I'm in a mood now. The kids at the bus stop put me in a really snippy mood. Yes, this morning, at the school bus stop, I got into an argument with three English boys who go to my daughter's school.
These three boys were in school uniform, all with various shades of red hair ranging from neon orange to strawberry blond. Cute freckles across every nose, big happy smiles, rosy cheeks.It started very casually with one of the boys commenting on my accent (a frequent and now tolerated occurance). The oldest was 12, then 10, and the youngest was in my daughter's class, he's 6.
12yo: You're from a foreign country aren't you?
Me: Yes I am. I'm from America.
12yo: cool! That's where Orlando is!
Me: *laughing* Yes, but I'm not from Florida. I'm from Massachusetts.
10yo: I don't know that one.
Me: that's ok. You've probably not seen "Jaws" yet.
(Three confused faces that politely ignore that comment)
6yo: I'm from a foreign country too.
12yo: So am I
10yo: We all are.
Me: Really? Where from?
Me: England isn't a foreign country.
10yo: Yes it is.
Me: Compared to what?
Me: England and Scotland are in the same country. They are the same country.
All Three: No it's not! (Hands on hips, the young one stomped his foot!)
Me: Yes it is. *nodding my head, bemused*
12yo: They are not the same country.
Me: Yes they are. Shall I list why?
10yo: Ireland isn't. It's a different country. So's Scotland! *hands on hips, pointing at me*
Me: Ireland is a different country. Scotland is the same as England. They have the same money, same laws, same taxes. We vote for the same Prime Minister, suffer the same Monarchy, and speak the same language. We read the same newspapers, watch the same television channels and eat the same foods. We are one country, with different customs and traits, but still one country. Just like in America, there's different sorts of people in all the different States, but someone from Hawaii would never say someone from Florida wasn't an American, they know they are both American. You can think of Scotland and England as States in the same country, but they are not separate countries. (The 12yo is shaking his head "NO")
10yo: My Dad says they are.
Me: (quietly)Your Dad is mistaken. You and my kids, are all British. All born in the same country. You are neither foreigners from each other.
The bus came then, but the silence hung in the air. Information, altered from the known, was being turned over in those little heads. Something different from the "Trusted Parents" version of history. Something, nicer? Less full of disdain? Less fearful? Truth.
I may have the doorbell ringing later with an angry English parent asking me to butt the hell out of their business, and they may be justified. I, however, do not ever want those boys to think less of my girls because they were born Scottish, and not the All-mighty English. The strength of their need to impress on me they were English, and in no way to be labeled as Scottish shows me the threads of racism are already being woven into their characters. It shows me that racism is going to be integral into any society: There's always a need to feel superior over someone else. Yet, here, it's against their own kinsmen.
I grew up in North-East America; where we called the Southerners Renecks and Hillbillies, and they called us Yankees (Which I never really felt insulted by to be honest), Californians are Bleeding Heart Hippies and Sprout-Eaters..and well we could go on for everywhere, but no one would ever have said the other wasn't American. (Maybe the Texans, they did want to separate from the Union once upon a time. Lone Stars...) I've been told due to the past wars, the scars run too deep to ever be forgiven. America had it's own civil war...we got over it. We even pretend and play-fight re-enactments of the old war, then drink and eat afterwards.
I don't know where to go with this. The school? Try and change the views of the parents? Get the teachers to speak of "One"? I will certainly tell my kids the truth. If they are going to come across racism against their Scottish heritage then I want them prepared.
I just despair at the stupidity of it all.