Racist Children

As much as it has been proven to me that kids come to us with a certain temperament, a definite style, and absolute quirks, I also believe that we as parents can turn them into awful human beings. I’m not talking about parents whose “style” is different than mine. You want to pre-chew your baby’s food? Good on you. You want to speak only in metaphor so your child doesn’t grow up to be too literal? Nice. You think I’m seventeen shades of wrong for letting my son give himself weekly tattoos with Sharpies? That’s cool. I don’t mind.

But when you – yes, you – raise your child to be a racist and say awful things to other children, then the truth about you is simply this: you’re a mess, and your child is going to be one too.

I’m not dancing around this one, I have absolutely no tolerance for it. None. It’s neither funny nor cute when your child goes down this road. How does a parent teach their child to be a racist? They laugh at racist jokes. They kid about racist things. They allow racist commentary from others to go un-checked. They agree to stereotypes and believe that saying “I’m not racist, but…” before saying something ignorant absolves them. They consider things that are different to be weird and scary, and moreover, wrong. Our children are desperate to please us and they soak up these toxic attitudes and mirror these destructive opinions.

How easy is it to destroy another child with hate? Really really easy. It’s the easiest thing in the world to make a child believe that their differences make them less than others. All the protection in the world from their parents cannot undo what is done to them by hate speech from their peers.

While my children will likely never be the victims of racism directly, I believe they take a hit each time anyone they know or care about gets knocked down by it. I take it personally. I want my children to take it personally. I want you to take it personally. There is no good reason, there is no excuse, there is no old school of thought that makes it ok for any child to use racist slurs, stereotypes or other type of vulgar speech towards one another.

Whatever. I’m not going to fool myself into believing that if I write about this, anyone will change. Someone who has a lifetime of prejudices is not going to change their mind after a few of my paragraphs, right? But what can I do? I have recently heard stories of two separate kids, in two different states, being called awful things by other children. I don’t know what to say to the parents, how to correct this experience for the kid, or how to even wrap my head around how it must feel.

So I’m just heartsick and a little full of rage. One of these kids I love like my own son. He’s sweet and kind, and shouldn’t have the need to protect himself because he’s the kind of guy who if the world was fair, would never be harmed. But it’s not, so he will be. So will mine, so will yours. All of our children are vulnerable because all of our children have things that make them “different”. I guess that by writing, by raging, by sounding the alarm, I just want to put some hope out there that soon? Differences will be celebrated and envied. Skin tones will be signs of heritage, not worth; affect and accent will be spices and flavors of nothing but variety. That’s my hope. I also hope that I will not be around to hear these slurs spoken in person by adults or children, because though it is less eloquent than my hopes, the truth is there will be tears if this happens around me. And they will not be mine.

9 thoughts on “Racist Children

  1. Indeed! Unlike breast-feeding at 3 or co-sleeping, *this* is the sort of thing that should ignite “parenting wars” that the media is so fond of stoking.

  2. Jodi- You go, girl!! I live in a small town in Oregon and there is very little diversity. As my son becomes further entrenched in his teen years, I am seeing some of the children he’s known since babyhood turn into hateful creatures when faced with any sort of cultural diversity. It makes my heart hurt for the for those involved in both sides.

  3. So true, there are certain qualities our children will have all on their own, and certain ones that we will teach them. And it is so unbelievably important for the ones we teach them to be honest, fair, and just.

  4. Sing it! That is so true and awful. (ps – I’ve missed you!! I grounded myself from the internet for a bit)

  5. Hi Jodi,
    I was googling for fire escape ladders and ended up here – go figure!! I think there is a reason for this. I agree with your comments about racism. We, as parents, need to teach our children well. I come from a fairly open-minded family, my mother a Ph.d. in psychology, my father a Ph.d. in Parks and Rec. I have a Masters in Education.

    But I do want to ask you – how old are your children? If they have not hit the teen years, yet, then I wish you the best and I really mean that, because it is difficult and challenging in ways you do not anticipate. I love my son dearly, he is 14 and a good kid. I don’t think he is a bully. He got through 7th and 8th grade with no one telling me he is a bully. He is very popular and usually a kind person. HOWEVER…. (drum roll)…. the things that come out of his mouth can be startlingly and stereotypically racist. I believe a lot of it is testing those beliefs and seeing how his mom will react. If I disagree too quickly, he becomes more argumentative. Then I can try to ignore him, so that it does not encourage that type of comment, but I’m not sure if that helps.

    You may want to suggest to me that I get my son some sensitivity training – not a bad idea. One thing I will do is print your comments and read them to him, because what will catch his attention is the part about how you don’t care whether we have different parenting styles – chewing your kids food for them – he will love that! But, I guess the reason I am writing to you is to let you know that when they hit the teens, the idealistic world pops and a real big person emerges that – if they are learning to be independent – will likely clash with your beliefs and values, maybe and hopefully in some ways, temporarily. I am going to keep working on my kid, so he is sensitive to others and tolerant and understanding of others. Thanks for the good words to share with my kid, who is living in a battlefield between innocence and judgement….

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