Author Topic: Teaching racism  (Read 2795 times)

Peter Ahlstrom

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Teaching racism
« on: April 29, 2009, 03:18:02 AM »
I had an experience today that really disturbed me. I took my daughter to the park and I was spotting her on the playground equipment. There were several other kids there, and a four-year-old boy walked by and said, "All the kids here can come to our house. But not black people."

I was horrified. I mean, I theoretically knew racism wasn't dead, but I'd never come across it in so blatant a form. I was hoping I'd misheard the kid, but he walked up again five minutes later and said, "You can come to our house if you want." And I said, "But not black people?" And he said yeah and started talking about how whenever black people knocked on their door they started going wild and crazy with their mean dogs. (??) I told him that there were lots of very nice black people and he would meet tons of them in the future and he said, "When I grow up, I'm not going to marry a black woman because they stink." I said, "That's not true!" and he said, "My mommy told me so."

So yeah, it just went from bad to worse. I just don't get it. Why would parents go out of their way to teach this to their children? What motivates them to do it? Do parents have a right to teach their kids racism? I guess so, but what can be done about it?

I've been taught to disagree with some people's practices on ideological grounds, but this "they stink" type of FUD was never part of my upbringing. I don't get why parents would talk about it so much that a four-year-old would spout it off to random strangers in the park.

Anyway, the whole thing was very disturbing.
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Miyabi

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Re: Teaching racism
« Reply #1 on: April 29, 2009, 03:58:26 AM »
That is horrible, but it can't be stopped.  It will happen for as long as people exist.  I find it completely scary and ridiculous that someone could teach their kid something like that, I guarantee if I ever have children that they will be taught to accept everyone, no matter their beliefs.

However, as horrible as I think it is, that doesn't mean that these people are bad people.  They probably really believe that it is what is right, and that is why they are teaching it to their children.   Someone wouldn't teach something to their children unless they truly believed it to be true.  They probably love their children as much as anyone else does.  Their choice may not be our way of life, but where are we to say that raising their children like that is wrong and not something that should be allowed?
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Patriotic Kaz

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Re: Teaching racism
« Reply #2 on: April 29, 2009, 03:59:41 AM »
The whole exchange is hard to believe...not that i'm doubting you mind, it's just that my mom is hispanic and my dad is white so and the only BLANTANT racism i've encountered is toward illegals...
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Re: Teaching racism
« Reply #3 on: April 29, 2009, 05:03:59 AM »
Miyabi, we can say it's wrong because it violates our moral values.

Now, if you're a relativist, you can't say it's wrong without looking like a hypocrite.

I must say I'm disgusted, though.  Ought to be a fine for that kind of behavior.
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mtlhddoc2

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Re: Teaching racism
« Reply #4 on: April 29, 2009, 05:09:22 AM »
racism takes many forms, although most is not that blatant..  from white people anyway. But it is there, although not nearly as much as it was 20 or 30 years ago. Again, at least not among whites, although it is making a comeback due to teh very blatant racism against whites that has become the norm in pop culture and politics, and in some cases, the law, such as: only white people can be prosecuted for hate crimes in many areas that have hate crime laws, inlcuding mine.

Miyabi

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Re: Teaching racism
« Reply #5 on: April 29, 2009, 05:11:30 AM »
I really don't know how to say what I mean in a way that makes sense in a large scale.  It basically boils down to being hypocritical.

You can say that the racism they are teaching is bad, but not automatically assume that the person teaching it to their children is a bad person.  That's what I'm trying to say.  Because if you assume that because they believe in racism they are a bad person, is no better than saying that black people stink because they're black.
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Re: Teaching racism
« Reply #6 on: April 29, 2009, 06:02:08 AM »
Well, with one critical difference:

Racism is an action and attitude.  Black is a skin color
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origamikaren

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Re: Teaching racism
« Reply #7 on: April 29, 2009, 06:04:36 AM »
I have certainly seen first hand how parents teach their children to be racist and rude.  It's a disturbing sight...you have to be carefully taught as the saying goes.

On the other hand, this could all be a misunderstanding.  The kid was about four, and four year olds haven't learned to filter what comes out of their mouths -- or what goes into their brains.  I wasn't there to hear what the kid said, but imagine with me this scenario:

A little boy sees somebody making racist comments on TV or in a movie while over at a friend's house.  He might have some African American neighbors with mean dogs (I've had neighbors with mean dogs, and that fact alone made them seem scary and crazy to me.  I've also had neighbors who regularly yell obsecenities at each other beginning before 7 AM).

He's just come to the age when he's figuring out that boys and girls are different, and that boys grow up to be men who get married to girls who grow up to be women, and then they'll be mommies and daddies.  This is a fascinating subject to kids this age, and they often say they'll get married to some little girl they know when they grow up -- or to their sister or mom.  This is a natural stage of child development.

Then, maybe he meets an African American woman somewhere -- perhaps at the grocery store -- and doesn't like the way she smells because she's wearing some strong perfume. He tells his mom he doesn't want to marry her when he grows up, and his mom says, "Ok, you don't have to."  She may also support his idea that those particular neighbors aren't allowed to come over to his house for entirely non-racist reasons.

All these things are floating around in his head, and he makes some overgeneralizations and statements with loaded words that he doesn't understand the power of (Have you ever heard a little kid who has picked up a swear word from somewhere and says it only because it gets a reaction from everyone he says it to?).  This is also  natural for his developmental stage.  Perhaps his mom hasn't heard him talking that way yet, or maybe she hasn't had time to sit down and explain just what might be considered offensive to other people, even if he doesn't mean it that way (I remember being amazed at some of the things my mom made me stop doing that I look back on now and feel terrible about). All you have to do is look in the back of any parenting magazine to see a whole list of horribly embarassing things that kids have said or done.

I wasn't there, so I can't be sure this is what happened, but I find this scenario much more plausible than that his mom (in Provo Utah) is teaching him that black people aren't allowed at his house because they smell.  Remember that young mothers here are mostly Mormons and/or married to BYU students -- those populations aren't known for being blatantly racist, but they're also very known for being kind of sheltered -- they might not know ANY black people except for the neighbors with the dogs.

Though I don't know what was up with this little kid, I do know that I've been on the other end of this kind of misunderstanding.  I was teaching a Hands-on-History class where each girl made a little cloth doll while I told stories about pioneers.  I had made body parts for these dolls from seventeen different colors of fabric from pure black to pure white with every shade of brown, peach, and beige in between. When one of the African American girls chose the pure black, one of the other girls smugly said that black people weren't really black and made the first girl feel stupid for choosing that color.  To make her feel better, I told the girls that there are indeed some people with skin that is so dark it's black almost bordering on blue (for instance, a guy I know from Africa). I also said that everybody was allowed to make their doll however they wanted, and it was nobody else's business.  The girls each chose and sewed on the button eyes, yarn hair, and pioneer dress for their dolls. This was the first sewing experience for many of the 9 or 10 year old girls, and their dolls looked like a child had made them, as they should. 

When the little girl proudly showed her dad the doll she had worked so hard on, with its button eyes kind of crooked, and the curly black yarn hair sticking out at odd angles, he tore it from her hands and stormed into the museum.  He cornered me and was yelling about how I was a horrible person for teaching racial stereotypes, and that his daughter said that I thought black people looked like this doll (which, I now realize, did kind of look like a pickaninny of sorts).  I felt physically threatened by him, and took refuge in another room while my boss dealt with him, but it took me several hours to calm down and feel safe again.

So yeah, the boy at the park might have been carefully taught to exclude smelly black people, but it's just as possible that he hasn't yet been carefully taught to be kind, sensitive, and inclusive yet.
« Last Edit: April 29, 2009, 06:10:06 AM by origamikaren »
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Re: Teaching racism
« Reply #8 on: April 29, 2009, 06:20:57 AM »
Ah, good point.

Best we not jump to conclusions, eh?
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Miyabi

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Re: Teaching racism
« Reply #9 on: April 29, 2009, 06:54:20 AM »
Very well put Origami.

EDIT:  But if you have to "filter" what you say then is that REALLY any better?
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Re: Teaching racism
« Reply #10 on: April 29, 2009, 07:41:29 AM »
Very well put Origami.

EDIT:  But if you have to "filter" what you say then is that REALLY any better?


What do you mean?
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Miyabi

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Re: Teaching racism
« Reply #11 on: April 29, 2009, 07:48:11 AM »
It's like, if you think (Pardon the language) "That nigger" but instead you say "Ugh, I can't believe he did that" . . . does it make you any better of a person just because you didn't say it?  If you thought it, that means you believe it whether you said it or not.  (For the record, I'm not a fan of "political correctness"  A rose by any other name.)
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Renoard

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Re: Teaching racism
« Reply #12 on: April 29, 2009, 08:36:34 AM »
On the other hand, one thing hasn't been pointed out.  Four-year-olds are notorious for taking one slight slip of the tongue, something a stranger told mommy, or something they saw on TV and inventing a rational, backstory and rigid set of principles that have no basis in reality.  This kid could be making it all up.  The parents might be the most fair and color-blind people in the US and the kid just made them look like Hitler. :)

In the words of 1960's TV, Kids say the darndest things.  :)


Of course I've dealt with a good deal of racism in my life, and I doubt it's really gone away.  Part of my heritage involves people who migrated to and built a new world on a new continent some 10-15 thousand years ago.  They've been the target of genocide, cultural warfare and a religious teachings intended to dehumanized us. :P  No biggy, but I've been all over my body looking for my mark and haven't found one yet.

On the other hand I look European enough to make those relatives nervous too, so it's a toss up. :D

« Last Edit: April 29, 2009, 08:39:38 AM by Renoard »
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ErikHolmes

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Re: Teaching racism
« Reply #13 on: April 29, 2009, 09:23:57 AM »
All I can say is: There's a LOT of stupid parents out there.

I still remember the kids in California that got taken away from their parents by social services. They were like six and four years old . . . and only spoke Klingon.   :-\
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Re: Teaching racism
« Reply #14 on: April 29, 2009, 10:52:19 AM »
Those poor children, taken away from their loving Klingon parents!

The university here has an international food & culture night, and, among all of the other nations of the world, a family of Klingons regularly shows up.
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