Week 252: Friends, Diversity, and Tools

One of the things I liked about living in San Diego was that it was very multicultural. Our immediate community included folks who were Vietnamese, Australian, Filipino, Mexican, Japanese, Chinese, and whatever our neighbor Raju was. It was nice having Sam growing up in that kind of environment, but alas our current residence can probably best be described as “blindingly white” and so we all go without the benefit of diversity.

Sam illustrated how this has impacted her the other day when we were at the library. Once again she was proving herself to be the most outgoing member of our family by walking right up to this other little girl about her size and striking up a conversation. Mostly they talked about how old they were, the number of fingers required to communicate how old they are, and Sam’s shoes. I guessed that the little girl was of Chinese descent based on her appearance, though to notice this one really had to get past the immediate fact that she was apparently weaing pajamas to the library.

“That is my new friend Grace,” Sam announced to me once the conversation broke off and the girl in question wandered off. Sam then leaned in and fixed me with a meaningful look. “She’s a little bit Black.”

I ask you, Internet, what exactly is the appropriate response here? My first impulse was to loudly announce that Grace was in fact Chinese, or possibly Korean since I didn’t get a good look at her. Hell, maybe she’s from Laos. I don’t know. That struck me as kind of crass, though, so I lamely noted that yes, she had BLACK HAIR. Which she did. So I didn’t LIE.

Sam agreed, then started flipping through a book about dancing insects while I tried to appear nonchalant to the other parents in the immediate vicinity. Of course, the fact is that to her, Sam’s commentary had about as much meaning as noting that the girl was wearing blue socks or was three years old. It’s weird how adults project all kinds of anxieties about discussing race, while kids seem to take it at face value. I guess I wish we had enough diversity around us so that Sam could conceive of more than two check boxes. Lord knows what she’ll think if we ever go back to visit Raju.

Mandy says “Hi.” She has reached that delightful age where she endeavors to get into everything you don’t want her to, and by some wicked design she has proven herself better than her sister was at things like unscrewing lids, dragging chairs over to afford better access to heights, and creating tools out of whole cloth to get into things we don’t want her to. I’m serious, she’s like that monkey on the Discovery channel that would use a long stick to get delicious termites out of the ground. The other night I caught her in the act of taping two forks and a silly straw together so that she could snag a box of pene pasta on the top shelf of the pantry. I don’t understand why she WANTED a box of pene pasta, but knowing her it was probably just to see if she could.

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