Tuesday, May 02, 2006

Trying for "tactful".

I grew up in and around military bases. It's a wonderful environment to grow up in (if you can ignore the constant moving we had to do.) You'd be hard-pressed to find a more culturally diverse group of people all living under approximately the same socio-economic circumstances. If you also happen to go to a school on a military base, you are surrounded by people that live the same kind of lives (to put it in very basic terms) and therefore you all have a lot in common regardless of your race.

My children... Well, they are growing up in the south. We are firmly rooted in the middle class, (although I did see a chart on Oprah.com that put us in the upper middle class. Ha!) and live in suburbia. They are considered white. I say considered because I am half Japanese and half white-boy-from-Iowa, so they are actually part Japanese. But they are white, especially if you take their suburban white-bred environment (and Dad) into consideration.

We live in a neighborhood that is made up of upper middle class professional people, and it is mostly white. The drop-off line at the school consists of a lot of SUV's, and the majority of those are the expensive kind. In fact, we live in one of the lower cost sections of our neighborhood. We don't have a garage (gasp) and only have 3 bedrooms (double gasp.)

I tell you all of this because I am having trouble teaching my children about other races and other economic situations. A little while ago we were standing in line and there was an African-American boy in front of us. My son started to say hello, like he knew him. The boy was a little older, and didn't want to ruin the whole "cool" thing he had going, so he turned away from my son to keep on talking with his friends. I then asked my son if he knew him, to which my little angel replied, "I know Trey." I said, "Is that Trey?" "No," he said, "but he's brown like Trey. I know brown people." Yeah. He actually said that.

Then I had to take him aside and tell him that just because someone has the same color hair or skin as someone else, that doesn't make them the same. We all have our own names, likes, dislikes, etc... You get the gist. I then had to tell him to say African-American, or around here they say Black. But I'm not even sure what the correct term is, to be honest with you. I've never been good with things like that. I always referred to myself as half Oriental, until I was told that Oriental refers to a thing, and Asian is the correct term for people. Who knew? Not me.

My children also do not understand the concept of not being able to afford things. And, really, I don't want to be thinking of money, money, money all the time. But I do want them to be aware that not everyone can afford to get some things or do some things. And at times, that someone can include us. Especially in a neighborhood full of people who think nothing of dropping a few hundred dollars for lessons, toys, etc... They also ask questions about why people don't have things that they have. I want them to be tactful when they ask, but, you know, they're kids. They are hardly ever tactful.

It makes me long for the days I had growing up when we were all in the same boat. Because I can see the teenage years now, and it doesn't look pretty. I don't want my kids to feel like they need to keep up with the Joneses. And I don't want them to look down on anybody that can't keep up with them. Also, living in the South, we're going to encounter racism. And I really don't want my children to be the racist ones.

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