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Suze! You weren't supposed to notice that! Seriously, it should have said 30 kids, not 300. We've very rarely (if ever) been at anything with 300 kids. Most of our activities have between 20 to 50 kids.
I've been giving this a lot of thought over the last few days, in large part because, when you are raising children of color, the reality of race and racism is never really gone. Jackie, thank you for your thoughts; they were an expansion of my own. The analogy of a 50-year-old bomb is pretty accurate and expressed what I couldn't quite get into words. I think it's very easy to dismiss the impact of racist literature as being obsolete when it's not going to directly hurt your family. If you use a curriculum with blatantly racist elements, it's easy to identify those elements, to either set them aside or use them to show your children how people "used to think". The problem is that it's not just how people "used" to think; many still do. It just isn't okay to say it out loud. Additionally, even while you recognize and acknowledge the most racist elements of a curriculum, the more blatant bigotry desensitizes you to the more subtle components. That's the lead that slips under our skin. It's not really about who believes in evolution and who doesn't; it's about those other beliefs that you stumble across in the same churches and religious organizations and homeschool groups, the beliefs that I don't have the luxury to ignore because they have already hurt my kids. I do think that there are people who display those labels who don't intend to be racist, but the truth is that racism is never far from those beliefs and I can't be certain how much another person has unknowingly absorbed. As a parent, it is my responsibility to make that judgment and I can only do that based on what I know. If you choose to join those organizations, to buy their curriculum, you choose to be tied to the racism that is just below the surface. It's my choice to step away with my children.
Crimson wife, I am genuinely unsure how to respond to your comment without seeming to be rude. It's pretty clear that you didn't really read my post, so all I can assume is that you read a summary of it elsewhere and responded from that summary. First of all, I am a Christian. I wasn't attacking Christians. I was writing about a certain mindset within some parts of the Church, and I can't apologize for exposing what I know about that mindset. I know about that mindset because it has already struck out at my family and, frankly, I don't have the luxury to ignore that. In fact, I said nothing about having a fish on your vehicle. My words were, "Symbols that show a disbelief in science or evolution raise concern." That doesn't mean the fish alone, by itself. I also stated that it's a combination of messages that tells me where people stand, and, as Jackie said, it is actually a good thing. It does tell us what to expect. The racist prose I wrote about is nothing like the "Little House" series. It discusses "Negroes" having the mental abilities of a 7-year-old, and I really don't care how it's used. There are so many other types of more subtle racism included in those materials and, once you read the more blatant stuff, you won't even notice the subtle things. That's why it's so dangerous. Like Jackie, I'm tired. It's hard to communicate the depth of our concerns to people who have no real comprehension of racism and of how deeply it has taken hold of our communities and of the ultimate impact on our children. It helps when others actually make the effort to listen and to reflect, but, sadly, too many people don't.
"A thinking love". Wendy, I really like that. The implication within those words is so strong and so appropriate. I have enjoyed reading through the comments. Cindy, your perspective was very interesting. I went to college with a girl who was adopted into a white family and she struggled so much with her identity because her family never discussed race or racism; they never acknowledged that she was black, and she never felt that she understood who she was or where she fit. One of the best books I've read about parenting black children was "Different and Wonderful--Raising Black Children in a Race-Conscious Society". There is so much institutional racism in school, so much bias in the curriculum, and so many systemic assumptions...I really think that, by homeschooling, we're able to give our children so many more opportunities, to raise their social and cultural awareness so much more naturally and completely. I appreciate the thoughtful responses. Thank you.
The thing with systemic racism is that it creeps into all of us, regardless of how aware we think we are. You cannot NOT be affected at some level. It's in the media--in newspaper, television, movies, billboards and other advertising mediums. It's in our body language, in casual exchanges that we simply observe--and then internalize. In order to recognize it, you need to have a knowledge of racism. My children's awareness of racism is a defense against a mindset that could crush them. The few anti-racist white parents I know have slowly and naturally introduced even young children to racism, through books and movies and discussion, because, armed with that awareness, they begin to recognize and actively deflect the racism that most of us don't even see. Have you seen this video, It was done by a 16-year-old, replicating a study that was done in the 1940's for Brown vs. the Board of Education. Things really haven't changed as much as we want to think.
Deb, I've been thinking about how to answer your comment all day, because the ability to delay that knowledge is so far removed from my own parenting. Given the awareness I have now, it would be impossible to not talk with my children about the ugliness of racism and of slavery and the subsequent oppression--because it's still very much a reality throughout this country. My own 7-year-old is extremely sensitive and reactive. I've had to answer some very difficult questions because he thinks about everything. He knows not just about slavery, but about the laws that followed. He knows his grandparents went to segregated schools and he knows that those schools offered far fewer resources than white schools. He knows that, in very recent history, in this state, that Mommy and Daddy couldn't have gotten married. He knows about Martin Luther King and his death, and why he--and so many others--died. When my daughter was seven and still in school, she got into an argument with her classmates about George Washington. They saw him as an infallible hero who couldn't possibly have had slaves; she maintained that he did. The teacher never intervened to say that she was right. But she knows. My son knows. We've seen the slave quarters and their burial grounds. It's not ancient history, and it's so greatly connected with the laws and discrimination that have impacted their family and touched their own lives. I can appreciate that your children--and you--wouldn't define a relationship, a friendship, on color. That's important to me. At the same time, I worry that a lack of awareness would lead to an inability to distinguish that subtle racism, the kind that doesn't smack you upside the head with its glaring intent. And not having those defenses allows systemic racism to seep in, unnoticed. I understand the desire to maintain innocence. We all want to protect our children as long as possible. It's just not something that we can do, and I can't honestly predict the ultimate result of those efforts.
Deb, Where I live, and in most of the US, it's a luxury not to *notice* race. I'm white. Growing up, race wasn't an issue to me. It wasn't an issue because it didn't impact me, it didn't affect my freedoms or my choices. My husband and I started dating in high school, and we graduated from different Historically Black Universities and I learned that, in class, our discussions would always circle back to race because, in the lives of my classmates, race was a constant. Every time they left campus or turned on the television or read a newspaper, the world would remind them. When I started teaching, I saw the impact of race in schools that had only been integrated for one generation before. I saw people's responses to me change abruptly after they met my husband. And, unfortunately, later, my daughter saw adults turn their backs on her, very deliberately; she saw parents, on more than one occasion, literally snatch their children away on the playground, and she was told by two little girls that their mother wouldn't let them play in our yard. One of those same little girls later asked me why I married a "blackskin". And this was all before she started school. We simply don't have the luxury of not seeing color. Most of my white neighbors and friends would say that we don't live in an outrageously racist area, because those incidents don't happen to them. Most comments or actions motivated by racism sweep past them unnoticed because it doesn't affect them. I see nothing wrong with noticing differences in color or in culture--it's the response to those differences that matters.
Aren't you glad you opened up? You got so many people thinking and talking.
Robin, This was so beautiful. You captured the essence of the journey--thank you.
Thank you, Jamie and Steph! The schools in Virginia are just finishing their annual testing (SOLs) and, even with a month left of school, everyone is burned out. Somehow, education reform just leads to less innovation, less freedom, less individualized learning opportunities and a more narrow curriculum. Public education shouldn't automatically mean an assembly-line approach...
Hi Jennifer! My daughter, too, learned in school that her little brother wasn't her friend. And, like you, we couldn't stand the morning rush. I refused to hurry her through the morning, and we were very often about five minutes late and I realized that I was going to make a rotten public school parent because I didn't care. The school didn't own my child and I wasn't going to make her miserable trying to cram her into their timetable. That was my first indication that my family was no longer structured around my family's needs; we were becoming part of the greater borg and I simply wasn't ready to lose my kids. Schools are not child-friendly. Great post!
Thanks, Susie! My in-laws used to warn us about rocking the boat, wanting us to play it safe, until my husband finally reminded them that if everyone played it safe, nothing would ever change. I played it safe for a long time and it just isn't worth it. Jamie, I tried to explain to my son that it was really a school, but he was pretty darn insistent and I've learned that you really can't argue with a 3-year-old.