In the infant classroom…
Today, I had a couple of moments where I felt like these teachers in the infant room weren’t paying as much attention to my kid as the others, and my immediate assumption was that it was because she’s black.
Of course, then I went through the logic and the reasoning and rationalizations – for one thing, she wasn’t there as a registered infant, she was there with me because my childcare fell through. So she wasn’t their responsibility. Also, there were quite a few children in there and very busy.
Besides those things, I’m pretty accustomed to Babygirl getting a lot of attention, so I guess I notice it when people aren’t really noticing her or asking about her at all. Then I wondered about whether it might have something to do with my girl wearing orthotic leg braces. Disability makes a lot of people uncomfortable, and leg braces are fairly visible. Then I wondered if the other kids would pick up on that discomfort and end up internalizing it.
I have no concrete proof to back this stuff up. So what is it, then?
These weren’t the regular teachers, they were visiting directors from other centers. And actually, one of them would talk to Babygirl occasionally, but it seemed as though the other wasn’t even acknowledging her.
One thing I’m sure is affecting my opinion is that neither of these women acted as though they had much interest in acknowledging me when I first came into the room. I was put off by that, and I think it essentially set the tone for our interaction in my eyes. From that point on, I think I saw them through the lens of 2 strange women who didn’t think enough of my (or my daughter) to acknowledge that we exist.
I have to acknowledge that these impressions that I had could easily be mistaken, that I could have misread them. I get touchy about white people who aren’t particulary friendly. I guess I think that if they don’t make an effort to be welcoming, then they could easily be unwelcoming. I often wonder exactly how many people secretly dislike black people, and sometimes I put that on people whom I don’t know very well. It’s a survival technique, of course, but it obviously doesn’t serve me well as often as I use it. And I’m definitely a little more defensive about my daughter – she has faith in all people right now, and I hate to see her look and smile so big at someone and they don’t notice or acknowledge her.
What can I do about this kind of thing? I think that part of it is just stuff I’ll have to learn to live with. I have to be careful about being over-sensitive about people’s reactions to my girl – my mom tends to do that with me. Also, I can try to model what I want for her in my interactions with other kids. That way I’m not transferring whatever I’m dealing with onto them and not treating the well, and then I’m providing a reference for how I want my daughter to be treated, more or less putting my money where my mouth is.
I still don’t know if what I noticed was real or imagined. I’ll just have to keep on watching.