|Earth Day: stomping newly lain sod.|
I'd like to live in a world where we all practice more than tolerance...one where we show each other genuine respect...
...which is why I was flabbergasted by the comment of a fellow parent during the Earth Day event at our school.
After a solid hour of laying new sod, my daughter took a break and ran to play on the playground. A younger girl went to play with her while we parents continued to work. A few minutes later, the mother of the younger girl--a woman whom I know fairly well--asked if I could keep an eye on her daughter while she ran inside to use the restroom. She said that her daughter was over there on the playground with mine. She said they were playing together and that it was good for her daughter. "She's getting in some multicultural time."
My jaw dropped.
I still do not understand.
Two girls were having fun on the playground. They were playing together. I am certain that neither one even thought about the color of the other child's skin. Neither one thought about the races of their parents. They were just two girls playing on the playground.
She noticed my open-mouth. She said, "I'm sorry...was that inappropriate?" and then continued on her way to the restroom.
After the fact, there are always a million comebacks that come to mind. A million ways to say the things that you wish you could've said. But none of them were spoken that day. I started out thinking of angry and sarcastic comebacks. I continued with imaginary, short affirmative comebacks "YES! That was inappropriate! How dare you think of my beautiful daughter as nothing more than a tool!" I ended up with patient, teaching comebacks about how she could've phrased things better. But in the end I was left with a bunch of feelings that I couldn't exactly identify. I know this woman from many school-based situations. She has always seemed fairly tolerant of the differences in our community. But her comment reflected something that didn't feel good.
Then I read this op-ed in our local paper, "Replace tolerate with the word 'respect'" and realized that this writer has a point. The other parent who worked with us on Earth Day weekend sends her children to the same neighborhood school as mine. She may want her children to get some "multicultural time" with children who don't look like hers. She may even tolerate the majority of people in our neighborhood who are not like her and her family. But judging from her comment about my daughter, I can tell you what I did not feel from her--respect. Tolerating people implies that you are putting up with them. You allow them to exist even though they are not functioning on your level. Respecting people puts them on an equal plane.
I will no longer be teaching tolerance. I will be insisting that my children and my students show respect.
Check out other posts about a wide variety of multicultural issues at Bicultural Mom during the Multicultural Blog Carnival