A-S-S-U-M-E, makes an ass out of You and Me

Friday, November 12, 2010

Inspired by Kelli's Diwali story, I recalled one of our family's very own little cultural misfires.

I was interviewing for a job in Vermont, and it was looking like it had some pretty good potential. As such, Terrance and I made a second trip to the area with the intent of interviewing a number of child care centers for Emily.

Yes. A Whole day and Trip devoted to interviewing child care centers. I don't think I have to tell most of YOU that child care quality is one of our family's top priorities....and that I am deeply aware of the time and energy it can take to find the right place for family and child. In fact, I had made it clear to the potential employer that finding child care was a major contingency of my accepting the position.

We were on our 3rd or 4th interview of the day - with Emily in tow. As she raced through the space exploring and looking and touching ( and most likely licking things too), I asked my list of questions.

As a dual race family, living in the (statistically) whitest parts of New England, sensitivity to...well ANYTHING that wasn't the dominant white culture was important to us. It was one of the concerns which eventually helped move us to Montreal, this desire for our daughter to see other people who looked like Her.

My question was pretty straightforward: "Can you talk a bit about your programs policy regarding diversity and  anti bias curriculum?"

(Okay I own that maybe this was a scary question...but at the same time, I was talking to Another ECE professional in what, I was told, was the BEST child care in the area.)

The director paused. She looked at Terrance and I.

"We don't celebrate Kwanzaa, but we would be happy to, if you wanted..."

Her words tumbled out so quickly that it took a moment for them to sink into our brains.  Terrance looked at me. I looked back at him.

"We don't celebrate Kwanzaa. We celebrate Christmas", I said.

Long Awkward Silence.

Needless to say, I didn't take the job and she never attended that child care.

*There is nothing wrong in asking questions and being genuinely curious about cultures other than the one in which you grew up. It is one of the ways that my marriage with Terrance has been able to be successful. However, it is quite another to assume things about families or children based on external characteristics such as race, religion, sexual orientation of the parents, age or profession.

In hindsight, the "correct" answer may have been "You know, we haven't really thought about it but we are willing to work with you to learn more." It isn't about being ALL the way there, but about being willing to take the journey.

6 Baleful Regards:

Cagey (Kelli Oliver George) said...

I loved your comment on my post. I don't mind that folks assume that Manoj is Hindu. What I do mind is that Manoj doesn't make much of an effort to help people understand that he is NOT.

Also, my word verification for this comment is "ruchi" which is Hindi for tasty. Odd!

Dawn said...

It makes me wonder too, Kelli, how Your children will be "asked" about what they "are"...Emily certainly has been asked by her peers, as it is clear that she isn't White, but most likely Not entirely ...something else Not white.

And Terrance has gotten angry with me for trying to push Him. "I'm not the damn spokesman for the Black People" is something that may have been said in an argument.

But he has been dealing with this his whole life ( as has Manoj) whereas you and I come from this both as white American women...but also as Mothers of dual race children. I suspect that role tweaks our radars differently - especially since our children may turn to us First ( at least in my case Emily does).

Hmmm. Tasty Indeed. Now I am hungry.

monicac2 said...

The Kwanzaa comment kills me! Was it even close to the holiday season? Not that it matters, obviously, but I'm wondering how and why in her mind diversity+multiracial family = Kwanzaa. Gheesh! *walks away shaking head*

Dawn said...

I am pretty sure it was mid-summer since I was looking to start a position in a school board coordinating their early childhood programs.

Now Terrance has Taken Em to a friends Kwanzaa celebration in the past, but were just your regular old Catholic refugees. Terrance even attended Catholic school...until he bit a nun.

I don't know if she was just taken by surprise - or hadn't expected a Black Man and White Woman to show up at the interview/tour?

But Terrance and I still use it as a catchphrase.

Fraulein N said...

Okay, I laughed. I'm black, grew up in a predominantly black neighborhood ... and the only time I saw anything about Kwanzaa it was on TV.

ATC said...

Wow. Kwanzaa huh? Kind of had to laugh, kind of...not really.

My babies are biracial too. And trust you me - my little corner of southwest Saskatchewan is very, very white. I'm already dreading sending them to school.

Oh, and thanks for dropping by!

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