the color of my arm, I was pleased.

You're probably wondering why the heck I'm telling you all of this - and really, the point is to acknowledge that my skin is brown (well, duh).  And Brian is white and we made a freaking adorable dual-ethnicity baby.  I know what it was like to grow up a minority in my community - there wasn't another student of color in my grade school until I was 10 (not counting my brothers). I grew up in a predominantly white suburb of St. Louis and while I was used to being "different", from an ethnic perspective, I'm just one thing.

Relevant Sidenote: Thoughout this post, you won't see me use the word "race".  I understand race to be a social construct and make-believe way to segregate people.

Lately, I've found myself in a number of conversations with parents of multi-ethnic and/or differing ethnic background children.  And, like me, these parents are worried about something that they can't quite articulate yet - but are scared will happen nonetheless.  For me, it's this idea that, if I don't create a purposefully diverse & inclusive experience for Cam, that he'll feel lonely or like he's missing out on some part of himself.  Or that he'll feel like an outsider or the token mixed kid... Does this make sense? I mean, I think all parents worry about their kids happiness/adjustability...... but I guess I'm just worried that we live in a crazy world with racism and hate and people who hurt each other all the time over things like nationality and skin color and history.  And I don't want MY kid to be one that gets hurt. 

There were times when Cam was little and people mistook me for his nanny.  I had to laugh when an old friend shared the same experience about raising her daughters in NY.  Now, she's thinking about moving back to the midwest and thinks "it" (hating/judging/ignorance) will be worse here.  And, it might be, but they working to make it happen.  I do think you have to work at giving your kid(s) the experience you want them to have.  One of my co-workers is semi-step mommy to her boyfriend's daughter, who is white and black.  They want her childhood to reflect both cultures, which is a little challenging in a city as segregated as St. Louis... but they are willing to give it a go.  So it makes me feel better that there are other parents thinking about diversity as part of their child's upbringing.

So, I guess this will be an ongoing topic as Cam gets old and whenever BGS arrives on the scene (who'll most likely not be white, indian or a combination of the two!).

“A first child is your own best foot forward, and how you do cheer those little feet as they strike out. You examine every turn of flesh for precocity, and crow it to the world." - Barbara Kingsolver

"Diversity may be the hardest thing for a society to live with, and perhaps the most dangerous thing for a society to be without. ” ― William Sloane Coffin Jr.

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