I went back and re-read some of my blog posts from not very long ago, and I’m feeling enough of a cringe that I considered removing some. But I’ve decided not to, because first of all, almost no one reads my blog. But second of all, the posts show me something about myself at specific points in a pre-Trump year.
Now everything’s changed.
Prior to the election, I actually hoped and nearly believed that despite continued violence and aggressions constantly in the news and in our lives, that we as a nation were on an continuous upward trend. I really love the idea that the arc of the universe is long but it bends towards justice. So I didn’t want my kids to constantly be thinking about race and racism. I wanted them to have an innocent bubble of a childhood–I wanted them to have what white kids have–the privilege to just be kids.
So yeah, we had conversations about racism, colonialism, white privilege, micro-aggressions etc. But I hoped it would all remain largely theoretical. I hoped it didn’t really touch them. I hoped that at least in the NY area, we’d moved past that.
I had purposely moved us to a neighborhood where my kids look like a lot of other kids so they could just be themselves, not the representative of a culture, not a token, and not a victim of racism. I hated that about my childhood, being the only Arabs in town. When they needed someone to play Yasser Arafat in the school UN, it had to be me. When I did a cooking demo, it had to be tabbouli. And I would never say anything when kids sang “Bomb bomb bomb, bomb bomb Iran” to the tune of “Barbara Ann”. No teachers told them to stop, that it was racist. Because we were at war. And it was okay back then to say, “Bomb them all, let God sort it out.” Even the teachers said things like that.
But my parents had moved us to that town instead of settling on Atlantic Avenue in Brooklyn because they didn’t want us to be stuck in a Middle Eastern enclave–they wanted us to assimilate because being “American” was the goal.
Everyone does the best they can with their limited knowledge and experience.
And there I go again, being the apologist. It’s my tendency–to try to smooth things over, to try to understand the mistakes of others and forgive them. And as a result I haven’t done a very good job listening to my kids, because I so, so, so wanted their childhoods to be pain free. I wanted to tell them, “No, the world isn’t that horrible, that racist, that mean-spirited.” I wanted to excuse the racist things they heard as ignorance, or the result of a poor education. I guess I didn’t want to believe that so many people were still really like that.
But now there is hard proof. Yes, so many people are still really like that.
So now I am sorry for the wimpy way I tried to play both sides, tried to keep the peace, tried to wish it all away, tried to believe that the bad things they heard were just small anomalies and weird left-overs and definitely on the way out.
Next time my kids say they think someone or something is racist, I hope I will just listen. I hope I will ask them how they feel, hug them, and listen. I hope I won’t try to smooth the bad feelings away with an apology for the ignorance of the world. But I might make that mistake again and again and again. Because I am a product of this country and I still want to buy the lie that America is the land of equal opportunity, and our history is a steady upwards march towards justice. I still keep hoping some miracle will happen and this situation will be corrected, that’s how thick my denial is.
And I just want my kids to be happy. The mom in me wants them to believe that hard work and fair play gets the prize, regardless of everything else.
I would really love to hear from some other moms on this.