Pancakes and Progress

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I used to think that we live in post-racial America. Didn't we just elect a black man to the White House and wasn't he being treated just as badly as the lighter Democrats? But then as I was cooking pancakes for breakfast, my six-year-old Aiden announced, "Daddy, I have to ride in the front seat of the car with you from now on. Mr. Sato says that I'm not supposed to sit in back with my brother, Zane. He's black."

It did not matter that Aiden had confused the facts of the Montgomery bus boycott. Nor that Aiden himself is half black. Nor that his eight-year-old brother Zane was technically three-quarters black. Nor that the teacher was Japanese and that he was teaching at the Harvey Milk Civil Rights Academy. Nor that my two sons had been adopted by us, a gay couple. Nor that they have a Filipino uncle, a Latina therapist and an aunt who was born an uncle.

What mattered was that Zane was crying at the kitchen table because Aiden had told him that he was different, in a matter so small as the melanin in his skin and the curliness of his hair. Being different at eight-years-old is very hard.

We got to school late that morning. I told Zane that we all grow up different, that I was gay whereas my parents were straight, that my brothers were hyperactive whereas I had been hypoactive.

I told Zane that families are all different, but families are all the same. It didn't matter which one of us was old or young, thick or thin, light, mocha or dark. It mattered only that we were Fisher-Paulsons, and none of us would ever ride the back of the bus.


What did I tell Aiden? Pay attention to the end of the story. And that we loved him, even if he would not get an A in history.

What did I tell myself? Be careful of the little differences.

With a Perspective, this is Kevin Fisher-Paulson.