The air was thick and sweet with the scent of spices. Hindi music played overhead as my eyes took in all the things I had not seen for so long – bumpy Bitter Gourd, Asian Pumpkin, Lychee, Potol, Phuchka shells, all bringing back memories of the curries my friends used to make or trips to the market during our days in Bangladesh. I soon realized, however, that my son was not having the same experience that I was. While I settled on a can of sweets and picked out dried red chilis to make our favorite beef curry, he was feeling most uncomfortable. He had figured out that he was the only white kid in the entire store and he was sure everyone was staring at him.
He may have been right. Either way, I didn’t try to talk him out of his feelings, nor did I rush to finish or send him outside of the store to wait on me. I let him sit in his discomfort. I let him experience, in a very small way, what it is like to be a minority.
Parents, the landscape of our country is changing. It is important that our kids not only know minorities and have friends who look and think differently than they do, we need to be intentional about getting our kids into spaces where they are the minority. True diversity is not having a friend or two of color. True diversity can only happen when we are so surrounded by others who are different from us, that we begin to feel, in some small way, what they feel. We must push ourselves deeper into this discomfort so we begin to experience in a teeny tiny way what those labeled as “other”, experience 24/7 in this country.
Only then, perhaps, we and our kids, will begin to understand the narrative that was first whispered, and now roars, past our ears.