kids and race
At dinner tonight, I asked D if he knew why we were celebrating Martin Luther King’s birthday. He said that King was famous, and that he worked so that blacks and whites could both do things equally. Fair enough for a first grader.
Last year, D’s class was almost entirely African-American, with one other white kid. This year, at a different school, his classmates are more diverse, with a majority Hispanic, but a scattering of white, black, and Asian kids. He considers almost all of his classmates his friends, with Pokemon the main unifying interest. When he draws a generic person, he reaches for the brown crayons.
But we’re not living in a non-racial utopia. One day D came home sad because a classmate didn’t want to play with him, and he explained it as this boy only wanting to play with other kids with brown skins. I didn’t know what to say. We’ve been trying to set up a playdate with another kid for months, but it hasn’t happened — I’m not sure whether it’s the language barrier, cultural issues, or just that family’s lack of interest.
D’s invited about 8 of his classmates to his birthday party next week, and we haven’t heard back from most of them. I’m afraid that my super-sensitive kid is going to be heartbroken if they don’t come. And I’m concerned about what message he’s going to take away if it’s only white kids who wind up coming.
I don’t think it’s race per se that’s the barrier, but economic class and language may well be issues. Some of the kids’ parents probably don’t own cars. Our house is only about half a mile from the bus stop, but the buses run very seldom on weekends. Or non-fluent English speakers may feel awkward about calling us to RSVP. We’re going to ask his teacher if we’re allowed to bring in cupcakes so he can celebrate with his friends in any case, but I’m still worried. I’m probably overdoing it with the party preparations (a papermache pokeball pinata, a jigsaw puzzle with a secret message) to compensate.