My Mom is Down with the Hood

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My mother, who is an otherwise mentally stable white woman of sixty-eight, with a liberal political and religious upbringing, has now taken to carrying racial minorities in her handbag.

"Boy, did I ever score at the thrift store today," she tells me yesterday on the phone, her voice booming with pride and good fortune. "I found a whole bag of Homies."

Me: "A whole bag of what?"

Mom: "Homies! They're a bunch of gangster people. Some of them are Hispanic and some are African American. They're all different, and I have an entire bag of them."

Me: "And you bought them because...?"

Mom: "Mikalh loves them! I pointed out to him that they have dark skin like he does. I thought he should have them to play with."

O.K. My mother thinks that my sweet six year-old Native American son needs tiny gangsters to play with. This makes total sense.

"I'm going to make a scene with them," my sixth-grader Devin says later with enthusiasm. "Look! It's a shooting!"

"Something about this seems deeply problematic, in a way that I can't quite define," I explained to mom.

"Just look at them," she exclaimed with delight, her outstretched cupped hands full of tiny hoodlums. "This one's name is D.G. He's a Mexican!"

Me: "How do you know he's not Guatemalan?" I challenged her.

Mom: "He is holding a Mexican flag, Tara."

Me: "It's like 'My Best Friend is Black' elevated to some completely screwed up new level. 'I love Hispanic Americans! I have one in my purse!'"

Mom: "You're the only one who thinks this is weird."

Me: "Devin, you don't think this is weird?"

Devin: "They're Homies, Mom. I'm fine with it."

Me: "Whatever."

Mom: "I think they're wonderful. They should make a set of Unitarians, too. And a set of Mormons!"

Devin: "She spent two hours on the internet searching for their names, you know."

Me: "Well, that's even sicker."

Mom: "This one is Perico. That's Da Foo and this is Live Wire."

Me: "I'm going not going to talk about them anymore, Mom. You just wait 'til Rowan sees this."

However, when my unusually sarcastic and satirical fourteen-year came home to find my mother and Devin playing happily with gangland figurines on the dining room table, he was unperturbed.

Me: "This doesn't bother you? It isn't weird that she has a bag of gangsters in her purse that she is playing with?"

Rowan: "They're Homies, Mom."

Me: "Whatever."

Finally, though, when my husband saw her with them this morning at our breakfast table, a look of bemused discomfort crossed his face.

"There's something about this that's disturbing," he said.

So there's that final additional wrinkle to the already complicated situation of race relations: middle-aged white people who carry toy Mexicans around in their handbags. Proof of a post-racial society–or just deeply fucking weird?

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