If you’ve been reading along, you know my twelve year-old daughter, Leni, is a muse for me when it comes to writing on race and race relations. Here’s her latest…We’re driving down Thayer Street, the busy college kid hang-out strip, lined with spots for cheap-eats, clothes shopping, fro-yo, and art-house movies. Leni spots a young, white college kid running down the street.
She shouts out inside the car, “Run like a black man!”
“What does that mean?” I ask.
“You know what it means–you, of all people,” Leni answers back, with a puff of her lips.
“No. Tell me what you mean.”
“Well, everyone knows there’s the stereotype that all black people can run fast.”
“Oh, okay,” I said. She’s learning, I thought. She learning about stereotypes and social constructs.
When we arrived home a few minutes later, Leni shared again.
“Mom, I have a new black friend in my gymnastics class. Aren’t you proud of me?”
“Who’s that?” I asked.
‘Tara” (not her real name). She goes to my school, too. And, she’s in three of my classes. Oh, and another girl, a black girl in my class, has the same birthday as me,” Leni said, excitedly.
My younger daughter, Darla, added, …”and you have the same birthday as Jay-Z, too, Leni.”
“I know, I share my birthday with all black people. I don’t know one white person that shares my birthday.”
As we walked upstairs, my two girls were putting together some kind of contrived birthday scenario that involved Leni, Beyonce and Jay-Z.
“Wait, I forget,” I began, “you have the same birthday as Beyonce?”
“No,” Leni answered, “you have the same birthday as Beyonce, and I have the same birthday as Jay-Z.”
“Oh yeah, cool,” and I began to imagine my own fantasy scenario of all of us having birthday cake together, joking about how white people think all black people can run fast, and Jay-Z confessing he didn’t get picked to be on his high school track team because he ran as slow as a white guy.