Did some de-junking, spring cleaning, etc, the last few evenings. Several rooms in my house now echo. My children got a bit cavalier about filling the trash can.
"Mom, can I throw Dora away?"
"No! That's my culturally diverse toy."
"You have to have culturally diverse toys?"
"Yes. The inspector asks if I have culturally diverse toys and I show her Dora, and she puts a little check in the box."
My oldest gives me an incredulous look.
"And . . . the firetruck speaks Spanish, okay?" I tell her.
"Where are your white toys?"
She has a point. The State doesn't really care if I have a white baby doll. Or toys that speak English. As long as we have Dora the Explorer and a fire truck that can squawk "Violeta, Rojo, Blanco!"
"What, like balls and Hotwheels are white people toys?" she asks.
The debate goes around a few times and finally we decide that the NASCAR is about as white trash as you can get; I'll bet I can pick up something cheap on Craigslist. A Jeff Gordon action figure or a blanket maybe. We will be truly multicultural.
Does it bother you that every government form I fill out asks for the race of the child? Forms that have nothing to do with race. Not like a registration form that presumably the police might look through should we all be abducted as a group and nobody is left to tell them what we look like and so they could use my roster to put out a Missing Persons report for a middle aged white male and female, three caucasian children, four mixed blood Hispanics and a Nordic looking American Indian infant. Why does the USDA food program need to pinpoint the race of the children I'm feeding?
When I was growing up, we said things like, "That Indian kid. That Chinese girl." to identify a unique individual we'd seen on the bus, say. We also said "the tall kid, the blond kid, the fat kid." But I think we did notice the minorities as being, well, fewer in number. I guess I assumed most American schools were similar. But after getting a Spanish answering machine upon calling the school one day, I asked my daughter what percentage of kids at her school were minority races. She gave me a funny look. "Uh, we're probably . . . about forty percent. Unless you count the Russians as Caucasian, then we might break even."
Huh? "First of all, whites are the minority at your school? And second, since when are Russians not Caucasian?"
Turns out the Russians here don't consider themselves Caucasian. They hurl the epithet "white boy" like an insult, apparently. Who knew. I know I'm confused.
But for the most part, I think my generation and the ones that preceded us are far more uptight about racial divisions than the rising one. When my children come home and tell me their tales of woe, it isn't "This Russian kid on the bus stole my ear buds!" Or, "This group of Mexican girls threatened to kill me for looking at their little brother!" They use their names. It's Vladimir this, or Selena and Mercedes did that.
They don't understand what the big deal is about Obama being president. I don't think they really see in color the way we did, and I don't know that I want to change that. I know I resent the constant reminders from well-meaning organizations and individuals who keep insisting that we label people and toys and books as belonging to one race and not another in order to somehow protect them. From who? From themselves? The "minorities" at my children's schools seem to be the ones perpetuating the stereotypes and the discriminating behaviors.
The thing is, I would never go into a public place and notice, let alone complain, that there were no fair-skinned baby dolls represented on the toy shelf. I didn't notice the absence in my own house! Maybe I live in a diverse enough community that I don't see in color so much any more either. Maybe I just see toys as something to be disinfected and children as individuals that need feeding and people on the street as fellow citizens. Since when is that a problem?