Monday, June 29, 2009

Racial radar

I totally support our church children's camp, but I sort of got off on the wrong foot the first morning. A friend of mine was in charge of the snack each day and she gathered us helpers, three other women and me, to tell us her plan for setting up the food and coordinating each camper group that would be arriving. She needed to do something to settle the kids down before they ate. She said she would start with a song, and she suggested, "Jesus Loves the Little Children."

I immediately said, "I don't like that song." Everyone turned to me, incredulous. "Why not?!" The song has a great message. Jesus surely does love all the children of the world and they are truly precious in his sight. But I answered, "Because children are not red and yellow, black and white."

One woman said, "My husband said that song is not politically correct." Politically? I don't care about that. I think the words to the song are racially insensitive. My beautiful daughters are certainly not "yellow" and my Cherokee family members are not "red" by any stretch of the imagination. All the people of the world are lovely shades of brown! Without a word my friend went in to meet the campers and sang a different song.

Having children of a different race has opened my eyes to our culture's biases and stereotypes. My radar zeroes in on them. What do you think? Am I being too sensitive?


Anonymous said...

My husband's company is very diverse racially and otherwise. The company prides itself on the fact. At least once a year they hold diversity classes. One year the instructor asked everyone to stand up. They were to sit down as he/she went through a list of reasons people are discriminated against .. if it pertained to them. My white, healthy middle-aged Anglo Saxon husband looked around the room and thought "I am going to be the only one left standing". Well guess what ... he had been in the military and service men are frequently discriminated against. I have been discriminated against on the job and otherwise because of my sex. I have been discriminated against on the job because I was married and considered too unstable. Years ago men were discriminated against because they were NOT married and thus considered to be too unstable. My husband has been discriminated against because of his former military status. My grandparents were discriminated against because they came to the United States through Ellis Island and did not speak English. When they went to work in the United States, they got the low-paying, dirty, "ethnic" jobs. That was true of every ethnic group that came to the United States. I have/had relatives and friends with mental health issues and they have been discriminated against terribly. People with cancer and other illnesses are discriminated against and/or refused employment (and/or healthcare) because of this. The middle-aged and elderly (and we are moving into that elderly age group) are discriminated against by employers, health care workers, and the general population. I have relatives and friends with physical handicaps. They are discriminated against. It does not matter that these things are illegal but it still happens. We are all the victims of discrimination at some point in our lives ... some worse than others. It is particularly difficult when the victim is young, or elderly, or ill and cannot fend for themselves and it is someone we care about. It is not fair but it is a fact of life. Sometimes it is worth fighting about and sometimes it isn't. I have never been very good at knowing the difference.


Deb said...

Thanks for the reminder that not all discrimination is about race. We each need to search our hearts and root out any judgmental attitudes we might have against anyone. I know I am sometimes blind to my own prejudices. God loves all His people.

Anonymous said...

I'm not sure the race of the woman, but if she has never had to experience being a racial minority in the area where you live, she may not have ever considered that she was anything but white (assuming that she is caucasian) and therefore others aren't anything but black, red and yellow. I agree with you totally. I hate filling out paperwork and marking that I am white. I'm anything but. I'm a shade of olive beige. lol But, for me in marking white, I'm having to not acknowledge a huge part of me that is my Cherokee ancestry. For many Americans, it isn't so simple as black, white, etc... I think those color terms applied here can be very derogatory and disrespectful, but I often don't think people even consider that as a possibility when using them. I believe you were fine to mention it and tactful.