I pushed my stroller onto the elevator, and two other ladies with a double stroller pushed in beside me. We took up most of the elevator. The elevator stopped at the next floor to let more people on, and there were 4 or 5 people standing there. One or two of them might have been able to fit, but not all of them, so none of them got on. I felt a little bad, because one of them was an older gentleman, and I assumed his companions were waiting for the elevator with him. I wished I had made more of an effort to squish in a little tighter, at least enough for him and one of his companions to fit.
The doors closed, and one of the other ladies rolled her eyes and said to her friend, scornfully, "Why do black people always take the elevator? Is it really that hard to walk 50 feet to the escalator?" Her friend laughed in agreement.
I stood there in stunned silence, unable to think of a coherent response. What kind of idiotic observation is that? I thought about all of the times I've taken the elevator in this mall, and about all of the people I have seen take the elevator, and try as I may, the only pattern I could see emerging was age-related or ability-related - older people, people in wheelchairs, parents pushing strollers, parents holding hands with small children. What makes a person assume that race is the cause of anything, rather than a rational reason, like age or disability?
I'm still annoyed, and I wish I had said something. And I'm glad that Valerie wasn't paying attention, because I'm not sure I'm ready for the "race relations" talk, yet. (I'm still dealing with the seemingly endless after-effects of the "how babies grow" talk and the "death" talk.) But it's something I'm going to have to deal with, sooner or later. Which makes me very sad, because she doesn't care about skin color any more than hair color or shoe color right now. I wish I could keep her like that forever, but eventually, we'll end up sharing elevators with ignorant people, and she'll start to get the idea that this is something that should matter. And that breaks my heart.