Been writing the YA novel for the last fourteen hours. Should go to bed, but I just have to pose a few unanswerable questions before I can get to sleep.
So the teens went to a dance tonight. Before they went we were talking and the conversation went like this:
A shabby kitchen in the midst of a never-finished remodel.
Mom - middle class, middle-aged, bleeding-heart-liberal white woman
Twin2 - brown-skinned daughter of Mom. Twin1 and Twin2 attend public school, in part because their parents are broke, and in part because their parents wanted a racially diverse environment for them.
Mom: So, are you looking forward to the dance?
Twin2: (mumbling) I don't know.....
Mom: Oh. How come?
Twin2: I don't know
Mom: (In an aside to readers: It's amazing how little they do know lately....)
Mom: (to teen): So what do you do at the dances?
Twin2: We stand around and talk.
Mom: So you don't dance?
Twin2: (shakes head)
Mom: Does anyone dance?
Twin2: Yeah, the black kids, and it's nasty!
mom: You mean like dirty?
Twin2: yeah. I don't like it.
Mom digests this for a moment.
Mom: Does ????? (their biracial friend) dance?
Mom: Does she talk to the black kids?
Twin2: No. They're mean.
Mom: Just to her, or to everyone?
Twin2: To everyone. They're all just mean.
Twin2 exits (stage left) to get ready for (not)dancing.
Mom stands alone and bewildered in the always unfinished kitchen of her American dreams, pondering the strange fault lines of race and class in this country and the deeply @#$%ed-up nature of the nation's public schools. Curtain closes.
Backstory: When Twin1 and Twin2 were in Kindergarden they had regular play dates with, among others, a little african-American girl named Jaquoiya. In first grade, a little (African American) boy named Promise was in love with Twin2. One day, to show his love, he gave her a special present - a brand new perfectly pointed Crayola crayon whose color name was the same as Twin2's name. Awwww. In second grade, more of same (but not as adorable as the crayon gift) and in third grade more of same.
Now here it is, a mere five years later, and these same children have become stratified, calcified, into seemingly irreconcileable groups. What happened to Twin2 and the others like her? What happened to Promise and the other boys like him? What is it in this system we pour them all into, that makes these kids feel they have to draw battle lines and choose sides?
Also, a question about a much less serious, but seriously ridiculous subject. When did white (and white-identified) kids stop dancing at dances? (In my day, said Ancient Mariner Mom, black kids and white kids ALL danced. OK, maybe not with each other that much, because if a white girl danced with a black boy the black girls usually threatened to beat the shit out of her. But Hey, at least we were all in the same room engaged in the same activity.)
So, as the bard said, if any of you have any thoughts about any of these things, share.