Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Racist Books and Your Little Ones

This article is mostly middle class (presumably white) liberal hand wringing, I'll admit, but it's got an excellent point at its core, which is the question of "how much is it right to shield your children from the ugly parts of the world?" And after that the question of "how do you explain things when you do decide to explain?"

I know when I was growing up, my parents erred on the side of keeping my childhood a happy, safe place as much as they could. I actually remember the first time I heard about the Holocaust from friends, which should show you how old I was. I didn't believe it was real, because 1. it made no sense and 2. I couldn't believe there was something that big out there and I hadn't heard about it.

My personal experience is that not having more direct contact with these issues allowed me to hold on to some ultimately racist assumptions (like how blonde white women (like me) are the most universally desired thing in the world) way past the point where that was reasonable. Stuff someone told me when I was a kid and not very good at critical thinking, and which I then carried around without questioning because I was not often exposed to things that forced me to question it. It's a large part of the reason I seek out racial equality blogs nowadays and read as much as I can.

(This is not at all a slam against my parents. They're wonderful people who tried their best and, I think, did very well, and to their credit, whenever they caught me doing or saying something unacceptable, they'd sit me down and tell me no, that's not okay).

Stuff is coming up now with my nephews. We sat my younger one down recently and had a talk about 9/11 because it was the 10th anniversary and it was something they were discussing in school. My stepsister, whose parents had been less sheltering, showed him video footage and we talked about who did this and why. Or how the older one was running around enthusiastically and incorrectly quoting Madagascar in a way that made us all cringe.

I love these kids. They're wonderful little people, and I hate to break their hearts with how ugly things can sometimes be.

But that's really how you grow up, isn't it?

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