I like old people. Really I do. I think they have a lot of wisdom to offer and history to share. I know that I will one day too be old and that I will have 20 somethings giggle at my clothes and viewpoints on life. However, I hope that I will not fall prey to prejudices.
I understand that different generations look at life differently due to what life was like when they were growing up. I understand that in some of their “glory days” blacks and whites were separate. I understand that seeing a pasty white mother with her gorgeous dark chocolate skinned baby on her hip is not what they expect. Or for that matter, something they may have ever dreamed of seeing. So I can understand where the stares come from. We get them from all generations but they are normally quick and followed by a smile. Even young kids sometimes give us shocked looks or bemused smiles.
Yet, when I see an old person walking in our direction at the stores, I instantly hold my breath. I think it is because I know what time they were born into and worry that they automatically will be judging my family. I feel my mind set partially comes from my own experience with my grandfather who loathed the idea of having a black great-grandchild. I have found that I get a lot of raised eyebrows, disapproving stares, and hushed whispers from the older generation. We really don’t run into that with the younger generations.
Take for example just the other day when my family and I were Christmas shopping at a local department store. My daughter needed shoes and so did a lot of elderly people. My almost 1 ½ year old son loves shoes and proceeded to run through the aisles of shoes, giggling the whole time. As my son turned a corner, two ladies having a conversation barely gave him a glance that is until I picked him up. The one woman’s mouth dropped open and she quickly whispered something to the other woman. I kissed my son’s cheek told him I loved him and smiled in their direction. As I walked back with him in my arms, I had several other elderly people openly stare at me with disapproving looks. The looks were not nice and not followed by friendly smiles, even when I smiled first. I could almost feel their eyes staring at my back. That weren’t just quick stares either. It was like they couldn’t take our eyes off us.
I’d be lying if I said it didn’t bother me, because it does. It bothers me because I worry it will bother my son. At this age he doesn’t notice, but I’m sure there will come a day when he says, “Mommy why are those old people staring?” or “Mommy why are those people giving us a mean look?” I can understand looking in our direction because you may be a little surprised by my adorable family, but staring too long or giving mean looks is just not okay. I want my kids to grow up knowing that there are all kinds of families in the world and that that is okay and to be accepting. I wish I didn’t also have to teach them they may face rude people who are judgmental or prejudiced, but I know I will. I really wish all people, no matter what generation they were born into, were more accepting of differences.