In light of today being MLK Day– I will jump on the bandwagon in hopes that it brings a little sense and clarity to you all.
Some of you may already think you have your race game on point- but as a responsible mom, what game are you teaching your children? What do your children think about MLK Day and what does ‘equality’ mean to them?
MLK Day is a new ‘holiday’ to me. Canadians don’t consider this a national holiday. Canadians are more into celebrating Gordon Lightfoot and Buffy St. Marie’s birthdays instead. But seriously, as resident of Amerikuh, I realize why racism will forever be alive and strong here. It’s because so much attention is brought to what color someone is, whether in media or in any passing conversation. So much so, that national holidays consist of days and months based on just that. A fucking color.
When Julien was 3 years old, he came home after pre-school one day and said to me, “We are going to have a parade for MLK day for a black man named Marin Lufa King.” The way he said it, all curly haired and doe eyed with his tiny voice was absolutely adorable. But the word “black” and the fact that he used that to describe a person- threw me off. He was obviously repeating what his teachers were ‘teaching’ them- which to me was just wrong.
So I found a black piece of paper, and I took a sheet of white paper from the printer. I set them down in front of him. I asked, “What color are these pieces of paper?” He said, “That one is black and that one is white”. Then I asked, “Have you ever seen a person who is either of these colors?” His response with a giggle, “No mommy!”
I wanted him to see with his own eyes what black looked like and what white looked like and that they were colors- not adjectives to describe human beings.
I told him, “Exactly. People have names– they are not colors. No one is black and no one is white.” Julien chimed in, “Except for ghosts. They are white and clear.”
Maybe these words black and white bother me so much because I grew up in one of the world’s largest cosmopolitan cities in the world, Toronto, Canada. Today, Toronto’s demographic consists of an almost 50/50 mix of native born, vs. non-native born citizens. Walk down any street in downtown Toronto and see a true cultural melange of people of Asian, Eastern European, Middle Eastern, African, Latin American descent and hear over 50 languages being spoken. Amazing. No place in the USA compares to the Toronto mosaic.
My best friend growing up in elementary school was Indian. I vividly remember going to her house on Saturday mornings and eating freshly made Chapati while watching colorful and comical Bollywood musicals and trying on all of her mom’s amazing (and I mean, HOLY FUCKING SHIT OUT OF THIS WORLD amazing- gold jewelry and headpieces). My neighborhood friends were Jamaican, Polish, Italian and Indonesian. I snacked on fresh Beef Patties and Coco Bread, perfect Pizelle and authentic Braciole, handmade Pierogis and savory Chicken Satay with peanut sauce- all at the age of 8. I had no clue whether it was ‘different’ or ‘strange’. We never looked at each other and saw colors. All that mattered was that I was probably the youngest and first true ‘foodie’ to have ever lived (Anthony Bourdain had nothing on me), and that we got to ride our bikes all day long and not come home until the street lights came on. Fuck yes.
The childhood that my kids are experiencing now, obviously is not the same as what I experienced. Instead of snowy winters and four seasons- their lives are basically one long spring summer, but mostly summer. Instead of backyard skating rinks and skates they have the ocean and surfboards. Life here is warm and simple. Me moving here back in ’03 was for sheer selfish reasons. So I could
be braless and wear dresses and flip flops every day expand my career horizons and avoid snow. In doing that, I happened to meet a local Miami born dude that I would have two kick ass amazing boys with, and create a happy family and life to love and grow with.
I often times have the inner debate: why not give them a life of four seasons and true cultural diversity (and an amazing public school system and all of my kick-ass Toronto friends and free babysitting by my mom) and move back to Toronto?
Aside from the big FUCK NO HELL NO that flashes in head in big ass marquee lights with high pressure sodium lightbulbs that can burn your eyes if you look at them- I instead, have chosen to consciously make an effort to expose them to as many cultures as possible whether it be when we make our travel plans; to the books that I buy for them and read to them (Whoever You Are; Book of Cities; Maps and Walk This World, are some beautiful and globally enriching personal faves) and through the foods (OH the food!) that I encourage them to try. I emphasize that we are all human beings. We are all the same. And we all have NAMES. We are not COLORS.
So until the rest of Amurikuh wakes up and realizes this, they will never truly overcome. The best we can do as leaders of our own little packs, is to start the lessons in the comfort of our own homes.
On this ‘day’ I encourage you if anything, to please open your eyes and think about how to raise your kids to be citizens of the world and to be color blind. Let’s keep the use of the color ‘black’ to describe the color you want your Mercedes Benz G-Wagon in
that you want your husband to buy you for Christmas this year .