Race is not something that I spend a lot of time thinking about. Why would I? It's not something that I care about, so I just don't think about it. I have all sorts of friends from all over the globe, and we all get along famously. Occasionally, however, I run into situations where I can't help but think about race or ethnicity. And then I have no idea what to do.
A teacher was showing off a picture of her son at lunch, and everyone was 'oohing' and 'ahhing'. I dutifully looked at that adorable face and beatific smile, I complimented her.
"What a beautiful boy!" I exclaimed. The others at the table agreed with me.
"He looks white," the teacher replied cheerfully. "But he's really Mexican!"
She then left the room, oblivious to the sudden discomfort in the air of the teacher's lounge. We all sat quietly for several moments, afraid to voice what we were all thinking. I know what I was thinking.
Really? That's all you got out of that?
Because anything that any of us would have said at that moment, positive or negative, would probably have been misinterpreted. The fact was that none of us wanted to start any sort of an argument. We were just admiring her child. Nobody had said anything about that adorable boy's skin color. All I saw was a child who bore a strong resemblance to his mother with a beautify smile. Did she not see that?
I've thought about the entire incident quite a bit since then.
Was I wrong? Should I be looking at skin color when parents show me pictures of their children? And should I have responded to that remark? What could I have said that would have only been interpreted as courteous? I've decided that it was best, in this situation, not to have said anything. The teacher likely made a thoughtless remark. Maybe she really feels this way, or maybe not. She probably forgot that she said it the minute she walked out the door. That's how these sorts of situations usually play out.
It's probably going to bother me, on the other hand, for a long time.