I remember learning about the Civil Rights movement and the Feminist movement in grade school and thinking, “Really? People had to fight for this? It seems so obvious.” I imagine that my children will feel the same way about homosexuality and gay marriage: why was this even an issue? It’s human rights. God loves everyone and we should love everyone, too. Judge not lest ye be judged. Treat others as you would have them treat you. It’s not what’s on the outside that counts, it’s what’s on the inside. We’re all beautiful and worthy and have a part to play in the human race.
Why does compassion still have to be taught?
It’s unfortunate that my children will be asking these same questions a generation from now, but I know they will. Racism, sexism, fear, and prejudice still exist and we are not doing enough to stop it.
My beautiful, innocent children and their beautiful, innocent friends were on the receiving end of some racist comments the other day and that makes my blood boil.
My boys go to a dual-language preschool (and Charles has been accepted into the dual-language grade school in our district, hooray!) and have friends and teachers of all colors and backgrounds: Russian, Puerto Rican, Latino, Caucasian, Black. We talk frequently about the differences and similarities between people. I ask the boys about their friends, what they like, how they act, what they look like. We talk about how some of their friends’ parents grew up in Mexico, how our neighbors moved from the Ukraine. The boys point out that some of their friends have brown skin. We talk explicitly about how the color of someone’s skin or hair or eyes does not mean that that person is better or worse or smarter or dumber or nicer or meaner than anyone else. Charles reminds me, frequently, of something he learned at day camp (vacation bible school) this year: “Even though you’re different, God loves you.”
On Wednesday, Jamie and Charles and their respective preschool and school-age classes from daycare went to the County Fair. Charles’s class walked there from the daycare center, a distance of about a mile (after reading this article, I am even more grateful for my childcare center’s focus on play and exercise). The boys got to eat fair food, see farm animals, and even have fun on some of the rides:
They had a great time. They didn’t hear or didn’t notice the hateful, hurtful comments that followed their groups of kids throughout the fair:
Go back to your own country.
These were adults directing racist comments at children. Beautiful children. Good children. Children who are almost all Americans, born in the U.S.A. Children who will grow up to be waitresses and fire fighters and doctors and business owners and hair dressers and bookkeepers and taxpayers and even serve our fine country in the military. These are children who are full of wide-eyed innocence and love and potential. And yet, in our community, a community that is at least 50% Latino, they are discriminated against and the recipients of foul racism. Even the children.
I wish I had been there to confront these assholes who stooped to spouting their hatred at children. I understand why the teachers couldn’t engage, but I wish someone had pointed out to these jerks that these children are American. I wish I could have called them on their racism and pointed out that they were being total douchebags. I wish I could have reminded them of what my mother always told me: If you don’t have anything nice to say, don’t say anything at all.
I’m not perfect. I don’t know how to navigate racism perfectly, and in all the conversations I’ll have about racism, I suffer the disadvantage of never having been on the receiving end. But I do know that I have a responsibility as a parent to be explicit about racism to my children so that they can be somewhat prepared for what they will encounter in their lives and so that they never, through ignorance or anger, say something hurtful and racist. Right now, their best friends are named Miguel, Lorenzo, and Cristian. In a dual-language school, they will forever have Latino friends. Because of that, they will continue to experience racism, a fact that nearly brings me to tears. But I hope, I sincerely hope, that they’ll be strong enough to fight back. To tell other children who say hateful, racist things that they are wrong.
And, as an adult, I hope I will always have the wherewithal to stand up to racist dickheads. When the people around these asswipes keep silent, it’s as good as a tacit endorsement of their behavior. Morons like that need to know that they people around them do not agree with what they’re saying. It’s the only way we can stop this.
We talk a lot about teaching our kids to stand up to bullies. We need to teach them to stand up to racist bastards, too. That’s the only way we can make this a non-issue and keep this sort of thing from happening a generation from now.