Media credit: “Amusement Park Policeman”: http://media.liveauctiongroup.net
Even though the wife of my stepson’s closest friend is not even 30 years old yet, she is already much wiser than I ever hope to be. Like me, she was born and raised in the United States, and her husband is from the Dominican Republic. Not once has she ever spoken a word about the challenges of intercultural marriage, and I can understand why. With a seven-year-old child, a two-and-a-half-year-old, and the youngest who counts her age in months, this busy mother has bigger fish to fry.
At the beginning of the summer, she announced that her oldest daughter is now 48 inches tall (four feet, or 1m 22), which is the required height for her to graduate from the kiddie rides at Seabreeze, a local amusement park.
This is a milestone in a child’s life. I remember my disappointment at not being tall enough for the bumper cars. When the attendant told me, “You’re too short,” I heard, “You’re no good.” I only needed two more inches, but rules were rules. The following summer, I surpassed the height requirement by half an inch or so.
The Jack Rabbit, my very first Seabreeze non-kiddie ride at day camp. I rode with two camp counselors.
Still, my pre-teen mind somehow produced a false equation: too short= “less than.”
Now I am struggling with a similar analogy that may or may not be true: silence=disapproval or worse, silence= prejudice. Ralph Ellison created a mythological cityscape in Invisible Man. I am part of an invisible couple in a town where too much lip service is paid to that infamous “d-word,” “diversity.” We are the non-entities. We are the gargantuan elephant in the room that no one wants to see, even if it is standing on everyone’s feet and crushing their toes.
A comedian and blogger I follow, Alex Barnett, has had to field some outrageous questions (Why do you like black women?) and even more ridiculous comments (You mean to tell me your wife is a Negro?) He always has a snappy comeback: My wife has black skin, but yours has a black heart is how he handled the first shaking–my–head–inducing pearl of ignorance. As for the second howler, he exclaimed, What? You can’t say that anymore! It’s not 1960!
More of Alex Barnett’s wisdom can be found here: http://www.alexbarnettcomic.com
Those who are so inclined can like his Facebook page as well: https://www.facebook.com/AlexBarnettComic
There are far better things to worry about than the approval of others, such as whether or not a second-grade child— biracial, bicultural or not— is tall enough to leave the kiddie rides behind.