I only taught for six years, but they were formative years. Teaching was the first context in which I engaged the world fully as an adult, a professional, and one thing I’m grateful for about that time was that they were not self satisfied years. Teaching culture loooooves self improvement (I was actually legally required to collect data and prove that I – via my students’ output – was improving each year), and while I’ll be the first to admit I did my share of internal eye rolling during professional development meetings, I also gained an awareness about my own faults and ingrained prejudices that I can’t imagine acquiring through any other profession.
I make racist assumptions – I can acknowledge that now. I honestly believe that anyone who says they don’t simply hasn’t had the education to recognize it in themselves. When you learn about and start looking for micro-aggressions, you quickly realize that they are omnipresent, whatever one’s intentions may be.
I strive to be aware and honest enough with myself to identify and dismantle my prejudices when they rear their ugly heads. But let’s be clear: this sucks. This is insufficient. I don’t want those thoughts in my head to begin with. And now, as a mother (you knew I was going somewhere with this, right?) I have the (possibly futile) hope that I might be able to help these two precious, perfect little girls somehow grow up without all that evil getting in their heads to begin with.
It seems clear to me that awareness is key. I can’t control the experiences Junip and Quinn will have in this world, but I hope I can equip them with the alarm bells to recognize and the boldness to question subtle, normalized bigotry. I’m just still not sure how to go about that; I find myself really groping for words.
How do you explain the subtleties of modern racism to a child who has never had reason to distrust or feel herself not be trusted? Who has never experienced body shame? Who has never been afraid in the presence of the police? Who’s never had to apply for a job or an apartment rental? Who’s only conception of jail is the couch, where your loving parent throws you and tickles you when they’re pretending to lock you up?
How do you explain misogyny to a child that barely registers a difference between boys and girls? Who is as likely to play the daddy or the king as as she is the mama or the queen? Who has (oh, my heart) never yet experienced anyone implying she won’t succeed at something because she’s a girl?
How do you explain xenophobia to a child who has never been out of the country – never experienced another culture, much less grasped the enormity of its ‘differentness’ enough to fear it?
How do you explain religious intolerance to a child who’s only concept of religion is what her Gigi attempted to teach her while she played with their nativity set? How do you explain antisemitism and Islamophobia without first explaining Judiasm and Islam? How far back do I start?
As you may have guessed, yesterday’s inauguration rekindled these worries and gave a sense of urgency to answering them. Initially, in an anxious/hopeless kinda way. But today’s march seemed like a reason to rally and confront.
Junip and I had a good talk this morning, or, as good as I could have hoped, considering how inept I feel about this. I tried to keep my feet grounded in three year old schema. To use ideas she understands. We talked about how our country will have a new leader, and how he gets to make the rules now. I told her I was afraid he might make rules that aren’t fair for everyone. I know she doesn’t understand the specifics of that, but it’s a start, and I hope it helps her make sense of the hushed voices Drew and I use when we talk about this, the fear we obviously both feel. She was excited about the march when I told her it was a way we could tell the new president he needs to be fair and make good choices, even if he feels angry or scared. These are definitely ideas she gets. (She did leave the conversation apparently believing we’d get to tell him these things face-to-face. My bad. You think you’ve eliminated metaphor from your speech, and then you talk to a preschooler.)
Anyways. We biked to the capitol, we marched, we cheered. Obviously, I don’t think this rally or the conversation that preceded it really did much to make her aware of the ugly assumptions that pervade our society, or the possibility that those prejudices might insinuate themselves in our laws and courts in the coming four years. But it’s a starting place.
^Reflecting as we left the square. Oh, I’m so punny.
And a better view of the day, on the other side of the square (State St), shot by Eric Baillies: