This a true story that I am about to share with you, one that I almost hesitate to share because I know some of my readers in my daily life but one that I think needs to be shared for all those who think that the election of Barack Obama has done away with racism in America. For all the talk of post racial America, I call bullshit loud and clear. No, racism is still woven into the very fabric of this nation and our culture and I have discovered the seeds of racism are still planted very young and will ensure that we still will grapple with this evil for at least another generation.
Up until a few months ago, I worked at a freelance grant-writer and consultant, a job that after a while was starting to wear on me. Too many of my clients looked to me as a miracle worker and in the current economic climate I started to realize a little job security might be a good thing. Which is why when the opportunity came up to become Executive Director of a center that serves poor and working class families in a neighboring community came up, I jumped at the position.
Now as a Black woman in Maine, I was a tad hesitant about how this might work since all the families we serve are white, however as a person who was raised poor and working class I can relate to these folks. Well, initially I thought things were going well and while the board (aka my bosses) probably feel they are going well, I am starting to realize that for some of our families my blackness is an issue.
Recently due to a staffing shortage, I have had to take over running of the after school program myself some days which means that I have a lot more contact with the kids and their families then either I or the board thought would be necessary. The only alternative was to be closed until I can bring on the necessary staff which for some our families would have had a devastating effect since our program is free and these are not cheap services. I will be the first to tell you that watching the kids myself is outside my comfort zone, I like kids, shit, I own a couple myself but watching someone else’s kids is a different situation then watching your own kids especially when you are watching 20+ at a time.
Well at first, it looked liked things were going good, several parents I spoke with last week were happy that I was there and that we were going to be open albeit for less hours while I resolve the staff shortage. However a kid told me something last week that cut to my core and honestly unnerved me initially….little boy A generally comes everyday with his cousin, little boy B. So I noticed that little boy B had not been coming, so I asked his cousin A where was B. Little boy A told me that his cousin B was not allowed to come if our site manager was not there.
Now I have lived 36 years as a Black woman in America so you know where my mind went but I didn’t push and just left it alone, though it was still in the back of my mind until yesterday. A couple days ago, I saw little boy B and his Mama outside the center, well the Mama looked in and saw me and then put boy B back in the car and drove off….and no the site manager wasn’t there so it was just me.
Again, I pushed the doubts aside but yesterday well they came out again, yesterday our site manager was in which meant I could go back to my job of running the agency instead of overseeing this program, but boy B told me something that knocked me off my axis. So both boys were in yesterday and I commented to little boy A that it must be nice that his cousin was there and he said to me in the presence of the site manager that Little Boy B again can’t come if I am just there because Little Boy B’s parents don’t like me. Mind you he said it in that childlike naïve way that kids repeat what they hear at home. The site manager asked why all the while turning beet red and the little boy just repeated his statement again and said because……and that was it.
Now some might say “Blackgirl, you are jumping to conclusions” Um, no….like I said earlier I have been Black 36 years and some shit you just know, you don’t need a map or a GPS system in this case to get to the conclusion. Mind you until recently little boy B always came up to me and issued me a big hug and was always talkative, this kid is a sweetheart, in fact a truly likable kid. I have noticed that now he stays away from me as if he has been instructed to stay away from the nigger.
See, this is how you raise a racist and start em young. I will be honest I went home last night almost thinking what the fuck am I doing here. However I prayed to forgive that family and at this point it’s between them and the man upstairs, anger is not an emotion I either need or want though there is still sadness to see that such a warm loving kid is being raised to hate early on. So while for my more educated and open minded country men and women of the paler hue racism may seem like a thing of the past, I tell you nope it is not.