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.
I remember the day that Lil got a favorite color. Someone asked her what her favorite color was. She replied that she likes several different colors and did not have a favorite. The very opinionated person explained that everyone has to have a favorite. It’s part of being human. Lilith was wearing pink that day so she decided that her favorite color was pink. I was very annoyed with the person for pressing her and for presenting opinion as fact. The fact that Lil chose pink only added insult to injury since it was obviously gender stereotyping that I did not appreciate. Lilith was happy to be a participant in a social custom that was new to her, she was also happy with pink. We both survived the moment and over the next year Lilith learned to appreciate several different shades of pink. She settled on a vibrant hot pink as her absolute favorite. I thought I was stuck with this color for the next ten years. I was quite surprised the next when she announced her new favorite color. Red. Over the next year, we spent time discovering and noticing shades of red everywhere in the world around us. Maroon, bright red, brick red, by the end of the year a very dark maroon won out as the color of the year. This year started out blue. The color of clouds. It has evolved to teal, more closely related to green than blue, but in the same family. I love the journey into color exploration and I have taken a serious lesson away from this experience.
When the person presented the idea of favorite color to Lilith I was annoyed with their creating a social box for her to live in. I did not realize what was actually happening. The person was displaying a box for me to step out of. My perspective was stuck in a set of ideas that I have. I assumed that Lil would live in the same box, but in actuality the person only presented a more in-depth exploration of color for her and for me. I don’t think the person did it on purpose. I think that unschooling creates a system for receiving information and interpreting in a way that leads to more exploration. Instead of receiving information and assimilating it into your being (this process ends when you become an adult or finish your “education”), unschooling means receiving information and exploring the details, unencumbered by a prerequisite set of rules given by a teacher or parent.