From reading the responses on our first vignette here on the topic it is clear that-if you are asking yourself how do I start a conversation with a stranger/aquaintance/freind of a friend of color and not come across as a complete dork/stalker/or uptight White person you are not alone. (Or non White person, but I’m not imagining that is who I am speaking to here.)
- Being a dork is OK. Being a dork might even be some what charming in this case. Worst case scenario–the person you are approaching says; “Uh. No thanks, I really have enough dorky friends, thanks.”
- Start SMALL. Your name on a piece of paper–with your phone number or email or both. (Like I said before I have a little business card printed up with a picture of me and the boys on one side. My blog address -if you have one- so people can learn a little about me before saying yes.) I don’t ask for their info–that feels presumptuous to me–unless they offer. After a sweet little playground connect between you and the kids you might say something like; “Hi I’m Catherine. I’m really pleased we met. I’d be happy to meet here again sometime as our kids seem to be hitting it off so nicely.” Then I hand them a card. “If that works out for you, please give us a call!” Chances are the conversation will go in a nice direction from there. Be yourself, and be inviting. This is often a win win combination!
- If it is someone you already do see a lot (the neighbor, someone at church, the farmer’s market, the library, the barbershop, the bus stop, work, the gym, etc) and you have some albeit mild ease try something super open and easy like; “Hi. This may sound odd, but I’d very much like to invite you and your wife/husband/daughter/son/kids to join us at the outdoor concert next week. We’d bring snacks to share. Is that something you might consider?” Again-keep it light, simple and easy. Meeting at a park, beach, public space or venue allows kids to run around, and adults something to do while connecting.
- Another approach-be super direct! “I’m really in need of some help. I am 43, and I have a really limited circle of friends who don’t look like me/or me and my partner. As you know my son is ___________, and I’m eager to create a larger community for all of us to learn more about his/her heritage/culture. Making new friends seems like a great and necessary place to start.” Hand them that little card, and wait for the call!
Ah-has I’ve had in the last few days:
I was watching Uncle and our new friend Roy talking over pancakes at the camp out the other day. It’s taken six years, but here we were in community with adults and children who looked as much like Sam and Marcel as Uncle and I. It’s not enough. It was one overnight. And this, like many of our friendships are new. But when Roy’s wife Erika and I hang out, and talk about parenting issues, race, racism, anti racist work, I don’t have to start from a place of explanation, back story, or discomfort in wondering if she’ll get it. I have that feeling that absolutely everything I am saying is completely on the grid of shared experienced. But as starts go, this one feels like our new normal. Furthermore, as Kevin alluded to in his comment earlier, having adult people of color naturally in your lives gives your children the message that friendship with people who are like them is something that is valued, normal, and sought after by the people they love-starting with- their parent(s).
Were off in a little bit for our next adventure on an island of the coast of Maine. Thankfully for my family there is no internet coverage there. This means full on MOMMY TIME. Since I can’t moderate comments, I’ll just leave you with a few interesting articles I’ve read this week. In terms of the talk about race, ethnicity and place this feels like critical background knowledge information from the Wall Street Journal: http://online.wsj.com/article/AP3e863a0c371348ed9e3bd2dcd63b4a65.html
And in terms of important demographic shifts that mean the world our children are going to grow up in is very different than the one we (or most of us I assume–unless you were foreign born in predominantly non Caucasian countries) did: http://newsone.com/nation/associatedpress1/2010-census-minorities-us-babies/
Finally here are a list of topics I’m trying to piece together bigger blog thoughts on. Some have been suggested by you, others are on my mind. If one really strikes you as important, or as something you yourself feel like taking on let me know! (firstname.lastname@example.org). I’m very open to guest posts!
Topics in the works:
- Making friends of color in school. How do our kids go about it? Is it harder for TRA children? How does place impact that? Where do other TRA friends fit into that equation? How do ethnicity and race play out in this arena?
- So where are all the people of color? You live in a diverse area, and you still are not making the connections. What suggestions do people have to offer? What are the benefits you may not be taking advantage of, or noticing?
- My support network, my family, my job all are here. If I lose all that, are the gains for my kid(s) enough to outweigh the disruption from all of this good we have in place? How do I decide?
- People in positions of power. You have great friends of color, maybe even the minister and the babysitter. Don’t forget the President! If you are like me, maybe even the occasional teacher. But what about the doctors, electricians, nurses, dentists, decision makers in the community, politicians, and police officers. How does not having these people out and about in your everyday life impact your kids, today and in the long run?
- Is there a scale? How do I measure the world we do have, with the world we don’t? Can you be at peace with a semi ideal vision of the race/ethnicity/place decision? What has more weight, and what has less? Is there such a thing as an ideal?
- The Biracial bonus or bind: One member of the family is one race, one is another, and a third is yet another. Now what? Does one child need more or less as far as role modeling and community? How does colorism play into the TRA parenting/family dynamic?
Look forward to reading more ideas, or reading emails letting me know what you want to share! Have a great week–and when you make some new friends, stop by your Mama C’s house and tell us all about it!