Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Black Mom Playing the Race Card

Hello Meltingpot Readers,

Let's play a game. I'm going to share with you an "ethical dilemma" and I'd really like your honest opinions in the comments section. Okay? Here we go.

Dear Meltingpot Ethics panel,

I am a college professor with two children and one on the way. My husband, lovingly known as el esposo is currently a full-time student and receives a modest stipend for teaching two college classes. Needless to say, money is tight right now. Really tight. If you peeked at our bank statements, debt records, etc you'd probably say we were two steps away from skid row. But we're not poor. Not really. We know that this is a temporary situation. We know that when el esposo finishes school in a couple of years we'll be in a much better place. But right now we're clipping coupons, eating lots of beans and pasta, growing our own veggies and cutting corners where we can. And here's the part where the dilemma comes in. Summer fun for the kids.

As a resourceful parent, I've found a city-sponsored summer camp that is extremely inexpensive and looks to be very well run. But it is clear that the camp was created for kids from low-income neighborhoods. But it is not exclusive to that community. Or at least none of the camp literature says so. Just recently, I also discovered a soccer program that is completely free and it is for "kids from underserved communities." I signed my kids up for that too because they both really want to play soccer and the fact is, this program is so much better run, with better instructors etc, than the one I was trying to scrounge up the cash for at the local YMCA. Did I mention it is free?

So, here's the thing. I know my two brown boys will be able to "pass" in these community programs. But I know that even though we're cash strapped right now, we're not the target market for these camps. I feel a little guilty playing the race card, but I also feel proud of myself for finding some great programs that will allow my kids to have a fun summer. And FYI, I didn't lie on any of the forms or present myself as poorer than we really are. The fact is, by filling in the boxes marked Black and Hispanic on the forms and the fact that we live in the city limits, pretty much cinched our acceptance, I think. I could be wrong.

So, have I crossed any lines? Am I playing the race card to my advantage?

I'm listening.



Anonymous said...

I think that you are just feeling guilty overall. Guilty that you have to use the programs in the first place. If you qualify for the programs based on income or paying for the equivalent elsewhere would prevent you from putting food on the table, there is no shame in that. I do no think that the race card is needed here...low income to does not have to mean black or brown.

Anonymous said...

If it's your kids genetic status that determines whether or not they are accepted to the program, then, yes, you have played the race card and you have deprived a child in an even tighter economic situation from having a fun summer.

If your kids qualify on economic circumstance and your neighborhood location alone, than, nope, your kids are the intended target of these programs.

Afromorena said...

I don't see anything wrong with this at all, actually. These programs aren't saying "Well, if you will in the future will be making above XYZ income, then you need not apply". These programs are supposed to be for those who are in need *now*. I agree with the first anon that race shouldn't be an issue here. So no worries! Sign the babies up for the soccer program ;D I think it's awesome that they have a soccer program, instead of just the regulars (football, basketball, baseball).

lifeexplorerdiscovery said...

I do think its wrong to deprive a more needier person the spot. Its like how I feel when I see rich kids get scholarships at school, they have money already, they shouldn't be taking away from those that truly deserve it.

As someone once told me, if you are feeling guilty, then you know you did something wrong.

Is it too late to fix it?

toni said...

I don't see a problem with it. "Underserved" doesn't always have racial connotations. It also means that its for communities that don't have access to the programs that require a substantial fee. Even though this is a temporary situation for your family, right now your children can also benefit from those programs.

Jay said...

you are not doing anything worng .. .. You may feel guilty becasue you know you have more money than other but that still donst mean that you can paid for camp with have cut some where else you are do what best for your kids . i know as kids i went to many free camp casue my parents could not paid but in later years when my mother had the money. she donated to these same camps . I aslo in later year when I became a teacher when back and taught at the free campus that kept me busy. Do what best for your kids:)

ourgloballove said...

I agree with some of the other comments that have been left already.

It seems to me that you are feeling guilty because you may be more well to do than other families in the community. However, if you did fall within the economic bracket for the program in your present financial state then I don't think you played the race card at all.

Under served communities does not have to mean communities of a specific race. There are many under served communities that are not minorities even, but are in fact under served due to poor economic conditions in the area.

I agree with Jay. Don't feel so guilty about it. At this present moment you qualify for the programs and it's nothing to be ashamed of. And once your family gets back on their feet give back to the programs that helped make your children's summers fun so another child in the future can participate. (This could also be a good opportunity to teach your children about the importance of giving back to the community too...)

lifelearner said...

I truly dislike the term "playing the race card" because it truly trivializes the authentic racism that is alive and well 2011.

From what you've written it sounds more like playing the class card. Do you feel like your family is middle class and should not take part in programs are created for disadvantaged "at risk" youth?

Only you can answer that question. And sounds like you already know the answer, too!

msinfo247 said...

Hmm, Not a bad concern, but it seems to me that the bigger issue here is not so much you enrolling your kids or not because when times are tight they are just tight, and no amount of future financial forecasts can really address the here and now. What I think is problematic is that a lot of programs like this receive funding mainly because they describe their target population as "low income" or "at risk," and really aren't these terms just masking other physical, geographic and social attributes? So in my opinion funders need to leave some room open for programs that just help children regardless of risk and income because at the end of the day all our kids can use a little help along the way. Thanks for letting me weigh in.

LT said...

Meltingpot readers,
You are all so amazing with your wisdom and insight. You've all made me rethink my thinking and admit some things as well. I think more than guilt I might be feeling shame. I agree it's more the class card than a race card I'm playing with. I love the idea of giving back to these programs either now or in the future when I am able. Also, having gone to the orientation for one of the programs, I know I haven't "stolen" the spot of another needier kid as the program isn't full yet. There is still room for more if need be.

You should all be advice columnist in your next lives!!!

Anonymous said...

LT, it looks like I am a little late to the conversation, but I still want to add my thoughts before the comments are closed:

Honestly, I was a little troubled by this post—so troubled that I did, in fact, have to read it more than once. What troubled me? I am glad you asked. Your (honest) concerns have a ring of classism (and racism, if I am honest). The idea that your brown sons can "pass," almost took me over the edge—pass for poor? Hmmm. How does one pass for poor, "at risk," or "low-income"? Why have you assumed that you/your children are so different than any other parent/child looking for a good, safe, fun-filled summer? This sentiment (intentional or not) made me a little sad.

Please don't deprive your children because you a struggling with your own classist/racist demons. Your wealth (or lack thereof) does not make you better or worse than any parents who want the best for their children. Now you know firsthand what it means to be a (albeit temporarily) struggling parent whose first priority is her children.

I hope your post and the responses here cause all of us to consider the ways in which class/race/gender differences can be used to manipulate us into believing the myth of our own superiority.

Peace and Love to you and your beautiful family.
*please forgive any grammar/spelling errors, as this was typed from a "smart phone," and I can no longer view the entire post. *

Anonymous said...

I understand your feelings. It sounds like the issue is more class related than race.

You're obviously a very educated well versed, travelled, cultured couple. You and your husband clearly do not fit the stereotype that runs through a person's head when they think of families that need assistance.

I completely understand your feelings. While I was a single mother of one, beautiful, birracial baby boy (now a young man of 20) I came from a middle class home, held a good job, and a BA in Journalism.

My son benefited greatly from those programs and he's met some great kids who he's still friends with. We come to certain things for many different reasons. You did the right thing.

As far as playing the race card. There's nothing to play, your children are Black Spaniards. They fit the bill by that definition, and that one alone...I hope they are having a great summer.

Incidentally, I'm watching Barca play Bayern Munich. Please, whatever you do, make sure your boys do NOT resort to the ridiculous diving that seems to permeate some of the great teams and players of Spain.

I'm a RM fan, so I'm a little irritated with the diving tricks of Barca, lol.