When I was in college, I participated in an organization who's entire purpose was to encourage unity through diversity. We had a number of events that brought diverse groups together for joint purposes, and it was amazing. There was acceptance and often an overwhelming realization of how much more alike we were than different.
That same generation is now filled with parents, and it's so disappointing. The acceptance level has seemed to deteriorate with age.
Homecoming is right around the corner for our high school which means awkward boys are asking red-faced girls to the exciting fall event. Sometimes it's boyfriends asking their girlfriends, but more often than not, it's kids that barely know each other, or friends setting up friends, or even blind dates attending the dance together. It's all fun and innocent, right? What could go wrong?
A friend of mine invited me to a club she belongs to that meets monthly at new restaurants. It's called Ladies who Lunch. The name alone should have kept me away, but I'm really working on keeping an open mind about people and saying yes to every opportunity that presents itself.
Arriving a little late, I sat at the round table and recognized most of the women, but didn't know anyone. Most of their kids went to similar schools that mine did, so there was an instant camaraderie. However, trying very hard to reserve judgement, I still couldn't help but think that I didn't fit in -- more so than just being new.
The topic of homecoming at the local high school came up. They were talking about their various children and their dates and the conversation was steered in my direction and they asked who my daughters were going with. They didn't know either of my girls or my Freshman's date, but when I mentioned my Junior's date, one woman said, "Oh I know him." Which led to a very awkward silence. I asked if that silence meant she didn't like him.
There was an even longer pause, she glanced at her friends next to her and said in a half-whisper, "He's black, right?"
As much as I thought this was an isolated incidence, I soon discovered, it wasn't. When I was relaying the story to a friend of mine, she told me she's not surprised. A year ago her son asked a girl to homecoming. She was just a friend from class. She accepted, they posted pictures on facebook and the planning was well underway. Suddenly, out of the blue, the girl texted the boy that she couldn't go. Apparently, her parents found out he wasn't their same religion, so she wasn't allowed to go with him.
After opening this can of worms, I couldn't help but bring it up to various groups, asking if they've experienced anything like this. I had no idea that parents were so worked up over the mixing of races and religions for high school dances. I did hear some crazy stories from friends, however, after multiple discussions, I'm pleased to report that my unofficial poll resulted in the vast majority of parents completely accepting of their child's date regardless of heritage.
I took a little bit of time before I answered the question from the 'Lady' who asked if he was black. "I think so, but I'm not sure. I never asked. And really, as long as our kids are happy, that's all that matters, right?" Outwardly she obviously had to agree with me and clearly retreated from her racist stance. Of course I couldn't leave it at that - I happen to know something about the 'Lady' sitting next to her and her daughter's date to the homecoming dance. I innocently said, "I'm just thrilled my daughter is going with a nice boy, and not one of those criminals that were caught up in any of the recent drug scandals this past summer..."
I'm pretty sure I won't be invited to Lunch with the Ladies again any time soon.