So, I was shopping at our neighborhood Wal-Mart recently. While in the self checkout lane, I noticed a precious little vanilla bean girl (probably 2-3 years old) in a cart while her mother loaded the conveyor belt one lane over. While I continued to scan my items, I heard her yell out “Hey girl!” I must admit that I made the Scooby Doo noise and looked up. She repeated herself. I scanned the area to see who she was talking to. I noticed a lovely young woman wearing a hijab. The little girl continued yelling “Hey Girl” until she received a response. My perception was that everyone thought this was cute. But, after a connection was made between the little girl and the young woman who were separated by about 25 feet, the little vanilla bean was not satisfied with the conversation ending here. She proceeded to yell “What’s your name?” The young woman did not respond. The vanilla bean then yelled “Hey girl. Don’t you hear me? I’m talking to you. I said what’s your name.”
Okay, while that all sinks in, let’s take a moment to reflect. I must have been holding up the line at this point because I remember coming back to myself holding wheat bread with my jaw on the floor. I immediately shook my head and thought, “I don’t think my kids could get away with that.”
When I returned home and told the story to my husband, he replied by saying, “We would have never let our kids get away with that.” So, here are too issues. The vanilla beans mother didn’t say a word. She never asked the baby to stop yelling, nor did she tell her that she was being impolite. Secondly, I wondered, does race matter? Does race and gender matter? I began to wonder even if I did have an off day and allowed my child to utter those words across the room, how might others, strangers, people I don’t know reacted. Did it not matter because she was white? Would my kids have been seen as unruly? Why didn’t her vanillabeanmama say anything?
This incident made me think again about the perception of child-rearing as it relates to race. Was it a race thing? Or was Vanillabeanmama just having a tough day? Just wondering.
Annie is a CocoaMama who is married to her best friend of 15 years. They have two sons, a 6 year old and a 3 year old. She currently works at the Pennsylvania State University full time where she is also completing her doctoral degree in higher education. She has worked and been a student for as long as she has been a mother. So, she has had to learn how to simultaneously juggle all of her identities. While she has not perfected this skill, she continues to assure that her family remains her number one priority.