I had created a funny relay race for the kids and we were at the part where they had to put on a white bunny face made out of felt, and try to hit a soft ball with a plastic carrot. The small slits cut in the felt made it tough to see… and the whole thing was very funny, without the KKK context.
Needless to say, I was horrified. Until I had put the face on in order to show the kids how to complete that part of the game, the thought had never even entered my mind that the bunny face looked like a large white pillowcase. The symbolism was clear, at least to me… and apparently also to my friend who I later overheard make that comment.
Of course this was the year my mom skipped the egg hunt. I am certain that had she been here she would have pointed out the connection beforehand when she saw me setting up the game. Her age and the history she lived through would have made the context much more obvious. On the other hand, I am hopeful the kids playing the game, and most of the guests, didn’t go that direction. I will say here now though…. for any of my friends reading my blog… I am truly sorry I didn’t catch the connection and skip that part of the game.
We had a similar blunder at our wedding many years ago. In many special ceremonies like a wedding it is traditional for the community to hold a hand out in front of them and bestow a blessing said by the priest. It wasn’t until later, when talking with some friends who were there to help us celebrate, that to a Jewish person that blessing can look awfully similar to a Hitler solute.
The ideas of context and audience often come up in this blog. I think I am particularly aware of context in my writing because I know my audience will care how I treat certain subjects. While I am a Catholic, and I think fairly religious, I also believe strongly in each person’s freedom to make their own choices… about their spirituality, their sexuality, their life direction. So my readers may not expect the way I treat subjects like GLBT in my often Catholic stories.
And I am okay with that…. As long as they know I have tried to handle it sensitively, from both sides. The last thing I would ever want would be for a reader to see in my writing a judgment on who they are, by choice or by birth. That type of judgment is against everything I stand for, and everything I want my writing to represent….
And so, if it ever occurs, I hope my readers will tell me, diplomatically, what offended them. That way I can state, very clearly, that something like the dumb bunny face will never, ever appear again.