Monday, October 18, 2010

Equal Opportunity People-Hater

My daughter did it! She completed a ballet class without mommy having to perform a single twirl. When we arrived at her ballet class on Saturday afternoon, I admit to feeling less than confident that Sophie would come through. She had assured me that she would participate in the class. However, after the fiasco that was last week's ballet class, my faith in her was tenuous, at best. Initially, she sat in my lap against the wall. However, she quickly stood and began performing the dance moves along with the class, all the while standing against the wall. It took her a few minutes to warm up, but eventually, she did join the group and participated completely.

Well...almost completely. Sophie refused to hold hands with the other children in the class. When the teacher wanted the children to sit in a circle, she would have them first hold hands and stand in a circle. They would then drop their hands and sit where they were standing. Sophie wanted no part of this hand-holding procedure. Sophie is extremely shy and timid around people she does not know, children in particular. I should not have been surprised at all that she did not want to hold hands with children she did not know. Normally, I would not have cared in the least. I would have simply thought, OK...she doesn't want to hold hands. Who cares? Not a battle worth fighting. However, this time I felt a little differently. Let me explain.

Sophie is a minority in her ballet class. As a matter of fact, Sophie and the little curly-haired boy are the only Caucasian children in her class. The remaining children are Hispanic and African American. So there I sat on the sidelines with the Hispanic and African American parents, beaming at our beautiful little girls dressed up in their adorable leotards and tutus (and the one little boy in his sweatpants and t-shirt). There I sat looking upon a veritable sea of pink, purple, and black spandex and satin. I sat watching the little girls huddle together in a circle. Small hands in rich hues ranging from warm bronze to dark mocha clasped in wiggling, giggling solidarity.

And then there was Sophie. My skinny, pale, pasty little white girl standing outside the circle...her pastel pink leotard blending into her skin, making her look nearly naked....her arms crossed defiantly and her nose up in the air. Flat-out refusing to hold the hands of the little girls next to her. Perhaps I am over-reacting. Perhaps it did not appear as ugly as it felt. Regardless, I felt the need to scream out, "My daughter's not a racist. She dislikes people of all colors. She's an equal-opportunity people-hater!" Of course, I kept my mouth shut, for fear of bringing even more attention to the translucent little white girl with her nose firmly planted in the air.

I am sure my mind overreacted. As a matter of fact, I am pretty certain the other parents were so entranced by their own little dancers that they didn't even notice Sophie's refusal to hold hands. No one balked at her behavior. No one sneered in my direction. As a matter of fact, they all smiled and told Sophie goodbye as we were leaving.

I like to think that I am not a racist. Try as I might to think of race and color as a complete non-issue, my mind went there. Despite my education...despite my liberal leanings....despite my belief in the equality of all people...despite my conviction that people of all races and all backgrounds have something invaluable to offer to our society. Despite all that, and against everything I want to teach my children, I saw color.

Sophie didn't want to hold hands, a perfectly reasonable response for a shy little girl. Rather than being concerned about Sophie, I was concerned about how it would look to the people of color in the room. Sophie did not care if the kids were brown, black, blue, or plaid. She simply did not want to hold any of their hands. The other children in the class did not feel slighted. Rather, they simply shrugged and turned back to the circle when Sophie refused to hold their hands. Perhaps we are finally raising a generation where color is a non-issue? Perhaps my children, raised in an urban setting where they encounter children of every color of the rainbow, will be able to look past color. Perhaps they will be the generation that will finally see the person first and the color of the skin second? I am hopeful.

In the meantime, we are going to work on Sophie's social skills.


Post a Comment