Tuesday, March 20, 2007

It’s not going to be easy but I'm working on it.

Last Thursday night we took the girls out to a great local event called “Celebrating the Multi-Cultural lives of Children”. It was a huge community potluck with singing, dancing and story telling and we all had a wonderful time.

The potluck part of it was a bit hard for me. We were asked to bring a dish that represented our cultural heritage. Hum…. ok, and that would be what exactly? I fall into that murky category of folks that actually represent the American melting pot at work. I can trace my linage back to at least 10 different countries, none of which I feel any particular affinity to. This made bringing a cultural dish a bit more complicated. Z-Man suggested I bring Mac and Cheese with cut up hot dogs in it ala the traditional American meal. *shudder*

I finally decided to make the homemade BBQ chicken recipe that has been in my family for generations. It may or may not have represented my culture but it definitely represented my heritage! The house smelled fabulous for hours while it slow cooked in the oven and I proudly added it to the buffet table and join my family in the long line to get food. I guess I should have made more because it was long gone by the time we made it to the food. I guess I’ll be making that dish again soon so we can actually eat some.

While we ate we enjoyed watching some beautiful cultural dancing, Native Alaskan, Pacific Islands, Irish, and Cookies preschool teacher preformed a traditional dance from her country of the Philippines. A local story teller told a story I didn’t get to hear much of because that was about when Princess upended her plate onto the floor and I was rushing around looking for paper towels.

It was great to see all these people from all these different backgrounds come together in one place to celebrate diversity and I saw many people I knew there, but something was missing. I realized later that I didn’t talk to a single person I didn’t already know and I noticed that everyone mostly stuck together in their family and friend groups. The loud music discouraged talking so I didn’t learn anything new about any of the cultures represented there that evening.

I also noticed that there was exactly one black person in the whole room and he was a 5 year old foster child of a white couple. I wonder why they were so under represented in this event. I know that the black community tends to get type cast into the least desirable minority roll and this cause tension with other groups of minorities and I wonder if that was part of the reason they didn’t come; the evening was predominantly Native Alaskan. Maybe the organizers of this event didn’t feel the need to outreach to that cultural group or maybe they felt like I did, that they didn’t have a “special” cultural to share. It could be none of these reasons or a bit of all of them.

I’m glad that we went. It was fun to eat yummy food from different parts of the world and watch the lovely dancing. It was good to be in a room where we as white folks, were in the minority, but I feel like it really missed the mark as far as cultural awareness went. What I’d really like to see is an event that celebrates our differences while helping us all to form a close nit multi-cultural community. I’m definitely going to have to start working toward that goal.

As Swerl said in a recent post,

My conclusion is that we are going to be DIFFERENT. We will not be WHITE families. We won't even be "Multi-Cultural" families, since, as I stated in a previous post, our kids don't have the leverage to introduce their own culture into the family. We are swirled (or "swerled" in my Google-friendly parlance). It is OUR JOB to make the families Multi-Cultural, and that means leaving our "white" selves behind and embrace a culture, tastes, expression and history of another race and another culture, even though we will never be able to embody that culture. In other words, we must make sure that our household offers a MIXED experience, even though we, ourselves are NOT.

I really believe this is true not only of our families, but also of our communities. We have to work hard to “swerl” our schools, events, towns and countries, so that racial and cultural differences can be celebrated instead of vilified, so that our children will grow in a cultural of acceptance and inclusion rather than one of prejudice and discrimination.

I know that this isn’t an easy goal or one that may be accomplished in my life time, but I plan to work diligently for the benifit of my family, my community, and myself.