I’ve been a parent for over 20 years. The armor of motherhood I wear is adorned with dents and dings from the many blows and experiences life has presented through the lessons of my children. I wear this armor from head to toe. It protects me from the harsh reality of a world which wants nothing more than reduce my child to the lowest common denominator. I use my Mommy Shield to protect her the best I can from the blows the world can give. But today’s blow hit me below the belt.
My youngest is 10, and she and her best friend have been planning their Halloween costumes since August. They have spent many hours deciding on just the right duo to be for Halloween. It was agreed they would be Thing 1 and Thing 2. I gave them a budget of $20 for both costumes, and all materials were purchased. Skirts were made last week, and today the shirts were to be finalized with white felt circles and black lettering.
My daughter was excited as we waited to pick up her best friend for an 8-hour playdate. They’d had the whole thing planned, what to do each hour, how much trampoline bouncing in relation to how much costume creation. The stage was set for an amazing day of Halloween costume-making and celebrating.
When her best friend got in the car, she didn’t have her skirt with her. Or her shirt. Her best friend had the horrible job of telling my daughter she was no longer welcome to join them trick-or-treating because she has food allergies. In her friend’s words: “My aunt says no one with food allergies is welcome.” My daughter, and I, were devastated!
She knows not to eat the candy. She’s allergic to sugar, gluten, chocolate, dairy, soy and eggs. She was going to collect the candy and give it to the men and women who serve overseas. She just wanted to be with her best friend making memories.
To me, this is much more than just being excluded from trick-or-treating. This is how prejudice starts and where our country is going. You may be saying to yourself: “But I understand the aunt’s concern. It is for the safety of your child and their peace of mind.” OK. I can see that. But read the next sentence, and tell me if you feel the same way afterward:
“My aunt says no one with [.......] is welcome.” Now, fill in those brackets with:
- A different skin color than yours
- A religion different than yours
- A gender identity different than yours
- A sexual identity different than yours
- An address different than yours
- A language different than yours
Now tell me, how does that sentence feel? Can you justify it?
Over the past couple of years, we have begun to see acts of hatred and judgement be accepted in our nation, and this scares me. Hatred, judgement and prejudice begin at home. It begins at the kitchen table where differences are discussed and either questioned with the intent of acceptance and understanding or questioned with the intent of exclusion and power over one another.
Without meaning to, this woman’s fear of my daughter’s food allergies has created a prejudice against my child. It seems innocent enough. It’s in the name of safety, right?
Prejudice starts small. It doesn’t start as raging hatred for another. It begins with fear. It begins with not understanding and not asking for edification. It begins with accepting the fear with an absolute answer of exclusion.
To me, this food allergy phobia represents more than a simple fear—it represents the fear in our nation. The fear of losing. The fear of change. The fear of acceptance of differences because when we accept our differences with grace and dignity, those in power lose their control. And they don’t want that. So they stir the pot, pitting one group against another. They stir up our emotions and play to our fears. They do it intentionally so we stop asking and searching for similarities and instead look for justification of group exclusion.
The next time you find yourself in a situation where you feel fear wants you to give an absolute exclusionary answer, stop and ask yourself the following question: “What could I learn from this experience which would help me better understand the person or situation?”
That is the only way to stop the fear, the exclusion and the hatred in our country. It has to begin at home. It must begin with you.