Surely we have all read about how women feel ousted by potential suitors during a date because of their wheatish color skin. But are those the only types of dates in jeopardy? We also hear that potential partners with non-wheatish complexion are delinquent about these things. But is that the whole truth? Could it be that at times wheatish complexions have little tolerance for other wheatish complexions?
Recently, my little girl and I were at the playground and inadvertently overheard the conversation of a mother and her daughter of Indian descent. From the conversation, I could tell that the little girl was planning her birthday party and the two were discussing the list of friends she could invite. The little girl gave her mom a bunch of names and her mother seemed to be fine with the list except that of the only Indian girl, named Bela.
“Well, I will invite Bela another day,” the mom protested.
“But why mom? These are all the girls I hang out with at school?”
“I want to have a separate party for the Indian kids, you don’t understand beta.”
“No, I don’t,” the little girl persisted with her argument. “Are we going to play different games when the Indian girls come over next weekend? “
“Of course not,” said the mother.
“Are you feeding us an Indian meal that day?” the girl asked.
“No, I don’t think so,” said her mom getting very irritable by all the questioning.
“Then why aren’t you inviting my (Indian) friend to the first party with all of the other friends we hang out with? You know I have already told her about the party and that Katie, Suzie, Alex, Jamey are all coming too. She is going to be so sad if she is left out.”
The mother went on to explain that it is sometimes best to keep both “groups” separate and if she associated with other Indian girls she would be considered a ‘typical desi.’ This was a first for me, I had heard about the all-Indian parties and in-group favoritism of hanging with your own kind. However, this was ousting a child from a party because of their skin – your own complexion – wheatish skin. I could not comprehend this!
Let’s me just say that while we make every effort to eliminate in-group favoritism, it is virtually impossible since it’s a powerful human impulse. I haven’t completely understood that phenomenon but being an immigrant to this country, I cannot judge in-group favoritism too harshly because it is understandable why cultures with similarity feel more comfortable hanging out with their own kind. However, this situation was quite the contrary. The mother was proposing “out-of-group favoritism,” I could almost hear her yelling “Keep the Wheaties out!”
The sad but inescapable truth is that we are guilty of racism: not always but distressingly often, not all of us but, unfortunately, far too many. If this is to change we must begin by first and unreservedly accept this fact. And if we can’t our children will make us. With the increase in racial diversity in this country, it is inevitable that the new youth will not tolerate our past prejudices – whether they are against the other kind of people or our own.
I felt the need to intervene. But the little Indian girl beat me to the punch. She politely asserted to her mom that keeping Bela out of her party and inviting her with the “other Indian girls,” she was not being fair to her or her friends. And that she wanted the girls that played together at recess to join the party not because they were her mom’s friend’s children or because they were of a certain color or not of a certain color. The mom shook her head rebelling but she seemed to understand her daughter’s point of view while completely not accepting it. I am not sure of the final outcome of the party but it was refreshing to hear a young girl’s perspective that taught her mom a thing or two.
Making friends and cherishing friendships is not about how one looks or doesn’t look, or what group you fall under or don’t fall under. If you can’t be proud of who you are and where you come from – can you blame others when they treat you differently? Dear readers, young or not so, rich or not so, wheatish or not so, in my book, friends are who you get along with, who accept you for who you are and most importantly who uplift your spirit. If a young child has figured this out then I am very optimistic about where the world is turning.