Would you let your teenaged daughter dance around dressed up like a geisha?
Or would you, as an adult, show up at a pilgrim feast dressed up in a generic Halloween “Indian” costume and let your “interpreter” speak stilted English to help portray a version of the first Thanksgiving feast?
Or would you be OK with your kid putting on a rasta hat complete with dreadlocks and say, “Give me all your money!” in an attempt to win a goofy group ice breaker?
These are the things Peter and I are discussing tonight as we have no stake in any of the amazing football games that were played earlier today. These are the things that keep me up at night because these are our realities as parents who are trying to raise three children in what some describe as a “post-racial” world.
Last week I saw a high school poms squad compete with all of their heart and dance skills dressed up like geishas. I snapped a photo, which I promptly posted on FB, and I sat there shaking my head. Their final pose was “hands meet at your heart in prayer” and bow. I expected a gong. They weren’t honoring the artistic skills and training of the geisha. They were demonstrating their modern dance team skills while perpetuating stereotypes and cultural appropriation.
But it wasn’t my daughter’s squad at the high school where my taxes go so what does it matter, right? Let it go, I tell myself. But I can’t. Or, I don’t think I should.
It made me think of our elementary school’s traditional pilgrim feast. I sat through two of those cringing at the construction paper feathered headbands the children had made for us parents, wishing I had the courage to say something appropriate after having experienced the first one, extending the benefit of the doubt and then having an even worse experience the second time. The man dressed up as the Wampanoag chief Massasoit wasn’t dressed as a Wampanoag chief. He was wearing a very nice Halloween costume. But I didn’t know what to say. I know it’s hard to believe I didn’t walk myself into the principal’s office two years ago, but it’s true. I don’t always know what or how to say things, especially when it’s clear this tradition was very, very old.
Let it go, I tell myself. Don’t ruin the tradition. But I’m having a tough time sitting here with myself.
And then Peter comes home after a fairly good weekend away at a retreat with our second child when he shares about an incident. The kids were asked to create commercials to promote their candidate (playing off this exciting election season), and one child put on a rasta hat with fake dreads and yelled out, “Give me all your money!” It was just enough to make Peter wince and talk to me about it at home…and show me the photo that he snapped.
Let it go, I tell myself. But maybe Peter and I shouldn’t.
Surely we aren’t the only ones who have seen things like this in our children’s schools and surrounding communities. What have you seen that made you uncomfortable, left you baffled, or made you angry?
What did you do or say?
Or, did you