I was talking to my mom on the phone the other day and she started telling me about her last week at school (she’s an elementary teacher). I noticed that she kept on referring to her students’ races, both white and black. This isn’t the first time I’ve noticed it, of course, but it was really getting to me this time. (Both my mom and I are white, FWIW.)
I don’t plan to bring this up to my mom at all since I have bigger fish to fry, but I’m just wondering if I’m the only one this grates on. What’s the point of mentioning their race? I’m never going to meet any of these kids, and it sounded a little demeaning the way she phrased it, i.e. “sweet little black girl,” or something. Almost infantilizing in a way, and it also makes her seem more than a bit racist. Of course we’re all a little bit racist, and I’m more than a little bit sensitive, but still, I don’t know if this is just me being sensitive or if I have a real gripe here.
I’m also in a couple of writing groups, and one of the things I WILL remark on is when a writer will mention an insignificant character’s race without any point at all (“the black cashier handed back the change”–yes, I’ve actually seen that one). I’ve seen this in printed books, too, and it’s one of those book-flinging lines. Unless it’s important to the story, or the character is a main character (and even then, it only needs to be mentioned once, not over and over like some authors do), what’s the point of mentioning the race? Anyone else bothered by this too?