Friday, March 12, 2010

Hair-Gate 2010

I’ve made a decision on “hair-gate ‘10”. I’m not going to say a word to the teacher or the director.

It probably won’t be a popular decision. It might look like I chickened out. In a way I did. In a way, I didn’t.

See, I’m not your average “non-confrontative” person. In fact, I’ve been known to perhaps, at times, get up in people’s faces and let them know exactly how I feel about things. I’ve lost friends because of this, because of not backing down, or feeling I was right and they were wrong. I’m no door mat. My first instinct is to fight for what is just, that is why I spent 4 years in grad school and my career being a social worker. But I’m not going to address the issue with her new teacher and here’s why:

This teacher has access and influence over my most precious *possession* (I don’t own her but can’t think of the correct term here). She can smush Charlie like a bug, on a daily basis, and leave no physical marks. She could belittle her, ignore her, pinch her, or worse, for 9 hours a day and I might never know. She has way too much power in this situation for me to rock the boat. Do I think she would do those things? Of course not! If I did, Charlie wouldn’t be enrolled in school there. But she COULD if she wanted. She has unlimited ACCESS. She could just play favorites and damage Charlie’s self-esteem or other little twisted mind games. She could do those things if she was mad at me or resentful.

I also don’t think that the teacher took her hair bands out for a malicious reason. Yes, she’s ignorant of African American culture. Yes, she’s ignorant of how long it takes to do Charlie’s hair and the pride I take and the love I put into it. But I do not think she was thinking anything like: ”Here’s a black child and I don’t like black people and so I’m going to take her elastics out.” She was most likely annoyed that some of them were breaking, maybe concerned over kids eating them, maybe in a crappy mood and short tempered. It’s passive racism, the same way CVS not having black skin toned band-aids is systemic racism. Still hurtful. Still no excuse for. But I don't think it came form a deliberate place to hurt us.

So, weighing the possible good that can come from this, versus the possible repercussions, I'm not going to address it. What I will do is, over the next few weeks and months, educate her on Charlie's hair process. I will mention plenty of times how long C sat for her hair last night, or ask her, "What do you think of C's awesome braids? I did them myself! See how much work went into each one?" and slowly teach her.

I’m going to buy the stronger elastics and see what happens.

If she does anything like this again, I will definitely go to the director.

And I will be watching VERY CLOSELY for ANY racist overtones coming from her.

I'm on guard.



Megan Day said...

Sounds like a good plan. I like the way you are going to handle it! I know that when we complete our adoption, we will encounter many things like you are experiencing and it is good be able to read about your and C's experiences. Thanks!

Nobody said...

i think you have made a very reasonable, intelligent decision regarding the situation. :) i hope that it works out best for Charlie!

Kiki said...

I think you are doing the right thing. It's always good to think about the tough situations overnight before you act. And getting input from all of us can't hurt either. Hang in there, you're a great Mommy and I'm super proud of you.

Amy said...

Wise decision!

Single PAP said...

i think that is a good approach. as a teacher i always find it so interesting when parents are rude, inappropriate, demanding, etc. with me for that very reason. don't they know i am with their child for 6 hrs a day? not that i would treat them any differently of course--they can't help when if they have rude parents--but it does cross my mind and therefore i would never want to make a teacher upset.

gosh, not even home a year and already being tested, huh?

btw, thanks for the call. i will try to call you this weekend.

Anonymous said...

you made the right decision for the right reasons!

Sharla said...

Great plan. I believe a gentle educational approach is always best when possible. Most people don't recognize their own cultural bias and it takes time and exposure to change ones perceptions.