When an Innocent Prank Turns Into a Racist Attack
By jennster on May 18, 2011
So last night we went to a party. While the parents were in the backyard by the fire pit -- drinking, socializing, taking pictures with my phone (ha) etc -- the kids were all out front playing baseball until it got too dark to see the ball and then they started doing what kids do...
Ding dong ditching.
Sounds harmless, right? But as I walked outside to grab Blake to leave, I saw all the kids down by this one house. It was clear to me that they were trying to tell Blake to go up to the door, but I yelled Blake's name and told him it was time to go. NOW. He started to walk over to me, but then stopped as one of his friends ran to the door, knocked... and then ran.
Immediately the guy's garage door opened and out he came in his robe. The kids all ran and hid behind a car. The man shouted down the street to the hiding kids to leave him alone, to knock it off or he would call the cops.
And the kids started saying things like, "He's Arab. Don't make him mad, or he'll bomb us." And "What? I can't understand you. Speak English!!!" And then one of them made some Arabic sounding yell/chant.
That set me off. I told those kids that those comments were racist and those remarks were uncalled for and completely not okay. I told them that they were intolerant and harassing someone was bullshit. Blake didn't say a word, BUT he was with a group of boys who all laughed when those words were spoken. No one said a thing about how those words were fucked up... or wrong... or NOT cool...
They just laughed.
"He's an Arab," they said. As if that makes it okay to ding dong ditch the guy numerous times throughout the night.
So before I let Blake get in the car, I made him go over to the man's house and apologize. And he did, without complaint, hesitation, or reservations. He ran over to the man's garage and told him that he was with the group of kids who kept doorbell ditching and then he apologized. The man was mad. He told Blake that this wasn't the first time that this had happened to him. That the kids harass him all the time and he would please like it to stop. He thanked Blake for apologizing, but he was clearly not happy.
Blake and I walked away, and he was visibly upset with tears in his eyes.
I was glad. At that moment, I knew I did the right thing. Making him walk over there and apologize for simply being a PART of something... and then having him hear how upset the man was... for me, it was the right thing to have my son do.
So when blake and I walked past all of his other friends, I looked at them and said, "Aren't you glad I'm not your mom?" To which they all shouted "YES" in unison.
Blake didn't think they did anything wrong. At least when it came to the constant doorbell ditching of this guy. And I told him that they were doing it repeatedly to that one person BECAUSE of his nationality. And that it was NOT okay to pick on someone because of what they look like, or how their voice sounds when they speak.
I talked to him about peer pressure and about being the person who stands idly by while your friends do fucked up things (clearly, not in those words). And how even if you're not the one doing the action... or not the person saying the words... you're just as guilty when you stand by and allow it to happen. Especially when it's wrong.
I realize that Blake is young and he's still learning... and there is a lot more peer pressure coming his way in life. It's just that I don't want to teach him intolerance. I don't want to teach him to hate. And I want him to know that when his friends do stupid shit (cause they ALL will) that he doesn't have to be a part of it.
So now I'm clearly thinking and affected by what should have been an innocent game of doorbell ditch -- I'm horrified at our children.
Horrified and wondering if we're raising our kids to be intolerant? Are we raising them to hate Arabs? I mean, sure... we're all happy that we finally got Osama bin Laden... but in our happiness to rid our country of terrorists, are we teaching our kids to think that all Arabs are potential enemies? Do we speak words of hate so flippantly around them that they don't know the difference anymore?
It just made me think about the whole generation of kids who were barely even old enough to remember what happened on 9/11... but still harbor all of the hatred and anger in regards to it as if they were standing there the day the towers fell. They are still too young to truly understand everything that happened, yet they clearly have opinions on the subject.
I'm scared that we're raising our kids to hate and be intolerant of one another. To cheer and think it's okay to harass a neighbor simply based on his ethnicity. To make comments like he might bomb you if you make him mad enough. To think that comments like those are FUNNY.
It's not really that different than how people treated blacks at one point in time. But haven't we learned from all of that? I mean, aren't we horrified as a people now, when we look back at how we treated them then? Don't those stories make us sick to our stomach to even think about? Don't we shake our heads wondering just how the heck anyone ever thought that kind of behavior was okay? Don't we want to be better than we once were?
I always thought so.
Or maybe I've just always hoped so.
Originally posted on jennster's blog.
Photo Credit: asurroca.