Friday, March 30, 2012


During my 2 1/2 hour struggle to get my five kids to school on time, I'm usually joined by Justin and Jessica, a brother and sister from next door who go to our neighborhood elementary school. Both their parents work mornings, so they hang out for 20 minutes talking and eating dry breakfast cereal on days when we have something sugary, the we walk to school together. This morning Justin announced, "She thinks you're black."


Jessica asked, "Aren't you black? I know your wife is white and I thought you were black."

Now comes the awkward part. I love to joke and tease, and several responses ran through my head. I thought of repeating TV's Gary Coleman's phrase "Whatchu talkin' 'bout?" I remembered Dick Gregory referring to white people's "skinny little nostrils" and considered drawing attention to my own. I considered clapping my hands and swaggering like a favorite former student with autism who had a style of walking that my African American assistant referred to as "pimpin'." I even though of saying "why thank you!"

Instead my 5 second delay allowed me to say "Gollly!" in an exaggerated 1950s voice. So what pops up in my head when I think of black people? A combination of stereotypes, physical attributes, and struggle to maintain proper racial etiquette: DON'T SAY ANYTHING STUPID, STUPID!!!

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