Starbucks, Race, And The Stares On The Playground

Starbucks wants to talk race relations in this country. Well I don’t necessarily want to hash it out with my barista over a cup of coffee but no doubt my family is part of the melting pot.

I am white. My wife is Latina. Our kids are both. One looks more like me. One looks more like my her. But the LOOKS from others are what we notice most.

Imagine getting the double take from someone wondering if my wife is the spouse or the nanny. Yes, people have asked her. On the bus. In the park. “Oh, are you the nanny?” Try explaining THAT to your kids. Ignorance. The second look comes when they try and figure out the kids. Are they white or are they Latina. Which. It’s almost like the silent stare demands an answer from us. We don’t.

It didn’t take long for the kids to notice differences in their skin tones too. I remember this drawing one of my girls did. They looked like twins. Same outfit. Same shoes. Same hair. Same bow. Different skin tone. We’d remind them that love is color blind. It doesn’t matter WHO they look like. Or it shouldn’t anyway. The bottom line is I want them to be strong Latina women… strong white women… just strong women… bilingual and independent.. who don’t need to be defined by others perceptions of skin tones.

I think it’s safe to say the race issue in the United States is a complex one. But it’s far more complex than a cup of coffee. There’s no doubt in my mind the Starbucks in suburban South Pasadena, CA may have a very different view than the Starbucks in Huntington Park, CA, the working class Latino neighborhood near where my wife grew up. I’ve been to both many times. Only ten miles away but they couldn’t be further apart.

Still, I realize I’ve had it easy. My kids too. We’ve had it much easier than the bearded man with the weathered face and a limp who’d stand outside the Starbucks in Highland Park, CA when I’d go. He was homeless and living in his car right near that Starbucks. Each day he’d stand outside the store as I got coffee. I’d give him food or some cash and he’d give me a “god bless you” in return. I haven’t seen him in a while now. I wonder what HE thinks of the race together campaign and how things are going in the US. Whether or not Starbucks should be in the race relations business… I don’t know… but maybe we can ALL agree there’s so much work to do.

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About dadmissions

author of Dadmissions. surrounded by a wife and two girls... and a dog named Cupcake
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12 Responses to Starbucks, Race, And The Stares On The Playground

  1. April says:

    I really like your perspective here. While my husband and I are both white we do not focus on race with our kids. My son is the only white kid in his daycare and it amazes me the looks I get if someone sees a picture of him at school. We are not a low income family and neither is his daycare. It just happens to be a wonderful and loving environment in which my kids have thrived in, all three of them. So when people ask, because if they know then they will, I just say that his teacher Latonya is an amazing person who serves as his second mommy and there is nothing wrong about someone loving your child as much as you do 🙂

  2. jdawgswords says:

    all this talk about race…it’s one thing to be proud of your heritage and culture…for a real discussion let’s talk native American/1st nation…me, personally I see people…cute kids, etc….how about sly and the family stone, “different strokes, for different folks”…so hug the kiddos and enjoy life

  3. Hear, hear. It’s been a while since anyone asked where I “got” Li’l D, but the fact I was asked–at all, and then more than once–says a lot.

  4. Great post.

    A few years back, a reporter friend of mine wrote a story about mothers that are mistaken for nannies because their biracial children didn’t look like them.

    We are a mixed race family as well.

    I’ve had a few people ask, “Where did your children come from? Like, what country?” They look stunned when say “Um, the country of my uterus.” Stunned, but never embarrassed for having asked in the first place.

    We’ve come a long way in this country but still have work to do.

  5. james says:

    The protests in Ferguson, NYC, Oakland, Seattle are an open scare that we’ve never dealt with as a nation. There are real, tangible racial problems in this country. Every week there is a news story about the dual recovery. The white one has been good, the black one not so much. The fact you can spend $3.00 on coffee is a sign that you are on one side of that color line.

    The real truth is your wife and my wife have been to that same park and heard that awkward ask, “Are you the nanny?” Focusing on that misses the point that there are men in this country that are routinely harassed for walking while black. What should be of greater concern for us all isn’t so much that it’s by another parent on the playground but a Police Officer.

    Is it crazy to have this discussion while someone is making a latte?

    It is crazy not to. This discussion needs to happen. And we need to have the conversation not behind some avatar on our phones or keyboards. Our opinions about race, questions about others, impressions flawed and otherwise need to be brought to light. They need a face, your face, my face, your readers faces. If it’s over a latte, that’s a start.

    I applaud Starbucks for having the gumption to even dare try this. I mean, to those that would ask “why a coffee shop?” Howard and the gang are asking, WHY NOT?

  6. DadWorking says:

    Your family is just ahead of the curve. We’re not far off from everyone being at least bi-racial and we’ll all be better for it. I appreciate you sharing your perspective here.

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