October 26th, 2008


On race and color blindness.

A few years ago, I'm not sure exactly when, I was still working for my dad in Antwerps, keeping his shop and preparing for Christmas. I was told that my niece and her family were going to be at my dad's Christmas party, so naturally, I planned to bring her baby boy a christmas present.

Since I was a bit low on cash, as usual*g*, I was looking in my dad's shop for my presents. (hey who wouldn't if their employer gave them 50% off of the retail price) And after finding my brother and sister's presents and my dad's girlfriend's present and my parents present, I saw this cute little monkey. My sister was in the shop with me at the time and I told her I thought that might be a nice little present for my cousin, along maybe with something a bit bigger.

My sister (at least I think it was my sister, I'm not sure, I have a really bad memory for these kind of things) then told me, you can't give that to Jamal, he's black.

So there I stood and I asked her, why not? I mean, it's a cute little monkey, it looks adorable. And she gave me that look of "don't you get it, you can't give a monkey-toy to a black kid".

We talked about it and she told me about the stereotypes equalizing black people to monkeys and I stood there, mouth wide open because I just didn't see the similarities and had never even considered comparing monkeys to black people. Monkeys are monkeys, they're funny and cute.

And sure black people can be funny and cute too, but come on, ... monkeys.

I've never considered myself a racist. My stepmother is black (not to even mention the majority of the girlfriend he's had in between relationships with her), my grandfather was jewish, I stood in a store with one of my dad's black giflriend/ex-es for two years, I dated a black guy. And I've always stood up against racism. Yet there I was, thinking of giving my cousin, a gift that would apparently be considered racist.

I just started thinking about this again, when people mention white privilege and how we just don't get it when we say we're colorblind.

Anyway, in the end I gave Jamal another toy.

But seriously, monkeys?
(and what the hell is up with watermelons, I love watermelons)