I sat on the chair, waiting to get my child’s hair cut. There was no check in desk, nothing to acknowledge we were here besides a quick head nod. 30 minutes passed. Another nod. Customers who arrived after we did were beckoned to go next. Maybe they had appointments? An hour. My 9 year old grew restless. I shouldn’t have walked in on a Saturday afternoon, what was I thinking? 90 minutes. I called my husband. He told me to leave, but my boy really needed his hair cut and I didn’t want to come another day and start the wait again. People around me were jolly and this only irritated me more. Finally, 2 hours after we arrived it was our turn. The barber didn’t make small talk with us. Didn’t joke or smile like he did with his other customers. We left 2.5 hours later, with a fresh haircut and $18 poorer, something not feeling quite right.
That was the first time.
My child is not the best player on his ball team, not by a long shot. It’s his first year playing- heck, it’s his first year even watching the game. He’s never made a basket and double dribbles a lot. But his team is good, really good. They’ve never lost. They were invited to play in some kind of championship tournament 14 hours from our city. That is, the entire team but him. I sat quietly, awkwardly as the coach handed out papers and talked about the trip at practice. The parents to my left and right listened attentively, skimming over their papers. I prayed my son didn’t realize what was going on, even as he yelled at me for not paying close enough attention to whatever it was coach was saying.
That was the second time.
I am white. My son is black, adopted from Ethiopia nine months ago. We live in a diverse city. I know enough about transracial adoption to know that race IS an issue. I know the world is not color blind and that it’s damaging to pretend it is. I know it’s important to make sure my son and his sister have people that look like them around. I want them to have black role models, black friends, black teachers. This is why I go out of my way to make sure this happens. This is why I sometimes find myself the only white person in a room full of blacks.
This is why I took my son to a black barbershop and put him on an all black basketball team. But is this why I sometimes feel excluded?
I grew up in a small all white town. My high school had 800ish people. 1.5 of them were black. Over the years as I heard blacks complain about racism I thought they were being silly- there’s no racism today! Why do they always have to make everything about race? Can’t they recognize people are treated just for being people?
But now I’m the minority sometimes. And now I feel excluded sometimes. And now I’m making things about race. Is it actually racism? I don’t know. It’s certainly possible that all those customers that went before us had appointments. It’s certainly possible that my son is so far behind his teammates that he’s not ready to travel with them. It’s certainly possible that these exclusions had nothing to do with race.
But maybe they do. And if I feel like that possibility is there, like there’s a chance my family is being treated differently or being excluded because of race, how can I deny others have felt this same way?