'This is a Monet, That's a Picasso and That There's An African-American'

Somewhere out there in the Indiana, California or Oregon there's a parent nervously nudging their kid along after Caleb Jr. or 'Kortni' just embarrassed them in front of a brother.

Caleb: "Why is that person burned, mommy?"
Nervous Parent: "Heh-heh-heh. Please don't kill us, large negro."

This exchange is pretty commonplace, though variations do exist:

The benign - "Why is that person brown?"
The toothsome - "Chocolate, mommy. Chocolate!"

or as my friend 'C' experienced in Disney World, The Darwinian -

"Look at the monkey, mommy."

Now my friend could have shrugged this off, as is often done. Instead she opted to glare at the kid, pacing back and forth menacingly.

Friend: "What'd you just say? Get on that ride, so I can throw yo' ass off!"
'Courtenay': "Waaaaaaaaah. Mommy!"

Nervous Parent: "Heh. Please don't kill us, Ms. Large Negro."

Fortunately for Mr. and Mrs. Wyoming, my friend lacks a mean streak and has only a phenomenal sense of humor. Courtneah was not flung off the ride - hopefully she just became nauseated and deposited Mickey Burgers all over dad's new Dodge Durango with the Hemi engine.

Usually in these cases, we attribute such inadvertent brickbats to innocence, such as when Caleb tells mom "Mommy, remember when daddy said you got a huge can? Can I put my Hot Wheels in it?"

Then there's the lack of diversity in the typical cul-de-sac, where the brownest person is Mrs. Anderson, whose leathery skin has been exposed to more sun than Ecuador.

These factors are taken into consideration when Caleb or 'Kourtenay' put their size 12 Stride Rites in your mouth. That's why you don't give get a crack of knuckles across your Botoxed forehead. We give your kid the benefit of the doubt - the first time.

What can you do, you ask? Here are a couple suggestions that might be helpful.

1. Take the kids to the 'hood for a KFC bucket. Chances are you won't get shot. (It's not like you don't run the same risk at your neighborhood Denny's or Mc Donald's). Take a few singles with you, though. 'Dre and Speed like to hang out in front and might ask you for a couple of bucks, since their car 'ran out of gas'.

2. Nothing says 'urban' more than the Complete Second Season of Good Times. Dy-No-Miiiiite! It's such a more genuine portrayal than the Cosby Show, Hangin' With Mr, Cooper or that show with Urkel in it.

3. Here's an idea: jazz. 98% of the true jazz artists are dead, so they'll never ask you to (god forbid) take them to a concert. Also, thuggish wardrobe didn't come into play until much, much later, so there's no risk of Caleb or Cortnee coming home with a FUBU hoodie, saggin' their jeans or anything.

Get with the times. You're doing your child a disservice if you wait for them to get to college to meet their first African-American friend. You never know. The next 'monkey' they meet might indeed "throw their ass" off the ride.


rob said...

Wait a second?

Good Times is about black people?

I just thought my TV's contrast was fucked up.

archshrk said...

I think you confussed California with Arizona. There is diversity-a-plenty here in Cali ( <-- see, I'm hip). But your point is well taken. We often forget that our experiences do not get passed down genetically, so the first time our white child sees an african-american they are confussed. At best we can hope they aren't racist, too.

keda said...

never heard of it sadly.
we're going the old southern way over here.. our last 3 helpers (maids!! shock horror, dont look at me like that i'm a single mother of twins living abroad in the almost middle east- its compulsory to have a maid!) have been black.
now the chilelets want to BE african with braids and get to hoover all the time when not dancing and singing at church.
its hard work trying to convince them that its ok to pasty arsed. i'm an obvious embarrassement and they are NOT turned on by the turkish headscarf look.
so my littlets are more likely to wanna hang in the hood than anywhere else. which could be a whole other problem... scary female ali g's spring to mind!

Pickalish said...

I just had my first experience with this a few weeks ago. Living in Montana, we have about 4 'african' people in the town we live in...not exactly a cultural melting pot. My son has never been exposed to other ethnicities, but that's from lack of diversity, and nothing else. Anyhow. While at Burger King, a huge tour-bus-thing pulled into the parking lot right as we were dumping our trays. Out comes probably 20 or so, of the TALLEST, NBA wannabes I had ever seen. Obviously college ball players...and I quickly inhaled a large breath and prayed that Si wouldn't say anything 'rude.' We headed out the door, and his eyes got huge...a few of them made some 'how are you' type of comments, as I held my breath. He didn't say a word....until we got out the door. Then, my son looked up at me, and totally seriously, with a look of awe said: "MOM!! How come those guys are soooooooo...tall?" Kids. Gotta love em'. They don't even know until their taught....racism/intolerance is something parents need to teach on a daily basis, let the kids be your guide.

used*to*be*me* said...


Pickalish said...

Since I don't know how to email you, I'd like to tell you that YES, I DID pay for that. I think it was around 1988 or something. It's the cutest little CD I own, yellow with pink polka dots on it....ahahahhahahahahahahahah. I'm sure my neighbors appreciate it as much as you do. =)

kenju said...

When did you get so funny??

You are so right. UNfamiliarity breeds contempt, I say.

Carmi said...

I'm always thinking about ways to teach our kids about diversity. Then it dawns on me: just expose them to it as a normal part of their life - then they'll never perceive African-Americans, or any other visible minority/majority/whatever-ity group as "different".

Maybe Hitler would have been a bit nicer if his Mom had taken the time.