Tuesday, June 04, 2013

The Watermelon Problem (Or Just Another Day in My World of Social Calamity)

Today was Diversity Day at our girl's school.
Each family was supposed to send in a food from their cultural heritage.  To be honest, I had forgotten that it was Diversity Day. I've had a lot on my mind.  

Still, I figured, no problem – she and her dad can just pick up some croissants at the new fancy French patisserie around the corner in our increasingly hyper-gentrified neighborhood.  

He's French. I'm Irish-American. We usually send in Irish soda bread, so it was time for the more upscale interpretation of wheat flour. Except the French bakery wasn't open, so no croissants were to be had. 

Instead, her dad suggested that she take the watermelon from the fridge. 

To school. 

For Diversity Day.

No matter how many different ways I attempted to explain to the two of them that taking a watermelon to school for Diversity Day would be a tremendously bad idea, I just could not get the idea across.  The idea that a watermelon could be racist eluded them both. Her dad, being French, didn't know the history of racist watermelon imagery.  

Our girl protested: "How could it be racist? It's a watermelon. It's fruit, it's healthy."

The school bus was arriving, they were determined that she should take the watermelon, so she departed, white girl with a watermelon in a sack for Diversity Day.

I emailed her teachers to explain and ask them to run interference on this cultural misstep. And then I sat down and wept.  

Some day this may be funny. Today, not so hilarious.


audball said...

Oh no :( …I suppose one could use this as an opportunity to discuss racial tension in the US, but just even thinking about starting that conversation (in the way parents of ASD kids have to sometimes carefully choose words) would make my head spin. When so much of your day goes toward placating what others may take for granted, tackling a big subject, such as the watermelon imagery, seems exhausting. And usually a spouse/partner can help that discussion, but if your DH is French and isn't as familiar with our history - well, it's an even harder road.

I'm sorry :( … how did the day go? I would be curious to hear how M's teacher brought it up in the classroom.

And it's so nice to see you blogging again :)!

MothersVox said...

Hi Audball!

I'm glad to be back blogging. Thanks for your kind welcome! The last two years have been too constrained by professional obligations and dealing with the highrise slated to go up right next to us.

The watermelon turned out to a non-event. They just ate the watermelon. By some sort of miracle, sometimes a watermelon is just a watermelon. Or, as our girl put it to me that evening, "the kids at my school don't know about that race stuff." So that is, I guess, good news!

More blogging to come! xm.