A dinner party, uplifting conversations and a question

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Last Friday I went for dinner to a friend’s place. We were just six: the ideal number to have interesting conversations and celebrate without falling into small talk or being hijacked by gossip. We discussed pretty everything: from Pope Francis’ peaceful revolution to the perks of globalization and all things that have changed between our generation and the latest.

An Indian girlfriend confessed that she’d never met a white person before age 12. In the same way, I have never crossed paths with a non-white child or adult before around the age of 14 (Then I started taking English summer classes, attended by a lot of nationalities). With no colonies (apart from the two or three held for a short time at the beginning of the last century) and no impressive economy, Italy has traditionally been an emigration country, before becoming an immigration point of access to Europe in the late 70s. When I went to school, it was rare for an average Italian child to meet a non – Caucasian person.

I realized how much this has changed when a friend – who’s just moved to Singapore – posted on Facebook a picture of her blonde son at school, surrounded by Asian children. Someone commented: “How does he feel about being the only white child?”. She wrote back: “He doesn’t know. That’s a thing of our generation”. She’s right. My children don’t even know where their classmates come from. They not once asked about skin color, or eye shape. They don’t see it. I might be a little emotional, but the thought (and the hope) that humanity is progressing towards a future where race, sex, religion and color won’t matter anymore moves me deeply.

So, after these uplifting discussions, a couple of friends told us a story, and asked our opinion. I’d love to hear yours.

Here it is:

A father and a son are in the car when the father loses control of the wheel and they crash against a tree. The father dies. The son is heavily injured. An ambulance arrives and takes him to the nearest hospital. The emergency surgeon comes out, looks at him and says: “I can’t operate this boy. He’s my son”. 

How is this possible?

15 comments

    1. Camparigirl, you’re too fast!!! Did you know the story already or you just guessed right? If so, I am really amazed. I have retold since the story to dozens of friends and NO ONE (myself included) gives the right answer. The closest one was “the boy is the son of a gay couple. The surgeon is his other father”. Otherwise everybody imagined cheating, complicated family arrangements, a false death….but we couldn’t think of the simplest thing, that a woman could be a surgeon.

  1. What I actually see at my son’s school is very different. He is now 5 and long gone are the days when his endearing comments about a black classmate (“mamma, he is different from me you know he has very short hair”) used to make me believe that a radically new era had just begun. When I go get him from the playground I cannot help but noticing that while white boys are grouped by age, black boys just play together regardless. It is true that the black kids are slightly outnumbered but this cannot possibly explain their stubborn sticking together. Kids see the differences, they are undeniably there before their very eyes, and as long as they keep an inclusive attitude it should be ok. What I ask myself is whether there will be an escalation: from not seeing the difference, to sticking with your own kind, to rejecting those who are different from you thus ending, like the generations before, in need of an “education”.

  2. I thought it was some kind of cheating, of course.
    But there’s my excuse: it’s all grammar’s fault! In italian the noun “surgeon” is masculine, therefore the first thing that comes into my mind is that word is referred to a man. Then I realized that even in Italian this word is used for referring both to women and men (e.g. “la mia amica Sara è un bravo chirurgo”), but the first thought was “masculine word = man”.

    Jeez, I’m afraid this excuse doesnt’ work so well… 🙂

  3. My story is slightly different. Although raised in the Seventies in a small country village, I first crossed paths with coloured people at six, more or less. In my village lived some Moroccans, who sold carpets and were generally regarded as nice people. I remember well one of them but not for being non-Italian, or non-European, but for having six perfect fingers in his hands and feet, something I read about in books but had never seen in real life (nor seen again from that day till now).

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