There seems to be a lot of racial intensity in the news lately. Here are my thoughts.
My earliest memory of experiencing the concept of race was when I was a toddler. My mom sold Avon products and I remember joining her on a visit to a black woman’s house. The woman had a son who was the same age as me, so my mother encouraged me to go play with him while she did her Avon sales call. I refused. Thinking back on this incident, I think my refusal was borne out of unfamiliarity rather than outright racism. I was scared, not of his skin, but of being away from my mother in general. Nevertheless, I regret that I didn’t go play with the boy. He probably had some cool toys.
Fast forward to my college years. It was the summer of two jobs. During the day, I stacked and sorted lumber for Select Forest Products, a lumber wholesaler that supplies lumber yards with high-end wood. After work, I would take a quick shower at a friend’s house and head off to my second job, being a waiter at Big Boy. I wasn’t a waiter long before I noticed that one or two of the waitresses always handed off the tables in her section when the occupants were black. She explained that regardless of the level of service that she gave, nine times out of ten, she would get no tip. And so, I would wait on these tables for her. Sadly, her statistic rang true for me as well. But that didn’t stop me from trying to provide excellent service. To me, anyone who sat down in the restaurant was a customer and deserved our best, regardless of their skin tone.
The other day, I learned that my daughter made her first racially insensitive comment. She was at grandma’s house and her aunt had a friend over. The friend is of asian descent and married a Puerto Rican gent. Together they created a brown-skinned child. My daughter loudly pointed to the child and said, “That boy is black.” Her aunt, trying to clarify and smooth over my daughter’s comment suggested that the other child’s hair was indeed black. To which, my daughter replied, “No, his skin is black. He’s black.” Of course, the child isn’t black at all. My daughter was simply making an observation about the child’s skin color.
So now, I am entering a new phase of race relations and must help my children understand something that I am none too clear on myself. I mean, was it wrong of my daughter to observe the difference between herself and her dark-skinned companion?
I don’t believe that paying attention to the differences between people is wrong, only treating people differently because of them. That said, everyone, regardless of race, should tip their waiter or waitress well.