Scoundrel Time

Note from a Mother

My middle child is fascinated by his ethnicity. He looks the most Ecuadorian with his dark almond eyes and wide nose. He stretches his arm next to mine to see the contrast of his brown skin against my white. He teaches his younger brother to say they’re Latino or Hispanic, explaining he prefers to be called the latter.

My oldest is waiting to celebrate the holidays with his friends, a diverse bunch—white, black, Hispanic, Filipino, biracial, gay, straight. They couldn’t celebrate in December because one friend travelled to Mexico to see her parents. In third grade she came home from school to learn her parents had been deported. The trip to see her parents wiped out the money she’d saved for the friends’ gift exchange. She thinks she’ll have enough by March and they can celebrate then.

My youngest has been fascinated with swearing, the idea some words are off limits. He came home from school asking if I knew a bad word that begins with the letter n. Yes, I knew that word, but we don’t say it. He pressed for whys and whats. I told him it’s a derogatory term some people use towards African-Americans. He shook his head, disgusted and uninterested to know more since such a word wasn’t something he’d ever say.

As a mother I observe my children. The pride, the loyalty to friends, the rejection of a racist term. These small victories are overshadowed by my quiet fear as our country’s leadership is stacked by white men who’ve historically invoked racism in speech or action. At times it seems these men want to convert—(not revert, an important difference)—America to an Aryan Nation.

My younger two learn about the Holocaust and ask how such an obviously wrong thing could ever happen. As the commander-in-chief, who as a presidential candidate was endorsed by the KKK, criticizes the free press, condemns a civil rights hero for a courageous act of resistance, and calls for a ban on Muslims entering the country, I have a concrete example: this is how.