As a middle class white woman growing up was easy for me. I got many of the things that I desired and when my immediate family could not provide all I had to do was look to my extended family for the help or items that were wanted. I have an area of lacking in which I do not understand the differences of being “othered” in the sense of race. I do not know what it’s like to be classified into a different category because of the color of my skin. I am just white to those who look upon me.
I see how people are treated based on the color of their skin and I have been aware of the difference since the summer where I worked at a Metro Housing Camp. The children were unlike those who I grew up with. They all played together in a group and allowed each other the space that they needed. No one was in s certain group of children that were cast out from the others. I was witnessing play different from what I was used to in my small town with its majority of while skinned people. The children played without making judgement on who should be what character based on the color of the skin of their playmates. No one was forced to be an Indian while playing cowboys and Indians because of their skin color. (This was a recurring theme in my childhood when my friends were darker skinned than me. I would always want to be an Indian and I never would get my wish because ” my skin would be better for a cowboy”. )
Looking back I know see that by being the cowboy during my play time with my friends was a reinforcement of what Londa Schiebinger states is the justification of social inequalities in society. This promotion of position in society based solely on skin color was being reinforced as children in our play time. The cowboys would take over the fort and the Indians would be forced out side into the ‘wilderness’ which the cowboys would then capture and have battles over with the Indians.
By playing within the roles of what Indians were in the eyes of 5-7 year old children; we were just reinforcing the generalizations that are made throughout society that the Indians are uncivilized and that they must be integrated into the system of accepted society. As Linda Hogan shows in her article, culture is a big part of the Indian identity. It is a part of the lived experience and should not be taken for granted by larger society.
I am made to wonder if larger society is to blame for the loss of the cultured individuals and groups that fall outside of the norm of society. Those who are different are cast out and have their ways made into children’s games that will be perpetuated for the foreseeable future. Is there any way to change the outlook that society has on those lived bodies that have different experiences than the norm? Can we take a step back and start looking at people as people rather than a different race with different ideals and ways of going about daily life? While children’s games are meant as just that, games, will the continuation of roles being portrayed as something that is based on skin color continue with the changing of time. I can only hope that my goddaughter get to be whatever she wants to pretend to be; no matter how fair or dark skinned she may be.