#315 In which our hero hears of a fairly amazing experience involving his daughter; and is proud.
Little background first: my daughters (currently aged 7 and 8) ride the bus to school. This started last year; before then I was working at a place in Akron which forced me to leave early in the morning and The Scientist likewise had to leave early, so I dropped the girls off at daycare in the morning, and they then transported them to school.
But now I’m working downtown, and don’t have to leave the house nearly as early. So I have time to wait until the bus arrives at 7:25, load up the girls, then get to work in plenty of time. I usually get to work early, in fact. Which is ideal, as it gives me to time catch up on my email and Facebook, and do things like write this.
Last year the bus driver was Mr. Chuck. We liked Mr. Chuck a lot. Always waved and said good morning to me, played the radio, and generally was a nice guy. As an added bonus he lives only a couple blocks away from us. Oh, and Mr. Chuck is black.
This year we have a different bus driver, Miss Debbie. She seems nice, if not as gregarious as Mr. Chuck.
So, The Scientist took the girls to Speedway a couple of weeks ago to get Slurpees. They ran into Mr. Chuck. The following conversation ensued:
THE SCIENTIST: Mr. Chuck! You’re not driving the girls this year.
MR. CHUCK: No, they gave me a different route.
TS: That’s too bad.
MC: Who’s driving your girls this year?
TS: Actually, I don’t know. My husband puts the girls on the bus. Macey, who’s driving your bus this year?
MACEY: It’s a lady. I don’t remember her name.
MC: A lady? Is she black or white?
MACEY: I don’t know what you mean.
MC: Well, is she a black lady or a white lady?
MACEY: I have no idea what you’re talking about.
TS: Macey, Mr. Chuck is asking if she has light-colored skin or dark-colored skin.
MACEY: OH! Dark colored skin!
I was fairly amazed when I heard this. Macey didn’t understand what “black” or “white” meant in terms of race.
My first reaction is that The Scientist and I are doing a pretty damn good job of raising our kids. And other people we’ve told the story to have said the same thing.
But I don’t know. I mean, yeah, we’re not racists, and we have no motivation to make sure our 7- and 8-year-olds know about the race division in the country… but I don’t know if we’re actively teaching tolerance in our household. Is simply not pointing out the differences in race tantamount to teaching racial equality?
And we’re middle class white people, so the truth is we have it pretty easy, racially speaking. I imagine that Mr. Chuck’s kids don’t have the luxury of not knowing what “black” or “white” mean.
Or maybe I’m over-analyzing the experience. I’m proud that to my 7-year-old, skin color is no more important than hair or eye color. I’d like to think that her mother and I have had a part in this attitude.
But more than anything, I’d like to believe that this is just the reality of children today. That the world is so racially diverse, that it’s just not important what color your skin is. That for this generation, it’s just not a thing any more. But I’m not sure I believe it. Not yet.
But I have hope.