Friday, January 18, 2013

Barak and Martin

Jem and Addis (or is it Barak and Bo?)
The boys and I went to our favorite restaurant for dinner tonight.  It's the only restaurant in town and we are regulars.  We were enjoying our food and each other when a boy of about 6 came in with his mom.  While they were waiting for a table, the mom quickly became engrossed in a conversation with another woman.  The little boy came right over to our table and pointed at Jemberu.

His voice booming, he said, "Hey!  You look just like Barak Obama!  You look like Barak Obama!"

He was so loud that the people around us stopped talking and turned toward our table.  The boys and I stared at each other with our 'what the heck' faces.

The boy ran to his mother and yelled, "He looks like Barak Obama!"

The mom came close to me and said "He just had a therapy appointment." and then added in a stage whisper, "He's kind of special."

She returned to her conversation, her son ran back to our table.  This time he pointed at Mikias and yelled, "And you!  You look just like Martin Luther King!"

Now everyone around us was quiet.  Jemberu broke the silence by saying, "Looks like someone has never seen a brown kid before."

Our fellow diners returned to eating.  Friends who were seated nearby commented at how uncomfortable the exchange was.

The boys were embarrassed.  Jem wanted to know what his deal was.  Mikias wanted to know what being special meant.  I didn't know what to say other than that some kids don't have complete control over the way they act and might not understand that what they are saying is rude or embarrassing.  I told them I was really sorry about the boy making them feel uncomfortable.  I told them I was uncomfortable, too.

I try hard not to judge other parents.  I don't know what they are dealing with.  I will admit though, I found myself thinking that that mom should have stopped talking and paid attention to what her son was doing. Seriously, after the Barak comment the MLK comparison could have been stopped in it's tracks.

However, I was thinking, that since my sons' are the spitting image of Barak and Martin, and this Monday one is being inaugurated and the other's birthday is being celebrated, perhaps dinner should have been on the house.


  1. I just can't get over how handsome your boys are! You take such loving photos of them--good job, mom! Sorry about the bizarre restaurant ordeal. I think you handled it in a sensitive way which preserved your sons' feelings.

  2. I totally agree about the free dinner!

  3. On another note, Obama and MLK are some SERIOUSLY wonderful people......maybe that little kid was giving a compliment! :)

    1. Chanell,

      I agree that being compared in any way to the president and MLK is a positive thing! But the way this happened it was more like "BLACK PEOPLE, OH MY GOSH BLACK PEOPLE! I JUST LEARNED ABOUT MARTIN LUTHER KING AND I KNOW ABOUT THE PRESIDENT BEING BLACK! I AM SO EXCITED TO SEE BLACK PEOPLE IN THIS RESTAURANT!" The boys were being singled out in a LOUD way for their race and that made them feel really uncomfortable.
      If the boy quietly came over and said the same thing, it would probably have been cool. Weird but cool with the boys.

      Thanks reading and taking the time to comment.


  4. Alison,

    I agree with you totally!! I think who is to blame is his mother. She should have taken him by the hand and taught her son some manners!


  5. As the mother of a child on the autism spectrum, my son could have been the one making those comments. Some children on the spectrum are extremely impulsive and have a hard time controlling their volume. Even if the mother had become involved earlier, she may nit have been able to do anything about her son. I hope your sons learned something about tolerance for kids with special needs. It's hard to do sometimes if you haven't come across many of them in a public setting. Many parents of kids with special needs don't take them out in public to avoid situations like these.

    1. You make an important point. I did point out to my boys that the boy may not have had control over his behavior and that he didn't know that his comments made my boys feel embarrassed. Knowing this did help in understanding the boy, but did not being made the center of attention because of their race less embarrassing to them.
      In this particular circumstance, the mom was engaged in a conversation while her son ran across the restaurant twice to compare my boys to our president and Dr. King. I thought that had she been paying more attention to her son, the interaction might not have happened. Perhaps you are right in thinking that she may not have been able to stop him, even had she tried. I hadn't thought about it that way.
      Thank you for taking the time to comment and educate.


  6. You definitely should have gotten free dinner!

  7. It sounds like you tried to take a light-hearted approach to this situation, which is about all you can do. Sometimes life is uncomfortable, but I'm sure everyone is doing the best they can with what they have. All I can do is shake my head and walk away at some of the comments my family gets.