Tuesday, August 25, 2009

The race card

I never thought I would say this. I finally understand why some black people are so quick to draw the race card. Here's the situation.

We all know kids can be mean. It's like they have a sixth sense that can sniff out vulnerability in a heartbeat. Marin is just not yet equipped to successfully disarm mean or cliquish American kids. She does not have the verbal skills, the confidence, nor the combativeness.

The comments Marin faces most often are "You're stupid" "You're an idiot" "I don't like you" and "Your brown skin smells funny". Believe me. Marin is a smart, sensitive, and sweet kid. It's not just because I'm her father. Virtually every adult says these things about her.

We tell Marin that kids who behave that way really feel bad about themselves so they say mean things about Marin to make themselves feel better. Then we role play Marins' responses to these aggressions. Sometimes she pulls it off well, but many times she speaks with such trepidation that the bully would become emboldended. It's going to be a long road.

Back to the race card. I am so tempted to teach Marin to say, loudly "Look, I know the only reason you are talking to me this way is because I have brown skin and I am going to tell the Principal right now. You will be in the deepest trouble ever." Sometimes it feels like the only foolproof weapon she has. And its' kind of like verbal karate. You insult me because I am black, so I will use your racism against you. You try to isolate me because I am black, and I will use your racism to isolate you. You try to marginalize me because I am black, and I will use your racism to silence you. You try to degrade me because I am black and I will use your racism to minimize you.

I am beginning to realize the power of the race card. The beauty of its'design is that, in the proper hands, it cannot be successfully employed unless some racist first creates the opportunity for you. It is self governing in that way.


kristine said...


firstly, thanks so much for talking the other night. it was a great help to Yancey and I.

we've been there with Quinn in pre-k although it wasn't mean words - more just being much more visible and a couple of times accused of things he didn't do because the other child say they 'saw him first' even though he wasn't near the commotion.

being with an African American husband for 21 years i have to say i don't know a single African American that is 'quick' to use the race card. Even the ones i know who have said the truth out loud once or twice have had so many insults and affronts that have gone unsaid. we've lived with 21 years of affronts large and small. we've been taken to a police station and accused of stealing our own car for nothing more than the amusement of a group of white racist cops. my husband lost his job in such a blatent act of racism that the rest of his department walked out for the day in protest. we've lost apartments, jobs, friends.

the race card is very tricky. we have yet to 'play' it. most of the playing comes from the white people we've run into. they lay the cards out and we just play defense. the night in the police station our defense was keep our mouths shut, let them have their fun, be polite and get out as soon as we can.

just had to say...that when the race card is finally pulled from the deck by a black person it's good to remember the deck was made and dealt by the whites.

also, there is still almost no recourse for black folks at all or ever. you can never say it in school or in work without the repercussions being very bad.

your girls will be fine. stronger than the white kids. it is inevitable.

M and M said...

kristine, I REALLY appreciate your comment. Thank you.

Leesavee said...

Amazing. As someone who has met Marin, I can't imagine anyone saying anything bad about her. Kids don't learn things like that on their own. They get it from those around them. Fortunately, Marin has parents who love her so very much. Imagine how much worse it would be for a child who wasn't going home to a loving and nurturing environment.

Stories like this make me fear for what my own children will go through once they are home here in Maine. It's disturbing.