Monday, April 7, 2008

statistical analysis

A new billboard has begun appearing around the city. It's an image of two giant people shaking hands, but once you look closer it becomes clear that the two giants are actually two crowds of people in formation. Adinah and Anette were talking about it yesterday, and Adinah said that there were only two black people in the whole picture, and no people at all with curly hair (like hers.)

When Anette told me this, my first thought was that we should write a (suitably indignant) letter to the advertiser (The Vienna Insurance Group). Let 'em know that they hurt my little girl's feelings. I can hear the deafening silence a complaint like that would meet with, and I can imagine the response of an insurance company spokesperson if he or she were cornered and confronted about the subject ("Actually, the image in our advertisement accurately reflects the demographics of our Austrian client base--we did market research, you know.")

But I don't know what it means to Adinah. I wonder what she thinks when she looks at the world around her here, and sees so few faces of color (like hers.) And when she sees other black or brown people, does she count them on one hand?

I imagine that might be a lonely experience.

We were talking recently, and Adinah told me that when she gets older, she doesn't want to have a baby in her belly. She wants to have a foster kid, like V. But what does this all mean to her really? From what I've read, adopted kids go through phases of understanding what adoption means, what having biological children means, phases of wanting to be different, and wanting to be the same as all the other kids. The kid's views on the subject aren't progressive, either--in other words, Adinah probably won't suddenly develop angst about being adopted, then gradually work it out and accept it and become a 'whole' person. Actually, right now, Adinah doesn't seem to have much angst about who she is at all.

But when she counts the number of black people in an advertising billboard, or when she talks about how cool long blond hair is, or when she draws herself with long blond hair, well...I see some trouble over the horizon.


Anonymous said...

I think you ought to get a group together to do a guerrilla art project of this poster with the inclusion of alot of people of colors other than white, Pat. Paste it around town - the NYC way, or the way it was in the NYC past.

Or maybe an exhibition around this erroneous idea of a lily-white Vienna in one of the Kunsthalle's.


pat said...

Yeah, but it might be easier to just go around tagging the billboard with some catchy line, like maybe "Whites off Earth now!" I'll just need a few days of spare time, heh, heh....
Sending the love back to you in NYC,

Anonymous said...

I understand your concerns. Austria is a) racially not very diverse and b) Austrians are historically not that welcoming to foreigners, although things are improving.

I think it's great that you're adding diversity to Austria, but I may be tough for her growing up there. However, the black kids I knew growing up in Austria had it easier than the Jewish kids, oddly enough.

Well, hopefully the times are changing.


pat said...

Thanks, Nick. I think you're right. In the back of my head I know that if things are too tough for our girls, we will have to talk about moving to a place that is more diverse. It would be worth it.
I'm feeling optimistic, though, esp. since we looked at an elementary school for Adinah yesterday and there were a handful of black and Asian students there. Not too many, but supposedly more than at most other public schools in the country.

more cowbell said...

Oh that hurts. For them to notice, feel it, that young -- ouch.

It has more of an effect on the kids than we'd like to realize. Even when kids aren't so outspoken about it, there can be ugly effects, hidden, that eat away at them. I don't say this to be negative, but simply to be real, after seeing my own 3 (now 20, 18, 15) grow up, many years in Europe, and the last 4 here in the Seattle area. Seattle loves its "tolerance" (I hate that word/concept), and yes, it's much preferable to other areas of the STates, but if I had to do over again, I most definitely would've lived in a more diverse community. No question. And I hate the fact that it's too late for me to undo it.

Good luck, it's a rough road, no sugar coating that.