Yesterday Lily called me and invited me to a prayer group/Bible Study. It was really cool. At the bible study was Lily, who is Dominican, 4 Mexicans, one Colombian one woman from El Salvador, oh, and me. All but 2 of them were Catholic. It was nice (I have never been to a Bible study before) They talked about what was going on in their lives, read a bible passage, interpreted it, wrote prayers for everyone in the group on a piece of paper and then one woman recited the prayers. Most of this was in Spanish. The best part was when everyone was praying, out loud, at the same time, in Spanish. I wouldn't say it was entertaining, that could be disrespectful, I would say it was fascinating, so different from what I am used to, but didn't seem wierd or crazy, it seemed very passionate. After the "meeting" we sat and ate Dominican food (it reminded me of Mexican food but not spicy.)
Later Lily trimmed mine, and another lady's, eyebrows, and most of the people went home. Lily then invited me to a party. It was a get together to celebrate a six year old's birthday. At the party we ate Mole (yes, a SECOND dinner) ice cream, and Birthday cake. At the end of the night we danced to Daddy Yankee in the basement, and then I spent the night at Lily's, and went to a spanish language mass with them in the morning.
I had a lot of fun, but was really ready to go home at the end of last night. It was SO much stimulation to be around a different culture (or should I say cultures) and I was not only worn out from the difference in national origins, but in the difference in class. Over the 2 days I had to look straight-forwardly into my own racist feelings and race-privledge, as well as being faced with the dilemma of how to respond when you (justifiably) disagree with something, without being judgemental, but from genuinely caring.
The racism and race privledge feelings I was confronted with was mostly class-based. At the party I chatted mostly with Lily's mexican brother-in-law. He was funny, smart, ambitious, and was really welcoming to me. But had I seen him on the street I would have plenty of pre-concieved notions about him, just by looking at him. He was short and mexican, wearing a form fitting black shirt and 4-5 chains around his neck. His wife, as well as many of her sisters worked in laundry at a nearby hospital. It made me feel even more embarrased to know that many people have the same pre-concieved notions, but actually think they have validity.
It makes me sick to my stomach to have to deal with the fact that privledge I live with is not universal. I saw at the checkout at K-mart how vigilant the sales-people are, they not only asked Lily a ton of questions when she presented her credit card, they had a person standing at the door checking the reciepts as we exited. I was enraged last month when the man at the airport store assumed I wasn't going to buy the expensive stealth bag because I worked for the regional instead of the mainline, I know I should be happy that I am confronted with that feeling rarely enough that I still let it upset me.
There were plenty of cultural things that struck me as "tacky" but were none of my damn business, but there were a few things that were fair differences in opinion, I had a hard time figuring out how, as a guest to their family, I should respond. With the first topic I responded altogether wrong. Lily and her husband bought their 3 year old toy guns! Not only did they buy them guns they let him pretend to shoot them AT people and at the dog (making him bark like crazy.) At the store I opened my fat mouth and said "your buying him toy guns?" It was none of my business, it wasn't my son, they were very nice about it, and I wished I hadn't said it.
In the car I guess I felt something was my business. There were only 4 seatbelts, so I tried to put the (big) 3 year old in the seatbelt. He wanted to sit in the middle, and whined and squirmed. The whole family seemed to be willing to give him his way (letting him be boss- worse than toy guns in my opinion) and I finally just said to myself "it's not my kid, at least I tried to put him in the seatbelt" and gave him his way- rewarded the 3 year old for whining! I have seen this kind of parenting before, it pisses me off royally, especially since my dad raised me that way and I resent it to this day. What is the cause of it? It's not that they don't love little Alejandro, he is their little sweetheart, they shower him with love and attention. I was going to call it a working class problem, but I realize that this is a problem in all of our social classes. I really think Lily and her husband are good people, She had her first child young, I help no-one by judging, but maybe as her friend I can non-judgementally suggest "My aunt used to do this when my cousin was misbehaving"
All-in-all it was a fun weekend, I was SO privledged to be welcomed into such a lovely group of people's circle of friends :)