“Is it okay if I go hang out at the park with Kim?”
I frown at my daughter through the cell phone. “Are you kidding? It’s freezing outside. And it’s almost dark. I really don’t want you hanging out at the park after dark.”
“Okay, can we go hang out at the coffee shop then?”
I weigh that one. Two 16 year old girls. One blue-eyed blond. One brown-eyed brunette. Both as naive and friendly as puppies. “Why don’t you just go to Kim’s house? It’s close.”
“We can’t. She isn’t allowed to have white people in her house.”
“What?” I’m stunned, though it’s happened before.
Months earlier my daughter had been invited to a backyard party where she and the other white guest were told firmly that while the non-white kids were allowed in the house, the whites were not. Not even to use the bathroom. My daughter had shrugged it off, but I admit I was steamed. I know racism is still a problem in the 21st Century, but I didn’t expect my child to encounter it in a prosperous, well-educated, racial and religious melting pot like our neighborhood. It bothered me, but since my daughter quickly lost interest in those friends and parted ways, I’d let it go.
Now here it was again. But this time it’s worse. Those other “friends” were the smart, talented, high-achieving, privileged, self-important offspring of nincompoops. Good riddance. Kim, on the other hand, is a smart, talented, high-achieving, delightful person, a good friend.
“But Kim’s parents drive you guys all over,” I sputter into the phone. “They take you to the mall and the movies and EVERYWHERE! They allow me to drive you both everywhere as well.”
“Her parents are okay,” my daughter says. “But the recession got their jobs so they live with relatives for now and the relatives have a rule: No white people in the house.”
“Well,” I huff. “Even if you aren’t welcome in their house, Kim is welcome in ours. I’ll come pick you up.”
“Won’t work,” my daughter says. “Kim’s parents are out of town and her relatives are in charge. They won’t let her go inside white people’s houses either.”
My daughter must know what I’m thinking because she adds, “It isn’t Kim’s fault her relatives are that way. I can’t hold my friends responsible for how their relatives think.”
I sigh. “Go to the coffee shop. I’ll pick you and Kim up there in an hour and give her a ride home.”
So you may be wondering, how does the fact that my daughter’s friend’s relatives discriminate against others based on race make me a bad mommy? I’m not sure. But when my children encounter injustice and I can’t figure out how to respond to it effectively, I feel bad.
Have you ever been in a situation where your child encountered injustice and not knowing how to respond effectively made you feel like a bad parent? Please share by clicking on the number near the title of this post.
note: Kim’s name was changed because she is a minor and a lovely human being.