Wednesday, October 20, 2010

"Sweet Little Black Boy," part 3: Snark

I appreciate snark. One of my favorite friends in Los Angeles wrote a book with the word "snarky" in the title. My experience with those people who have been blessed with snark is that they are also deeply compassionate people, which I found true with the two snarkiest responses I got to our "Sweet Little Black Boy" experience.

1. "I think I would have said something like 'Oh your son is the cutest little white boy!' Nice like, with a smile." (Kristine, who I got the privilege of spending time with last year during our dreamy month in New York. The thoughts she shared with me one day over a long lunch in Hell's Kitchen rocked my world. I love this woman).

2. On the phone tonight with a new friend, an artistic and wet-your-pants funny woman with the two cutest little white kids you've ever laid eyes on, had this response to the lady in the park, "I would have said, 'Well, we are hoping he grows up to be the ambassador of his race'."

If only my brain worked so quickly...


Anonymous said...

I'm sure glad he is our boy! You are doing a great job with him, Honey.

Kristi said...

Lori….I have read through the last few posts about the comment in the park about Abe. My initial thought was “ Abe is an adorable, sweet, beyond- cute- boy who is also black”…I really don’t think that woman meant anything mean by it. I think it is hard to always say the right thing and to make sure that you aren’t offending anyone. As a white woman who is married to a Filipino husband and has 3 kids that look nothing like her….I have a little experience with an interracial family. We tend to have a sense of humor about it. When the girls were little people always thought I was the nanny. When I first got married some of my family referred to my husband’s side as “Oriental” and we had to tell them that refers to food or stuff…the correct thing would be Asian. They didn’t know….they grew up in a white town.
When Wayne is someplace with the kids and not me…other Asian people can tell that our kids are “mixed” and will say, “Is your wife American?” like he and the kids aren’t…..we just laugh at it. Even they don’t know how to phrase it?
Wayne’s parents were raised in Hawaii where there is every time of person and every mix of person. They call me a Haole(a white person from the main-land) even though Wayne was raised in Chicago.
I know my situation is different from yours….just wanted to give my 2 cents 

Claudia said...

okay, that second one just made me laugh so hard I nearly passed out. I am SO TOTALLY BORROWING that. You know, in my imaginary life, where I actually say things like that :)

Jenny said...

Not that I would be gutsy enough or remember to say it, but I'm totally stealing the "ambassador of his race" line!

Christine said...

I love snark, too. Love the ambassador comment, love it!

Nicholas said...

I've been following this story. And honestly can't respond b/c it would take up your whole blog! Snark. Not enough in this world. SO many times I wish I could go back to a time when a comment was made and change my response/reaction. Especially to "how much did you have to pay for her, how nice of you". Yeah. Nice. I was at least so boiling that my expression surely said it all to her. Great posts Lori!

lindyyoung said...

Ah, I don't know. Snark is something you're born with, but if you're not, and you use it anyway, you can just give yourself a pit in your stomach for the next week, wondering if I overreacted/if my response made people feel unnecessarily shitty. Or, I do, anyway. ALthough, I do love those snarkers in your life! Those were very good answers.

I have read with interest these posts (as I do all your posts). Everyone, unfortunately, has a story like this, and that's a hard, sad thing. The one thing I try (TRY) to do in life is to speak my truth with love or compassion or maybe someday I'll even manage grace. Especially about stuff like this.

Katy at Straight Magic posted a few weeks ago about an experience more sinister and threatening, and she said everything she ever thought she would say just went out the window, she just walked away.

An African-British woman I know has told me amazing stories about how she has handled racism, she has incredible grace and stays calm thus mentally agile, and she's a wonderful role model for her son. THe problem is, with "moms like us" (white moms), whatever grace we can even manage will always walk a crooked line; we will never, no matter what, we'll never be black. We'll never be 100% able to wrap our heads around what reality is to our children. And that is breathtaking and horrifying and scary, too, and these comments give us glimpses into it.

kn said...

Thanks sweet woman. I so needed that. It made me choke up really.

One thing that comes up often which surprises me is the speakers intent. Intent is often a mute point where racist comments are concerned. It doesn't really matter to my preschooler that all the wonderful people at his preschool were really sweet dumb as...who said racist things and not really mean dumb as.... who said racist things. The racist statements still made him uncomfortable in his own skin. That's the point, his feelings not the speakers.

And when you are talking black males and black male children the racism is backed up with such strong images from the media of boogie men and worse, you do need to fight it when ever you can.

But always with grace and humor (and yes snarkiness can be learned) just hang around with some of your black friends and you'll pick it up. After all they deal with it day in and day out and you won't find people with a better sense of humor.

Thanks again. One day I'll have to come to the west coast and we'll relive the day.