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There’s No Freeing Yourself From This Awkwardness

, , , , , | Related | September 7, 2021

My goddaughter’s mother was eager to go to a museum that was just opening up while she happened to be in town visiting me, so I went with her to the opening day ceremony. The museum was well put together, but since we were there on opening day, it took forever just to get in, and it was extremely crowded once we finally got in.

My goddaughter was a toddler at the time, and I’d strapped her into one of those wearable carriers to carry her when it was clear she was falling asleep. After a long nap, she finally woke up and started to get restless in the carrier. She was a very active child who didn’t want to be held when she could be exploring. Because of how crowded the area was, for a while, I tried my best to distract her to keep her in the carrier so she wouldn’t be underfoot, but eventually, she was too restless and had to be let out.  

Me: “Okay, okay, I give up. I’ll set you free.”

I worked her out of the carrier and set her on the ground.

Me: “There you go! You’re finally free!”

I lifted my arms as if celebrating, and my goddaughter did the same back at me before starting to toddle off. We had done this whole routine, including her lifting her arms to celebrate being set loose along with me, a few times before, so I didn’t think much of it until I looked up and noticed someone looking at me funny.

It was only then that I realized that I, a white man, had just made a big deal about setting my black goddaughter free at the opening day of the African American History Museum, in a section explicitly dedicated to the time period leading up to freeing of the slaves.

Let’s just say I have never been accused of having an excess of tact and my people skills are pretty much limited to persons with an age of twelve or lower. I tried to give the person giving me the odd look an apologetic smile and slunk off after my goddaughter.