Not invited to the “cool kids” party

My family lives in a neighborhood in the city that is very diverse; many of our neighbors are Hispanic Latino, Somali and African American. Our kids go to a public school that has a Montessori core curriculum and because of that there is less diversity in the school as there is represented in my neighborhood; the school has become a magnet for liberal, white hippie parents who want to enroll their kids in a Montessori school.

Two weeks ago, I found out that one of my co-workers also has kids at this school, and her son is the same age and grade as my son. She asked me if I knew about the “Mom’s Night Out.”

This past year, it seems that several women decided it would be fun to host a “Mom’s Night Out” for mothers whose kids attend our school. It is an appetizer and cocktail potluck hosted at different mother’s homes. The next “Mom’s Night Out” was scheduled for the same evening as the school’s spring choir concert. Since I hadn’t heard of the event, my co-worker said she’d send me the on-line invitation and put me on the e-mail list.

So the morning of choir concert, my husband and I show up 15 minutes early. Greeting us is Mary, a parent volunteer and, I find out, the host of the “Mom’s Night Out.” I know this factoid because after giving every parent a program for the concert, she asks the women if they are a mom and if the answer is yes, hands her a printed invitation for the “Mom’s Night Out” and explains that it’s being hosted at her home that night.

Every woman except me, that is.

With me, she hands me the program and tells me where I can sit. No invitation to the “Mom’s Night Out,” even though it’s right there in her hand and I just saw her give it to the couple in front of me, and as I watch while sitting down, she gives it to the woman behind me. Then, with some time to spare, she goes around and gives them out to women she might have missed coming in. Still, she never approaches me.

So you can see where I’m going here. For fifteen minutes, I wait for Mary to approach me and she doesn’t. Yet, every white mom gets an invitation. I watch Mary walk around the audience, handing out invitations. None of the moms of color get one.

My husband and I are sitting next to my son’s best friend’s parents and I ask Kate whether she knows about the “Mom’s Night Out.”

“You mean the cocktail party?” she asks me. “Oh yeah, they’re so much fun!”

I looked around at the number of Muslim parents who are in the audience. None of those moms would come because of the alcohol being served. It was pretty obvious to me that this party was, by purpose or by omission, exclusive and I didn’t look “right” enough to be invited by Mary.

I’m sure Mary didn’t intentionally exclude me, or all the other moms of color, or Muslim moms from this event. Likely, Mary isn’t even aware of her biases that unconsciously steered her away from moms like me, making her uncomfortable. Mary can’t be excused from being “shy” as I observed her approach unfamiliar women all around me. It was a blatant act of being excluded because of my race. Mary must not interact with many people of color.

On Monday, when I get to work, I will ask my co-worker how the “Mom’s Night Out” was, and ask her if any moms of color attended. I will tell her what my experience was and why I chose not to attend. Since my co-worker is friends with several of these moms, I know she will pass on my concerns. There are probably several who will be upset because they think of themselves as allies with communities of color. These are the white folks who live in the city, and think of themselves as politically and socially progressive.

Well, as long as they get to choose who is invited to their parties.

Author: JaeRan

Assistant professor at UW Tacoma, writer, and researcher.

21 thoughts

  1. First, let me say how sorry I am that you were excluded from the party. That is rotten and
    thoughtless of Mary and co-horts.
    I have a rule in my house that unless all children, or all girls or all boys are invited to a party, we don’t go. Period. I have heard some lame excuses about why some kids aren’t invited. And it is also against school rules to do this too.
    The same would apply for parents parties except I never go to them anyway, but being single and having a terrible experience in a Catholic school (getting the evil eye for being single) I have no doubt that you were excluded.
    Again, I am sorry people have treated you like that
    and I hope some of them are made aware and refuse to attend any more of Mary’s click night out.

  2. Yvette, good point. I agree with you. I don’t want to excuse her racism. I wanted to express that I believe it was an unconscious decision, but interestingly, as I’ve told others about this I’ve had mixed responses – and my non-white friends have all said the same as you. Why am I SURE it wasn’t intentional? My response is, I’m not. It’s my first reaction to try and give people the benefit of the doubt, even though it’s almost never reciprocal. You brought up a great point!

  3. Ouch.
    Whether intentional or not it has the same impact. And it is infuriating. Don’t you sometimes just want to do something insanely inappropriate to break through that silent smugness?

  4. Would it have been innappropriate to go up to her and ask if there was a reason you were not invited to the Moms Night Out? Maybe “excuse me, I saw you handing out the flyers to the Moms Night Out all around the room and noticed that you did not give one to any of the women of color? Is there a reason I and the other mothers are not invited?”
    Stories like this MAKE MY BLOOD BOIL!

  5. Regardless of why you were excluded, it was just plain shirty and immature of her to be passing out the invitations in front of the uninvited. Unless that was the point and she passively aggressively wants people to know who is and isn’t invited. You mentioned an email list, couldn’t it have been handled through there or by phone?
    It’ll be interesting to see what Mary’s repsonse is and if suddenly there’s an open invitation to everybody for these get togethers.

  6. Wow, this is massively f-ed up and yet not at all shocking. What’s worse you just know this woman is gonna come out with some lame-ass excuse once she gets called on it. Ugh. $20 says she’ll say that she just didn’t *see* you or some other such nonsense. And the cleverly passive aggressive use of cocktails in order to ward off the presence of Muslims… yuck. It’s times like this that I wish I wasn’t so intimately acquainted with the inner-workings of the white psyche.

  7. Not knowing anyone you are speaking of, but knowing what it is to live in Minnesota, I can imagine I’d have the same reaction as you. I tend to find that most of the white folks here who are “progressive” are actually far behind in their own consciousness on their white privilege. So my gut reaction to this is that Mary has no clue how she has made you feel. Perhaps she is being forthright and purposely not inviting the mothers of color, but I doubt it. I also can see why you wouldn’t just go up to her and ask. Sounds so easy and logical to do, but it isn’t. Sometimes I peronally want to investigage the situation before just going up and asking someone if they really ARE being that racist (whether intentional or not).

  8. That is so f’d up. I think I would have started to cry right there. Like someone else said, unconscious or not, she handed out those invitations right in front of you. No excuse!
    You are brave to plan to say something. I’d be afraid I’d get hurt more. I’m sorry this shit happened to you.

  9. blech…that situation leaves a nasty taste in my mouth…
    I hate that gross feeling in your stomach when you’re like, yep-and I’m excluded AGAIN…and then that feeling gets worse when you realize it is, in fact, a racial thing.
    and man, I HATE when people think they’ve “overcome” their racisms and they pull stupid ignorant crap like that. Don’t even pretend, ya know?

  10. I hate having to ask myself if race plays a part in someone’s decision in how they treat me in situations like that. I go into the same thought patterns as you have, and sometimes it’s just frustrating that the question itself (of race) needs to be asked.
    IMHO, someone needs to be pretty clueless of not understanding how they excluded you and the other mothers of color, and while you may not want to be a part of that group anymore, it might also be fun to just press the issue and make them uncomfortable if race really is the reason.

  11. As a former white minnesotian now far removed, I just wanted to scream when I read this. ARGH!!!! Has life really not moved on?
    I can’t figure out if she is simply DUMB or rasicst. How could anyone NOT realize that those who are being publically excluded would not realize? Its beyond belief. I’m so sorry this happenned.
    Do discuss it with your co worker if you can. This woman needs to see her actions and rectify them.

  12. it’s her house so she can invite whoever she wants…and did you ever think that maybe it’s not your race, but it’s your personality?

  13. I have to agree with another person who posted–why don’t you go and ask her blatantly what the deal is? I am not so sure this wasn’t intentional, actually it sounds very intentional and downright rude!
    Of course she has a right to ask whomever she wants to her home, and not others, BUT to openly invite people and not others and under the guise of mom’s who share a school is just wrong. If she had friends who happened to have children who go there fine, but it seems the group is set up to be for mom’s of children who go to the school. Sounds like she knew exactly what she was doing.
    Of course you shouldn’t expect an invitation now, but really, would you want to hang out with those type of people? Not only does that woman have prejudice, many the women I don’t know, BUT she is seriously inconsiderate and rude! Not the kind of person I would want to call friend.
    Just my thoughts.

  14. Angie,
    Absolutely, if it was my personality she didn’t like, I wouldn’t expect her to invite me.
    Except she doesn’t know me, just like she didn’t know many of the other women she handed out invitations to.
    It’s also significant that even though this wasn’t an official school function, she used an official school function to solicit people to the get-together. It wasn’t just a “private party.” It was labeled as “School” Mom’s Night Out.
    I have no reason to speculate that she excluded me because of my personality but it seems like my personality bothers you.

  15. Ugh.
    In my kids’ elementary school, there is a strict rule that b-day party invitations are NOT to be passed out in class. It makes those not invited feel excluded. That’s just basic manners which this person obviously lacks whether race was involved or not.
    It’s difficult to not to think of race when there’s a definite exclusion of people of color. I try also to give people the benefit of the doubt, but there are times when my instincts speak to the contrary. That’s what is so tricky about subtle racism.
    In this case, if it were really simply a “School Mom’s Night Out,” then why didn’t she post a bulletin on the door or send a newsletter home like most people do instead of handing out invitations?
    You have a beautiful personality btw. I just love defensive, anonymous hit and run commenters, don’t you?

  16. I’m so sorry I’m getting here so late, Jae Ran.
    I know these kinds of situations all too well, and no matter how you slice it, and which angle you try to see it from, it just plain hurts. Even more than when it happened to us as kids, for many reasons.
    I’m anxious to hear what your colleague has to say.

  17. So much for “progressive” parents. I admire you for having kept your cool in the situation and for giving Mary the benefit of the doubt. Please do update us on what your co-worker says and do. I want to know how Mary reacts. Her attitude shouldn’t go unchallenged.

  18. That was a shitty thing to do.
    It sure sounds like she was only inviting “her” kind of people.
    My reaction would probably be to start having “Fun Mom’s Night Out” and not inviting Mary.

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