A Visit to Doc McStuffin: Diagnosed with White Privelege

doc-blogWhen my daughter and I visit the children’s book section of libraries, I’m usually searching for books about nature, children who live in different places around the world, or people helping one another while my daughter is often searching for princess books. Doc McStuffin books and Dora the Explorer books seem to be the ones that we can both get excited about. For those of you who live outside the world of preschool characters, Doc McStuffin is a young black girl who diagnoses toys and then treats their illnesses. Her own stuffed animals often help her by offering up examples of teamwork and empathy. Dora is a young Spanish-speaking girl who goes on adventures to explore the world.

With the hopes of encouraging my daughter’s interest in science and our celebration of racial diversity, I decided that we’d visit the Children’s Museum and join the crowds on the opening day of the Doc McStuffin exhibit. I wanted my daughter to see this smart black female character with the hopes that it would help my daughter to grow up knowing that little girls of all skin tones can become doctors.

When we found out that we’d actually have an opportunity to hear a story read by the true voice of Doc McStuffin, I’m sure that I was more excited than my daughter. As I listened, I think other moms were equally excited. As we waited for Laya DeLeon Hayes to read, you could hear moms trying to explain to their children that this was the person who is the “real” Doc McStuffin when the character on the show speaks – one could see the children’s minds turning and trying to make sense of it.

As Laya began to read, I found myself looking at the visual make-up of the very full room – I could only see four children with shades of brown or black skin… Suddenly I felt jolted out of this fun carefree experience with my daughter. My sense of white privilege hit me so hard that I had to take a gulp of air. Here I was, a middle class white woman with the opportunity to bring my daughter to enjoy and experience this young, beautiful, intelligent, cheerful woman of color who had been flown in from California to read a story.

               My realization left me wondering:

                              Would children from different socio-economic backgrounds have opportunities to experience the exhibit?

                              Would children from different racial and ethnic groups have opportunities to experience the exhibit?

                              Was there anything I could do to be a helpful voice?img_20160805_105507_edit

While waiting in line after hearing the story to ask Laya if I could post her photo on a blog post, these questions kept running through my mind. Then I saw a museum guide and decided to reach out to her. Uncertain of how to begin, I prefaced my questions with a nervous explanation that I wasn’t sure if I’d word my question well – would there be ways for boys and girls of color to see the exhibit? Would there be ways boys and girls of different socio-economic backgrounds would have an opportunity to see the exhibit? Could I be of help with arranging transportation or other logistics or making contact with after school programs or community organizations?

I was grateful that the staff member was very willing to be in conversation and shared her e-mail address, so we could be in conversation. The staff member said, “We are trying, but we can always do more.” I’m grateful to be on a journey with people who like myself know we have more to learn and more to do. I look forward to hearing from the Children’s Museum staff member, and in the meantime I hope to reach out to Riley Children’s Hospital who sponsored the event and had doctors present at the opening of the exhibit. I want to thank them for their support of the exhibit and ask them about their ideas for supporting the museum’s efforts to be inclusive of more diverse groups of children. I also want to connect with my friends who work in Boys and Girls Clubs and public schools to learn about their experiences of connecting with special exhibits that happen at the Children’s Museum and at other places in Indianapolis like the zoo and the Indianapolis Museum of Art.

As I think of all these different organizations working together for positive transformation, I am reminded of the very old saying that is takes a village to raise a child.  Perhaps it also takes a village to help keep raising us as grown-ups!

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A note from Sarah Haas..

The Desmond Tutu Center has given me hope. It has reminded me that many people are working for positive transformation in our local and global communities. I appreciate the DTC and its staff, so I was grateful to hear about the opportunity to be part of the DTC’s blogging team. As a person on a journey, I’m always thankful when I meet others who are willing to travel with me. My greatest hope is that I might be part of growing a little more peace and a little more compassion in the world. Each day I learn more about this from my family, friends, colleagues, community organizations, authors, and strangers. I look forward to learning from you as well.

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