Thursday, May 20, 2010

My son likes black people

A friend of mine with a young daughter said he wanted to introduce her to the presence of black people, so that she'd grow to be comfortable with them. However, the opportunities have not come up much, which is not surprising around here. We have black people. But unless some are your personal friends, or you go out a lot and talk to lots of strangers, if you have a day job and your social time is limited, it can be hard to purposely find ethnic diversity of any sort.

The tourist-centered nature of this region makes it all even harder. In summer we're teeming with people who will be gone in a week, and in the winter our population is sparse and spread out. I'm not saying we locals are unfriendly. But on the other hand, what's the point of reaching out? All the real social activities are for the out-of-towners, and when they leave, the rest of us cherish the quiet.

However, if you know where to go and when to go there, you get a glimpse of small-town living with just a touch of diversity.

If you go out often enough, as AwesomeCloud and I do, and you look at enough people, and you develop a friendly streak, you can beat the odds and experience some diversity.

Lots of people come up to us and fawn over AwesomeCloud. Most of them are female, white, and retired, and AwesomeCloud may have had a glut of that particular demographic. Sometimes he decides who HE wishes to be friendly to. Sometimes he spots somebody particularly appealing in the crowd, and he waves frantically at them and says, "Hi!"

(Or rather, he flails in their general direction, often waiting until their back is to him, and yells, "AIEE!" Same thing.)

His number one target? Black men.

(I'm including some men who were probably part Wampanoag, because many of the Wampanoag have dark complexions and African-American-like features, and in fact may be part African-American; I've heard that there really aren't any full-blooded Wampanoag anymore, which makes sense, as it is supposedly a tribe that got fully integrated before recently reestablishing itself as an entity. Anyway, the details of a random stranger's ethnic heritage are meaningless to a toddler.)

I am pleased to report that at least half of these men say hi back. (The men whose backs are facing us when AwesomeCloud was frantically greeting them are at a disadvantage; maybe they'd greet him back, too, if only they knew.) They speak directly to him, using phrases like, "How ya doing, my man?" And I find that inordinately cute.

The senior citizens usually pepper me with questions, and if they address him at all, it's as an afterthought.

Well, to be fair, a few of the regular mallwalkers greet Cloud directly. But if we're generalizing by demographic, then talking directly to AwesomeCloud isn't a common behavior.

I don't know how much is a racial thing. Asians are very, very interested in questioning me all about AwesomeCloud's story and the dynamics of our family. I'm okay with this overt directness, because in China, everyone was like that. Among white people, women pry more but men occasionally do too. But not black people. One time at a library playgroup we sat next to a black man and his daughter, and I talked with him while our nonverbal children both squirmed and clung to us, and he didn't ask me a single personal question. I volunteered some basic info, as did he... I mean, we were in a conversation, so of course we have to talk about something!

Only once has a black person asked us directly about adoption, but she's adopted too, so we were making a connection. She's an actual friend of ours now, though. I can't remember if AwesomeCloud ever waved at her and said, "AIEE!" Maybe she'd remember. But I'd feel silly asking.

There's one other person we see regularly, and AwesomeCloud greets that guy obsessively every time we see him. He is the only black morning custodian at the mall.

He says hi back, too.


1 comment:

  1. I have never thought about it before, but I don't think I've ever been questioned about adoption by a black person (except one time). And that one time? She was an adoptee. And we live 10 minutes from a predominantly African-American county. Hmm...