This weekend I saw a little Asian girl I’ve known for approximately the past seven or eight years. I know her parents as well, although I always have the sneaking suspicion her mother can’t tell me apart from the other hordes of my people.
This little girl never speaks to me. And I’m not really surprised, because I’ve had a number of interactions with her white parents that make it pretty clear she’s not supposed to speak. Once I attended a community event and there were several tables. One table was completely filled by white adoptive parents and their Asian kids. Another table had an Asian kid with an Asian parent and many open seats. So I went to sit there. While I was sitting there, the mom came up and I greeted her and her daughter by name.
The mother did not look at me, nor did she greet the other people seated at the table. She pulled two chairs from the table and dragged them across to where the white adults were sitting and had them all move their chairs so she and her daughter could squeeze in.*
The daughter stood for a time at the table, staring at me. I said a few other things to her, and she turned and walked away without speaking.
One of my friends, who is white, and annoying, although I try hard not to attribute the annoyance value to the whiteness, said that I need to be compassionate about the fear other people feel. And I think I do try, although I think that they need to person-up for the sake of their kids. I also think there is a lot of projection going on, because it seems that often white people are afraid of me. Sometimes they assume I will disapprove of them and their families, and sometimes they even think I might be mean to their children. (This blog has received comments to that effect.)
I would be mean to their children … because why? Because I hate whitey and thus I wish to punish small children of color for having the misfortune to have white parents?
This weekend I saw this little girl whom I’ve seen at least once a week for years. She was not with her parents. And she caught my eye and waved.
* A friend and I have started referring to this sort of incident as “The Chair Thing.” It sometimes manifests as white people not moving to allow you to join a space, and is a stark visual example of inclusion and exclusion.