I don’t consider myself a racist person. I dated a Black guy in my 20s. I have a few Black friends. At a few points in my life, I’ve been the gender minority and feel that I have empathy for minorities.
But something happened to me, in front of my 6 year old, that made me realize that I participate in passive racism and I’m not OK with it.
I frequent a very nice used kids clothing and toy store for budget friendly supplies. I love getting good deals on well cared for used items. We recently made a trip and sold some old toys, to make room for our new Christmas acquisitions.
My 6-year-old daughter has been asking about an American Girl doll, much to my chagrin. I imagine the $115 doll will occupy the space with Elsa and Ariel, staring blankly up at the ceiling in my basement – the loving touch of a child only a distant and fading memory. If you have one, GREAT. Its just not my style.
There were some used dolls behind the counter and we inquired as to their price. One was white, her blonde hair had a pink streak, but she was damaged as the previous owner had taken some scissors to the poor doll and she now had an eerie Britney Spears thing going on where she was cute, but she’d also seen some things; $30. The other was a white doll with blonde curly hair, but the hair was a tangled mess and looked a lot like I do when I wake up in the morning, $25.
The last doll was a black doll with curly hair. Her hair looked better than mine does even when I’m trying hard. She had been well taken care of and was an official American Girl Doll. Her outfit was pristine down to her perfect little Mary Janes; $12. My daughter perked up as she knew we had $20 on our credit account. She also knows that $12 is less than $20.
I didn’t say anything. I don’t know why I didn’t get the doll – its a great deal! I love a great deal! My daughter didn’t seem overwhelmingly interested in any of them but the fact that the perfectly kept brown skinned doll was less than half the value of the others bothered me. We – the cashier, myself and my 6 year old – accepted it, and I’m uncomfortable that we did. I should have paid $30 for the very nice doll to show my daughter that the color of a doll’s skin does not diminish its value. I missed an opportunity. I hope I’ll pay more attention next time.
I think this is where it starts. I think its Selma marches and “I Have A Dream” speeches and Black Lives Matter movements. But I also think it’s little things that happen every day – under the radar – passive racism. I think that I have more power and influence than I realize with my two tiny people.
I think I need to start doing things outside of my comfort zone.