Race and my southern town

29 Jun

I wasn’t sure if I wanted to write about this or not, since I tend to keep things fairly light on here, but I thought I should throw this out there.

I don’t think I mentioned this, but recently on PBS was a documentary about the town I love in – Welcome to Shelbyville. It’s about the influx of Somali immigrants in town. There was a few years back, a bunch of articles in my local paper that were anti-Somali/anti-Muslim – with a lot of extremely hateful comments.

Here’s the deal, I only see the Somali’s at the grocery store. They always smile at me, I think because I have cute African American kids. At any rate, I worked at a Middle East Center for 3 years, I have no issue with Muslims or immigrants (my mom’s an immigrant, from Canada). But, if you listen to the people in my town whether in the newspaper or on this video, they’re making it out like the Somali’s are super illegal terrorist immigrants. They also deny being racist when called out…

So, this relates to me personally because I not only have black children, but they’re African immigrants. I was really scared the first few times we took the babies out. No surprise to anyone else that nothing happened. But, when people, from here, ask me why we’re moving – not wanting to raise my children in the south is a pretty big reason.

I thought I’d also mention that we’ve been really lucky in that we haven’t had to deal with a lot of comments. We had an incident at a playground where a little girl of about 5 or 6 kept petting Bea’s hair, like she was a puppy or something. I don’t think she was doing it to be mean but more because she didn’t understand why Bea’s hair was so different than hers. The issue, for me, was that Bea was clearly uncomfortable with being touched yet this girl kept doing it, and her mother said nothing. So, I said something. All I said was “do you mind not petting my daughter? It is making her uncomfortable.” The girl started crying. And her mom shot me dirty looks as they left. I make friends everywhere.

We had another incident where an older AA woman kept trying to hold the babies – without asking my or my husband’s permission. When she picked up Lucien, he flipped out, because you know, stranger…she was acting as though she was laying claim on them because they were the same color and I was not. It was really weird. She also asked me how long we were planning on keeping them. In an effort to make friends with her, I asked how long she was planning on keeping her children. She didn’t get it and asked again how long I was planning on keeping them for their parents. I repeated my question of how long was she planning on keeping her kids. She left.

We actually only had one other crazy old white lady yell at us…we were at the hospital waiting our turn at the lab and some old lady started talking to us about the babies…can you guess where this is headed? She asked us where we “bought” them and why didn’t we adopted “a perfectly good white kid?” I told her we bought them at the store and they were on sale. That didn’t stop her, she also told us about her son getting lots of women pregnant but that it wasn’t his fault because he was so attractive. Like I said, she was crazy.

I’m a bit worried about our move. The town we’re moving to is mostly white, that’s what is worrying me. I want my children seeing other kids that look like them. And I know it’s completely unavoidable, but I hope they don’t have to deal with racists. I think that would break my heart for them.

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3 Responses to “Race and my southern town”

  1. deva @ cottageid.com June 29, 2011 at 01:43 #

    oh my. it is unfortunate, for sure, but it is great that you speak the truth on the blog. if this makes you feel any better, i had a very elderly white woman from georgia offer to hold my baby so i could go in the ocean (what? why would i leave my baby with you???) and all i could think of is that she was a part of a very creepy part of u.s. history. on another note, here in swampland there are a surprising amount of mixed race couples. america is strange. oh, and i still get people asking me if i know my parents…you know.. my “real parents”…the ones i met just once, didn’t raise me, and won’t respond to my e-mails. oh, those people! lol

    • Chantal June 29, 2011 at 01:55 #

      Why wouldn’t you just take your baby in the water, too? That’s just weird. Old ladies who thinking their being helpful, but are really being creepy freak me out.

      I’m not surprised you see a lot of interracial couples/families – isn’t your town right by a college town? You’re also in Florida, which I’m convinced is just full of people from New England and Jersey and New York. I’m also maintain that there are no native Floridians, but I could be wrong on that one.

      Yeah, I haven’t been asked if I knew my ‘real’ parents in a long time. I’ve thought about finding them, but in all honesty, it’s a lot of work and I’m fairly lazy…I have a friend who met his birth parents and it went really well, but his brother, who was adopted from a different family, wanted to meet his birth mother and it went really badly (he found out he was the child of a rape – which must be so hard to hear, I can’t imagine).

      Anyway, I suspect that the babies will hear it a lot. We’ve talked about trying to find their families when they get older, but since we don’t really know anything, I don’t even know if that would be possible. I suppose if they wanted to meet their birth families, the best we could do is take them to Kinshasa to see where they lived before living with us…thankfully we don’t have to worry about that for a while – especially since I just told J that I’m not travelling with the babies on a plane again for a long time.

    • Chantal June 29, 2011 at 01:57 #

      Also, about the old lady you encountered – I’ve seen way too many Lifetime movies to ever feel comfortable about strangers in general holding my kids. 🙂

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