There is (hopefully) a reasonable chance that the first part of my son's life will be spent in the middle class. There's better chance that he will be straight (statistically speaking). There's an even better chance that he'll always be male. He will always be white.
I hope he handles those demographics than I did.
There was a point in my life that if I ever heard a story about inequality or oppression, I would automatically doubt it. My first response was to think that it wasn't true, that it had been overblown by the victimized party. It's not as bad as they say, I would think.
My thinking was informed by my life. Inequality wasn't my experience or even really the experience of anyone I knew, so those claiming such things must have ulterior motives. They must want something. This was the 80s, after all -- everyone wanted something. It wasn't a decade known for its scruples.
I remember the exact moment when my thought process changed.
It was right after the Rodney King video came out. I was in high school. I was lying on the couch, watching a talk show. I think it was either Oprah or Donahue -- I think it was the latter, but I'm not positive. Anyway, it was the segment when people from the audience gave their two cents. This relatively young, white couple stood up and gave the same pitch that every white person in America was giving: "We didn't see the whole tape."
Now, think about that. Apparently, there was something in the world that Rodney King could have done
|By Paulo Zerbato|
As the couple finished talking, an elderly white woman next to them stood up. She did an amazing thing. She talked to them like they were naive children, but she managed to do it without sounding condescending. She said to them something along the lines of "oh, you lovely people, you don't know what you're talking about. These things happen every day. It is this way. I've been alive for a long, long time, and I know what I'm talking about."
And I knew she was right.
Up until that point, I had assumed that inequality and oppression weren't an issue, or at least not as big as they were portrayed. After that moment, I flipped, and I came to assume that they were. Better, I realized, to have my assumption proven wrong than to deny the problem even exists.
So what does all of this have to do with my now 7 week old son?
Well, there are still times when I have the gut reaction I had all those years ago. The more "radical" an idea, the better the chances that my initial reaction will be against it. More often than not in those cases, I hold my tongue and think it through. But it still bothers me that the gut reaction is even there.
I hope my son doesn't have that problem.
I don't think he will. He's growing up in a time when multi-culturalism is everywhere, and that's a good thing. He's going to grow up in a cul-de-sac with a gay couple and an interracial couple. He's going to grow up watching television that's more diverse, reading books about diverse characters, getting exposed to the things that I wouldn't learn until I was much older.
I hope he'll be aware that, even in the society he grows up in, he'll be judged by any number of things besides the quality of his character, and that more often than not, that judgment will work in his favor because of what he looks like. I don't want him to feel bad about that, I just want him to be aware of it, so he can have at least a tiny bit of understanding.
I think a tiny bit of understanding can make all the difference.