Wednesday, April 08, 2009

through the eyes of a child

I never really knew any Jewish people growing up. In fact, I can remember the exact age and circumstances surrounding my very first introduction to somebody Jewish. I was 10, it was at day camp, her name was Rebbecca. We were playing some dumb introduction game where you tell the group something about yourself which is unique. I remember she told the group something I'm sure we all instantly forgot, when one of the camp leaders interjected, "and your Jewish! Not everyone knows that, that's unique!"

As much as I'm sure the camp leader meant well, you could tell by the look on the kid's face as she mumbled some sort of response that she was none too thrilled about having her differences highlighted to the rest of the group. I'm sure it wasn't an issue of pride or anything, but as a kid, all you desperately want is to belong. Even as a child, one must constantly fight to prove themselves that despite their differences they too can assimilate with the rest of the group.

I remember thinking as a kid, that Rebbecca was weird. She said weird things. I remember on one occasion getting into an argument with her on whether or not men menstruated or not. I told her that it was impossible, that it could never happen, while she vehemently maintained that her father got his period.

About a week ago while reading a blog on another site, the pieces of the puzzle finally came together. As I said before, I had never really come into contact with any other Jewish people before the age of 10, and I grew up in a home where race just wasn't discussed (I'm the product of an interracial adoption, race was easier to ignore than to talk about). I had no idea that at the age of 10 I was being exposed to a racial stereotype.

It just got me thinking, where would Rebbecca pick something like this up? Who did she overhear saying this, and misinterpret? I mean, it could easily have come from another older Jewish person making light of the ludicrous nature of such an idea, but it makes you think about how damaging stereotypes can potentially be to a child.

I had my own share of having to prove I belonged as a kid too, growing up in probably one of the WASPiest cities in existence. I remember only being accepted by the other little white kids at Preschool, because even though my skin was dark everywhere else, the palms of my hands and the soles of my feet were the appropriate colour. I remember being asked by a little girl at the park when I was 4 why my skin was black, and after explaining to her that "God just made me that way", she responded with "Well I wish God had just made everyone the same, 'cause it makes me sad".

The thing is, as much as these memories shaped who I was, and a perception of myself I later had to shake off, I don't remember them singularly as being particularly painful. I mean, enough of them lumped together and yea, ok...ouch, but for the most part they just reflect the innocence of children not knowing any better, and we all know that kids can be cruel.

I'm not really sure what point I'm trying to make, except that the world through the eyes of a child is so incredibly different. I yearn to be able to go back to simpler times.

I remember the same little girl, (who ironically enough, I believe her name was Rebbecca too,) who would only let me into her group because the palms of my hands were the same colour as her, asked me one day if I knew why God had made me black. She told me it was because of all the colours, black was God's favourite, and that I was lucky because I was his favourite colour! Just for that, wherever her parent's are now, they should be applauded.

Right now I'm listening to:


Mista Jaycee said...

Just stopping by after chilling on Prof. Tracy's blog. Very interesting post. Stop by and check out my blog. Happy Easter!

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