my little civil rights community organizer


One thing that I am thankful for, at this time of Thanks-Giving, is that my children are growing up in a diverse community– or at least, more diverse than the one I grew up in. The people in our neighborhood are every color of the rainbow. In my son Fergus’ pre-K class of 17, there are 6 African-American children, 1 Hispanic-American, 1 Asian-American, and 9 Caucasians, which I think is a pretty good ratio.

And it’s a funny thing: I think my kids are at once more skin-color-aware, and less so, than I am. Case in point: as we huddled on the couch yesterday morning, hunkered down for gavel-to-gavel coverage of the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade, the Rockettes high-kicked it across our television screen. “Hey!” Fergus shouted, suddenly. “Dere’s no one wif dark skin in those dancers! All of those dancers are onwy light-skinned!”

And I looked, and gosh darn it, I can’t say I would have caught it myself, but he was right. The Rockettes were not diverse in any way whatsoever, height included! And my son noticed, and was calling them out on it! “You are right, honey!” I said. “They should have all kinds of dancers up there, they don’t have to all look the same.” I was so proud of him! I even considered penning a letter on his behalf:

My dear Messrs. Macy:
I was most disheartened to see, upon viewing your Thanksgiving parade yesterday morn, that your dancers do not reflect the reality of our new, post-racial America…

or something like that. And then Fergus could sign his name at the bottom, or at least scribble a little or something. Why, out of the mouths of babes cannot we all learn something?

Fergus must have noticed that I was impressed with this observation, and maybe I sold that too hard. Because then, when we went out for Thanksgiving dinner last night (since our oven door was locked shut and would not open… OK we had already made a reservation before that happened), as soon as we sat down at the “fancy restaurant” and I reminded all the kids to use their “fancy restaurant” manners, Fergus kneeled up on his chair and bellowed:

“Wook, mommy! Out of all the waiters and waitresses here, there’s only one skin, and that’s light skin!”

Now, he was certainly correct in that observation; in fact, as I glanced around furtively, there seemed to be “only one skin” in the entire place. But before I could explain to him why that might be inappropriate information to share aloud, an African-American waitress happened to pass our table. And that’s when Fergus got REALLY determined to get on his soapbox.

“MOMMY! THAT WAITWESS HAS DARK SKIN! BUT SHE’S THE ONLY ONE IN THIS WHOLE WESTAUWANT!”

And then, since I was hiding under the table by that point, he decided to repeat himself a little more loudly.

“MOMMY! WOOK AT ME! I TELLING YOU SOMEFING! THAT WAITWESS IS DE ONLY ONE HERE WHO HAS DARK SKIN! EVERYONE ELSE HERE HAS WIGHT SKIN!”

Note to everyone in the Windsor restaurant for yesterday’s 4:00 pm Thanksgiving seating: I feel obligated to tell you that Fergus was saying “light skin,” not “white skin,” although with his particular speech impediment, I will admit, there is no difference.

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Mollie November 29, 2008 at 5:57 pm

Fergus Flannery is an EOE! Did he also remark on the white and dark meat, lying side by side in harmony on your dinner table?

I probably would have started to explain that all-looking-alike is the Rockettes’ thing… and then I would have realized I sounded like a white-power pamphlet. You could reassure him that there are black Rockettes, but who wants to spend that much time talking about precision-dance chorus lines?

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