An acquaintance of mine at Motherhood and More wrote a post that I want to address. She is referring to MLK day and race issues in this country and she brings out several points that I often write about. I’ll start with a quote:
How easy would it be, even subconsciously, for “I’m glad I’m white” to gradually morph into “It’s better that I’m white” and eventually to “I’m better because I’m white” if there wasn’t a strong message to counter that?
It sounds like a person who really wants to educate their children and overcome the pitfall of racial prejudice. Here’s a question. Is it possible that a black person could feel the same way? “ I am better because I am black.” Well here’s another quote:
But maybe there’s another layer to it that I have – in my white ignorance, perhaps – never considered. If a white child thinks “I’m glad I’m white,” could a black child think, “It sucks that I’m black?”
The white kid feels superior while the black kid feels inferior? Yes I think some black kids come away with the message that black is inferior, but I also think that comes from the reinforcement of that idea that they get from society. The people who look at them and feel pity because they are buying into memes spread through the culture. I could take the same idea and apply it to women…should all women feel inferior because their history is littered with oppression? Should my daughter feel inferior because the 19th Amendment didn’t happen until 1920? I don’t think so.
My point is that if there is a black child who feels inferior the problem likely comes from teaching methods and societal reinforcement. If someone spent 50% of your day telling you that you had to fight for your rights and that you were a slave you might also feel inferior, but the problem with the picture is that the people telling these stories are not telling the whole story. They toss around the idea of the poor black slave, poor kids of black slaves…
This is exactly the sort of crap that pisses me off. The entire focus of the discussion is set up to reinforce negative notions of poor black kids whose ancestors were slaves.
The idea that the black kid would watch Dr. Kings speech and conclude that they do not want to be black, might be true to some extent, but it misses the big picture. There are many, many black people who grew up proud of who they were and where they came from. Kids who grew up in this time period with educated parents who focused on what all Americans at the time focused on; education and equality. These people, including my grandparents, never felt inferior and did not teach their kids the inferiority complex. Their children did not go to public schools and did not learn to the inferiority complex that you mention in your post. No one talks about this in schools, but as an educator you have more freedom to give your kids the truth. Give them a real education by providing information about these kids and parents who are forgotten by history because they do not fit the common narrative. Here is my suggestion: Next year instead of watching Dr. King and reinforcing an inaccurate, but mainstream meme, try listening to Extraordinary Ordinary People and give your kids a gift of real understanding instead of reinforcing an old and tired stereotype that is both inaccurate and offensive.