Monday, July 8, 2013

My Son's First "Stare"

Act #189: Be open to the possibility that maybe you're the one who's being educated.

It was our last day of our family's staycation and we decided to go for an impromptu round of miniature golf at our local park.  We were about halfway through the 18-hole course when I noticed that we were slowly approaching a family of four.  If I had to guess, the family make-up seemed to be: a set of parents - probably in their 60's, their 30-ish year old daughter, and her pre-teen daughter.  I am not exaggerating when I say this, but the entire family literally stopped what they were doing and just stared at us upon our approach.   Well, to be more specific, they actually just stared at me and my five-year old son.  My husband seemed to be immune from the stares.  I recognized the look.  It wasn't mean or hateful in any way....just sheer and utter amazement.  Having lived on the outskirts of the rural south for most of my life, it is not uncommon for me to occasionally run into people who have not been around people of color in their lifetimes... and sad as it may be, I've gotten quite accustomed to such stares.  In my younger years, the stares used to bother me greatly, and would often illicit feelings of shame, embarrassment, and sometimes even anger.  I've since somehow grown to view such stares as an opportunity for me to perhaps educate or offer a "positive" minority encounter to first-time experiencers. 

This was however the first time that I've observed my son being the recipient of "the stare", so I was a tad protective, as I cautiously observed how this was all going to play out.  Luckily, my five-year old seemed to be oblivious and I was about to get away with a simple smile and hello (that should show them that Asians are friendly, right?) and continue on to hole #10, when lo and behold the 30-ish year old woman asked, "You all from around here?" 

So just to paint a complete picture of all the biases and prejudices racing through my mind, I should probably mention that the 30-ish year old woman spoke with a very distinct eastern Kentucky accent. The pre-teen girl wore glasses and while I can't really recall what she had on, her outfit gave off the thrift-store vibe.  The older woman had a bow in her hair and wore a denim skirt.  I've come to learn that in Kentucky, when you see women over the age of 60 with hair bows and long denim skirts, there's a good chance that they might be members of a conservative Appalachian Baptist faith tradition.

So I was bracing myself for what was to follow after the initial, "You all from around here?" question.  Here it is.  This is when we are about to be treated like foreigners in our own hometown.  This is when my son will get his first experience of "friendly" racism.  I was not pleased.  Can't a nice little 'ol inter-racial family just enjoy a peaceful round of mini-golf?  My husband responded on our behalf and told her that we were indeed from "around here".  And just when I had all my defenses up, racking my brain on how to "educate" these primitive, back-woods country people, while also modeling good behavior for my son, the women excitedly told us about an even better miniature golf course just half an hour down the road, south on I-75.  She was so excited about this place I thought she was gong to just put us in her car and show us exactly where it was!  We exchanged a few polite words as my husband promised to check out the place and then we went on about our business. 

And I learned a very important lesson, on my last day of staycation, about how my own prejudices can and will sometimes set me up to expect the worst in people.  This time, I was the one who was "educated".


  1. I an guilty of this as well :/

  2. A struggle that I relate to, and struggled with most recently in the month of June....