Now, while we do live pretty close to St. Louis, our little town can be like a whole different world. We don’t exactly have a lot of diversity here. Historically, the French settled this place, then the Germans came. So we mostly have a bunch of white people still running around today (even some still-full-blooded Germans, like Steve’s mom, and some with slight German accents like his grandma), plus a handful of Hispanics at the Mexican restaurant, a handful of Chinese at the Chinese restaurant, and a handful of black people scattered around. The census bureau says in 2006 the county had 97.2% of white, non-Hispanic, people. That’s just the way it is, it’s not good or bad, that’s just how it is.
But that’s not to say my kid doesn’t encounter non-white people at all. Plenty of times we’ve been out of town and been surrounded by more diversity (especially when we visit family in Mississippi), plenty of times he’s been in Chinese restaurants (he loves Chinese food), he watches TV and it’s not like we watch “segregated TV,” and, heck, I’ve shown him pictures of my Hispanic relatives. In fact, the show he is watching now has what looks like a black girl, Hispanic boy, a white girl, and a male… pig.
So you can imagine my horror when…
…he finally decided to notice that people are different.
Something about the grocery store makes this kid just chatter endlessly. I don’t know what it is, he just talks and talks and talks. It drives me CRAZY. I can’t think when I’m faced with that. We first got some bread at the bakery area, got some medicines, then headed down the dairy aisle. I’d already decided I wanted some ice cream – haven’t had any in a while and have really been craving it -and while I’m trying to decide what to get, he’s constantly going, “can we get some ice cream? I want ice cream! Ice cream pleaaaaase!” Just over and over and over again. He was driving me nuts and I was already starting to tune him out.
We turn the corner and we’re walking past the cheeses. I look at something to the left when E suddenly screams out, “THERE’S A BROWN GUY!” I see a black man, an employee, leave the meat section ahead of us and head towards the front of store. Sarah got right in Elijah’s face hissing, “Elijah SHUT UP.” She’s totally mortified, as I am. I mean, it’s a simple observation and he is only four-years-old, but, ah, you other parents out there feel me. I guess it’s mostly embarrassing because it implies that he either has never seen someone with dark skin before (which isn’t true) or that he comes from a racist household (which also isn’t true). I also would never want to contribute to someone of a different color getting the feeling he/she is not welcome in this white town. And while I celebrate differences between the people, you never know who is touchy about their own differences and who isn’t, especially when that person is, indeed, a minority in this area. Besides that, your kid screaming anything out in the grocery store just has its own level of embarrassment to build upon.
So as we walk on I explain to him that everyone is different, but we don’t need to point out the differences just for the sake of pointing them out. Well, not in those words exactly. Mostly it’s along the lines of just be quiet while we’re in the grocery store before you drive me freaking crazy.
I ask Sarah if she thinks the guy heard and she looks at me and nods like, “DUH!” As that is going on, the man comes again, heading back to the meat area. Elijah starts to yell out again, “THERE’S THAT–” I clamped my hand over his mouth and I can hear a muffled, “brown guy again” from under my hand. Sarah looks at me and goes, “let’s get out of here!” Haha
This is all very reminiscent of when he was three and how he’d embarrass me every every every time in the grocery store by pointing to the older ladies – or even those that weren’t really old but maybe had a touch of grey hair or glasses or short curly hair – and yell out, “THAT’S A GRANDMA! THERE’S GRANDMA!” You can see why that would be equally embarrassing, especially the times when he’d yell it at someone who very well may not have been a grandma but may have had younger children. I got a dirty look from an old lady after one of those once, even though I apologized.
Well, I guess I’m just getting what I deserve. After all, I did the same thing to my mom. When she was pregnant with my brother and I was three, I, apparently, during one or more of her appointments, made comments about her doctor’s skin color. The doctor was from India. Same doctor that delivered me and who I went to when I was 18. Wonder if she remembered my saying those things when I was three? :P
Well, maybe I just need to stop taking my kid to the grocery store until he’s like… 20.