Learned Hatred

[Content Note: Racism.]

I spent the afternoon at the doctor's office, for more tests for this ongoing whatever I've got causing me chronic exhaustion. It was a loooooooong stretch in the waiting room, but I was kept entertained by two wee brothers, probably ages 4 and 2, who had the sweetest personalities and were natural comedians. It was a gift they inherited from their mom, who corralled and scolded them in the most hilarious way.

At one point, an older woman and I lost our battle suppressing laughter and erupted into gales of giggles at the exchanges between the boys and their mom, and we apologized to her—"I'm so sorry! They're just so cute!"—but their mom was laughing, too.

Another woman came in with her toddler, and he immediately wanted to wriggle out of her arms to play with the brothers, which she happily obliged. They welcomed him immediately, and more silliness ensued.

Shortly thereafter, two more wee brothers, a baby and a boy about 5, wearing a Superman shirt and sporting a Kool-Aid stained face, arrived. Superman joined the other boys at a children's table in the waiting room, and he introduced himself and asked their names. It was such a formal little exchange: "Hi, I'm Superman! What's your name?" And once the introductions had been made, they all confabbed until they came to consensus about what game they wanted to play.

Moms and Grandmas smiled at them, and at me and the older woman watching, as they played together.

I will tell you that the first two brothers are black. The second boy is Latino. The second pair of brothers are white.

And none of them gave a flying shit about that.

At the other end of the waiting room, there was a middle-aged white woman grumpily and loudly filling out paperwork, and occasionally looking up in order to make judgments about parents who would let their children watch soap operas with sexual content. As if the parents picked to what station the office had the television turned. As if the kids were paying the slightest bit of attention to the television.

She got to the part on the form where it asked her to indicate her race, and let loose a commentary about having to identify as a "non-Hispanic white."

"Why can't they just say white? This country is getting so blah blah blah. Those people blah blah blah." You know. The usual.

We all diligently ignored her.

I turned my face further away from the sound of her bitter voice and watched the boys who were playing together and tried not to cry as I thought about how their world was already working to socialize them out of the natural affinity they'd found.

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