Saturday, May 19, 2012

Can We Protect Our Kids from Racism?

A timeline of tragedy
"Look Mom - those scary ghosts!"

My two-year-old flipped through a National Geographic magazine as he sat on the potty waiting for a poopy that never arrived.

I replied with the kind of  "mmmhmmm" that Mommies give when they are panicking internally & trying not to cause panic in their kids.

My toddler saw a photo of the KKK. Even though he thought they were ghosts and I was relieved he didn't notice the photo below it I felt terrible. I felt terrible because I have this feeling that if I prevent my kids from learning what racism is (or sexism or classism) then they won't be racist.

This feeling is based on a vague memory of a poster I saw many years ago that said something like "Of all the diseases kids can catch, racism is the worst."

The concept that racism is contagious, spread from human to human, really stuck with me. With the right protection, I could prevent my kids from contracting the disease. I made a solemn vow at that moment to raise children who would never know the word "racism" until they were older and learned about it in school as a horrible injustice perpetrated decades ago. This was back when I was young & idealistic.

This February, during Black History Month, my four-year-old came home and told me that a long time ago people with brown skin had to sit in the back of the bus.

"What do you think of that?" I asked him.

"I think it wasn't fair. People can sit anywhere," he replied.

What is the name of the emotion where you feel proud and sad all at once?

I don't think I was ready for my four-year-old to be introduced to the idea that anyone was treated differently on the basis of their skin color.  I said we I didn't even want the thought in his mind, or any of my kids' minds.

Am I being naive to think I can prevent this foul weed from growing?