On Saturday, we visited the 10th annual African and Caribbean festival in Manchester, NH. With Acacia (the name we will give to our adopted daughter) on the way, it only seemed logical to begin immersing ourselves in African culture and take advantage of what few opportunities New Hampshire has to offer. The event boasted food, dancing, and music as this Bizarre sprung up on Elm Street, serving as a cultural mirage to the ethnocentric desert of New Hampshire.
As we walked around I tried to look through Acacia’s eyes. At this moment, I was simulating her world. I was a minority and the entire day I would be aware of this. The smell of food was so elating (even the meat), and it was time to indulge. We secured a large piece of pineapple upside down cake and devoured it underneath the pavilion facing the stage. I was later told it wasn’t pineapple upside down cake, but a desert that contained the fruit and we ate it upside down.
Before long Zinnia’s sugar rush demanded that she depart from our comfortable patch of grass. She was up, she was happy, and she was running way. Like minutemen whose 60 seconds had arrived, Killeen and I rose to intercept her.
When we reached her a small black child was standing next to her. He smiled at her with a mouth full of decaying teeth that were quickly overshadowed by the warmth of his eyes. His smile transformed to a mischievous grin as he pulled Zinnia’s hat right off her head. He placed the pink sunhat on his own head. My muscles tensed as I watched my daughter’s bewilderment. I was first a protective father who sensed that his daughter was in danger. Then something deep inside hijacked my mind and filled me with fear. I saw flashes of summer’s spent in the Ozarks with cousins that believed blacks to be lesser people. I saw flashes of my neighborhood where my best friend of color was constantly watched with suspicion. These feelings and images were fragments from the soil of a childhood that was fertilized for the cultivation of stereotypes. “This little boy was stealing my daughter’s hat, because blacks are thieves.”
Quickly coming to my senses I regained composure and realized that he wasn’t stealing her hat. He was playing a joke on her. He ripped the hat off his head and then took turns placing it on Killeen and my head. His grin then returned as he once again reclaimed the hat, placed it back on Zinnia’s head, and gave her an enormous hug. This ritual repeated several times as Killeen and I stared on. Our trance was only broken by my arm, operating via autopilot, tapping Killeen with her camera in an effort to catch the moment. Thank you arm.
After the boy ran away, two things were obvious to me. The first was that I still harbor many of the stereotypes learned from my childhood. In time, I know I will be able to control and potentially eliminate the influence of these past thoughts. Second, I am not alone. Once Acacia has arrived, I will experience similar interactions from another perspective. However, simple and everyday actions that Acacia takes may have the same effect on others. As her father, I’ll need to say, “She’s just playing a game. She likes to take hats to get a reaction.” Of course this could all be solved by raising a child that doesn’t play jokes on others. Then again….have you met me?
On another note, I’m happy to report that our online shop has generated over 20 sales! Please continue to share the website and help Path to Acacia take off! Killeen and I have added some new items… check them out at www.etsy.com/shop/pathtoacacia.