A child recently made a racist remark to my daughter.
As bigoted utterances go, what the kid said was not only ignorant, but inaccurate: It was a slur against people from India, not little girls from Guatemala.
Still, my daughter recognized the hatred in the verbal blast, and was puzzled, and hurt.
I explained to her that people make ignorant, small-minded judgments about others based on skin tone for no good reason. Then I told her that I love her mocha color. And I pointed out a tanning salon where people spend lots of money trying to look like her.
This mollified her for the moment, I think. But I began to wonder how a white father could adequately guide a Latina-Mayan daughter on matters of race.
I certainly haven’t suffered the pain that members of minority cultures have, especially Mayans, who are the objects of prejudice even among Latinos in Guatemala.
I try to understand. I once wrote a column that opined that while all races exhibit prejudice, the racism that matters most is the kind generated by whites, because the majority culture holds the keys to most of the business suites and government offices, not to mention the gun lockers in police stations.
This generated all manner of racist reaction from white readers who spat back some of the most vile things I’d ever heard about people of color.
Will others be saying things like that to my child as she makes her way in life? And, beyond screaming at the bigots on the Little Girl’s behalf, will I be ready to help her through it?
She’s not my color but she is my world. I hope that along the way, I’ll figure it out.