Saturday, May 06, 2006

Tiny Shards of Bigotry

My daughter is performing in her school's spring musical, "A Tribute to Broadway". These kids work their hearts out, staying at rehearsals until eight or nine in the evening after the long school day and not one of them has under a B average, which means they go home and do homework after all is said and done.

Their performance for the past two nights has been great. Arabella is in several of the skits and it does my mother's heart good to watch her.

At intermission I was treated to this conversation from the young college girl's behind me.

"Like, guess who's pregnant?"

"Mary. I know, I heard already."

After everyone agrees that Mary is indeed pregnant, the conversation moves on to their college experiences.

"I love going to NKU (Northern Kentucky University). It's so different from high school."

She went on to describe all the things that were so different from high school. I'd started texting people on my phone list like I always do when I'm bored and I wasn't paying them any attention but my ears perked up at the next bit of their conversation. Mind you they were sitting directly behind me.

"There aren't that many black kids. There are like two black kids in all my classes and their names are like 'April' and 'Jeremy'. (All her friends chuckle over the fact that the two black kids have what they feel are "white" names.) And like, they talk so proper. It's so weird."

I'm sure you can tell at which point my mouth dropped open and it wasn't soon after I started fuming. Then I decided they were ditzy little college chicks and I would just let it go.

Funnily enough, when my kid was on stage they were over the moon about her acting. I guess because she's nearly light skinned enough to "pass" and I suppose that it's nearly always a fairly good assumption that the kid playing "Little Orphan Annie" is going to be white (sorry, not tonight folks). Then Arabella's friend Ashley (the one who took her New York) comes on stage and gives a performance of "My Favorite Things" that was worthy of Julie Andrews herself. Ashley has a sparkling soprano and pristine diction that is in stark opposition to her normal purple hair and chain links attached to her jeans. However tonight, with her hair a normal brown, in a blue postulants dress, white pinafore and brown skin, she brought the house down.

As black kid after black came on stage and gave stellar performances besides their equally stellar white classmates, the conversation behind me got quiet.

When the show was over and the lights came up, I couldn't help it. I turned around, looked each one of them eye in turn and said, "Well, I guess there are a few more articulate black people around. Isn't that special?"

We're a light skinned family and I guess they just hadn't realized until I turned around that 1)I was black and 2) I was "Annie's" mom which made Annie black too and 3)the comment made and the laughter afterward were not appreciated. At least they had the graciousness to blush and keep quiet until after I had cleared their little group.

I know that it's so dangerously easy to fall into conversations like this sometimes but please, think before you speak. The feelings you save may just be my very own.


  1. Good for you for speaking up. I know it's not your job to correct their way of thinking but if more people call them on their ignorant ways, maybe it could make a difference in their mindset.

    Congrats on your daughter doing so well too! :-)

  2. I'm glad you said something, and I hope those girls learned something.

  3. Good for you!! The level of ignorance that remains in this country really makes me sick. I would have totally said something too :-)


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