01 Jul 2010

Little Bit Awkward…

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I was in the grocery store getting the Very Vanilla Silk brand soymilk, to which my 5-year-old is physically and psychologically addicted. The guy stocking the shelves was black (this will be relevant in a second). They were out of the Very Vanilla kind, and my wife had told me that the mere Vanilla was not an acceptable substitute.

I was explaining all this to Clark who then announced, “Hey, I wanna tell that brown man something.”

This was quite possibly one of the most alarming moments of my life. I think I saw the guy flinch, but I may have imagined it. I said, “OK buddy, what do you want to tell the man?” Clark then proceeded to tell him quite earnestly that we had earlier bought the last “purple milk” (the color of the Very Vanilla container).

So, in retrospect, did I make the right call? It’s sort of like when you’re telling a story at lunch, and food flies out of your mouth onto somebody else’s shirt. You know you did it, he knows you did it, you know he knows, etc. But yet you act as if nothing happened.

20 Responses to “Little Bit Awkward…”

  1. Jason says:

    My wife has had this happen multiple times with our kids. I think it’s just natural for kids to explain things as they see them. There something very innocent about it when you think about it. None of the baggage with it that adults have. They are just describing the person they are talking about.

    Even worse though is when they call some woman a man or vice versa.

  2. JimS says:

    I sure hope you do not seek validation from us.

    Were you satisfied? Did you speak to your son later? Did you thank the gentleman for his understanding? Those may have been things I might have done.

    Seems everything worked out ok. Were he my child (I have none), I might have spoken to him later. I care for a friend’s grandaughter quite often. She is 6, extremely polite and refers to nearly every one as a gentleman or a lady and addresses nearly everyone as Sir or Maam. Some object to this, particularly in CA (stands for Crazy America as well as California). It is easier to reign in learned politeness than to try and apply it only when one thinks it is needed.

    From your religious perspective, would you say Christ would recognize this man as “Brown”? I believe he would simply recognize him as human and a child of God. Is this how you would want your son to recognize people? Do you teach him even Krugman is human and a child of God or is he a damn Keyensian? Perhaps the bigger question is, is he your child or God’s child entrusted to your care? Is he to grow up in your image or God’s?

    • bobmurphy says:

      Jim what in the world are you talking about? Of course I told him two minutes later not to call people brown. My question was, do I make a scene with the guy standing right there, or do I just pretend it didn’t happen and get the heck out of the dairy section?

  3. Aristos says:

    I’m with you, Bob. Clark has a crayon box. If you’d told him not to say that the man was brown, Clark would have been confused and annoyed with you, which only would have aggravated the situation. I also think that Jesus would recognize him as brown, but he wouldn’t care about the color. Clark merely used the adjective so that you would know to whom he wanted to talk.

  4. Gringo says:

    Choosing not to act is also action!

    And you acted admirably Bob.


  5. RG says:

    I believe I would have laughed histerically and if the stocker hadn’t heard him, I would have repeated it so he could tell the story when he got home. I believe the cringe you felt was a little latent government propaganda still lodged somewhere in your left frontal lobe.

  6. Daniel Hewitt says:

    This is why I’m glad my wife does most of the shopping.

    The stories later are amusing….”Mommy, that lady is really fat, does she have a baby in her tummy?”

    • RG says:

      I can’t wait for my boy to begin speaking and slinging wildly inappropriate character judgments.

      (me thinking) ‘Wow, that poor woman was severly mangled in a high speed head on collision with the ugly bus’

      (my boy Joe shouting) “Hey dad, that girl looks like the hairless monkey at the zoo!”

      (me speaking) “Joe, God makes everyone special and beautiful in their own way.”

      (me thinking) ‘Man, that is the funniest thing I’ve heard in months. I will be telling this story for the next 50 years.’

  7. Yancey Ward says:

    I would think you imagined the cringe. Nearly everyone understands children of that age are innocently expressing what they see. If the roles had been reversed, would you have cringed to be decribed as a white man? I would guess the gentlemen probably was trying to repress a laugh, at most.

    • bobmurphy says:

      I thought so too, and I was waiting for the guy to smirk or something, but he was pretty deadpan. So that’s why I didn’t say anything, partly because I thought maybe he didn’t hear it. So I didn’t want to say, “Hey, I know my son just called you brown, but really we are colorblind in our household.”

      • English Bob says:

        So I didn’t want to say, “Hey, I know my son just called you brown, but really we are colorblind in our household.”

        Exactly. Letting it go was definitely the best approach. Dwelling on it….Now that could have created some awkward moments!

  8. Priar says:

    Give that kid a medal, yogurt, and some purple drink.

  9. English Bob says:

    All my kids went through a phase of pointing out really fat people. Very enthusiastically, too.

  10. Not Bob Murphy's Love Child says:

    You did the right thing. No point in trying to make a scene or be PC. Just brush it off, if that guy cares that your kid is young and doesnt know better.

  11. Andrea says:

    Years ago I was saying goodbye to a man at my school. My son called out, “Bye Blackie !!” I wanted to die right there. I couldn’t take him anywhere with me. You should have seen him in the lingerie department at JCPenny. He wanted to tackle the busts. He’s 24 now…he respects all people but still loves busts.

  12. Not an Economist says:

    I don’t actually see an issue with what your son did tbh. The lad is just describing what he sees. Had he uttered the sort of words that were used so liberally in the old TV series Roots I could see an issue but he didn’t.

    Worse is the story a friend of mine told me the other day. He picked his kid up from Nursery. As he did so another lad was talking to his mom in the course of which he said “Mom there are new black kids at nursery – ughhhh”. Not nice and much more of an issue in my view.

  13. Yancey Ward says:

    And now for a more serious question.

    I noted that you took down the Dennis Hopper clip from True Romance that you had linked to after Hopper’s death.


  14. Priar says:

    I don’t think anyone is aware of the conversations that take place among adolescents. The content is chalk full of racial/sexual jokes and all-around vulgarity. Raw and unfiltered is norm, and innocent utterances by young children are only the beginning.

    As for me, raw and unfiltered is how I prefer my social interaction. It a particularly rational brand, if I do say so myself.

  15. CDF says:

    In a similar situation I said loudly, “That’s not Mr. Brown, he works at the other store.”

  16. Gene Callahan says:

    I like what I have come to know as the “Brooklyn attitude” towards such matters. I recall sitting at a Brooklyn bar and my friend the bartender telling me, “I’m gonna go for a smoke — are you OK?”

    I replied, “That’s great, Tommy, because that’ll give me a chance to run out without paying.”

    The black fellow sitting next to me, also Tommy’s friend, chimed in, “Don’t even try it, my man — I can run faster than you with a 44-inch plasma TV on my back.”

    After a remark like that, racial taboos are knocked out and you and the guy can talk honestly and naturally. Of course, one doesn’t always have a joke ready when one needs it, but that’s the approach I like — “Well, Clark, this very pale man wonders what you want to tell the brown man” or something of the sort.