Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Racism or just plain old mean

Today, Conleigh told me that someone hurt her feelings at school yesterday.  At first glance, I think there are a lot of white moms who are parenting black children who probably would have been burning in their souls over the hurt.  Here's the situation:  another little girl told Conleigh she couldn't play a certain game because only peach girls could play.   At the surface, it sounds a lot like racism.  And my Mama ears certainly perked up when I heard that skin color was involved.

As we talked, I worked with Conleigh on responses for when people say things like that.  Responses like "That hurts my feelings.  Stop.", "Brown girls can do anything peach girls can do.", "That's not true." and "Why do you say that?"  We also talked about when to walk away and when to tell a teacher.  Sometimes it's not worth wasting your words on a mean person.  When telling a teacher, you should try to use your words to resolve the problem but if you can't, tell the teacher as it's happening and be sure to mention that peach and brown were involved.  In this case, perhaps the best response is actually asking the little girl in question to look at her own skin color.  She's Hispanic and is more beige than peach.  (Conleigh thought that was quite funny.)

All of that still leaves the looming questions:  does the preschool have a rampant racist and what will I do about it?  After hearing more, I think what is more likely at play is a little girl who often treats others with meanness choosing to continue that meanness by pointing out something that she thinks makes Conleigh different.   (Based on previous comments made by both of my children regarding this little one and the things she says.)  Perhaps I am naive but I don't think this little girl's family carries on at home, making disparging marks about black people.  Instead, I tend to believe that this little girl has probably witnessed cattiness of the female variety and perhaps has witnessed someone making comments about others who are different.    So the reality is, I'm not doing anything other than teaching Conleigh to do her best to deal with it on her own.  Mean people are a part of life and the best thing I can do for Conleigh is to give her the tools to deal with it.  If it happens again, then perhaps we will take a different approach.  But as a one time display of meanness and little girl "blechiness", we'll leave it at that.


Kathy C. said...

Thankfully our schools are very diverse. But I taught at one Christian school with only a few African American kids and some of the kids had been told by parents not to play with them. I was told discretely that I was to make them not feel very welcome so they'd drop out by high school. I didn't last long at that school : )(This was before I was even married so not a mom)

kayder1996 said...

Kathy-Our town is very diverse. Right now, it's about 40% white, 30% Hispanic, 20% Asian, and maybe the remaining 10% is black, African, Middle Eastern, or Native American. At preschool, it's maybe 75% white, 20% Hispanic, and then the remaining would be my two but that's because they are in a private preschool. In public school, it will be more like the first stats. But there are only 1 or 2 black kids per grade (with 6 sections of each grade level) so the odds of them having another black student in their homeroom are not all that high.
Your experience as a teacher is pretty awful, eh?

Wordy girl said...

Here is my opinion - but it's just an opinion, ymmv.

We have been blessed by very diverse public schools, but we have not been exempt from those kinds of remarks being made to V. If I were you, I would mention it to the teacher so she can be on the look out for this child's similar behaviors and nip them in the bud. It might not be racism...yet. But it could easily develop into that if she is allowed to remark on people's race without any consequences. As a parent, I would absolutely want to know if my child said something like that so that I could address it with her. Perhaps the teacher could decide whether it warrants a remark to the parent.

One of the things I have come to appreciate is that racism is determined by the experience of the victim. If it feels like racism to the person to whom it's directed, then it is. PC and I have a rule - if it looks like racism and smells like racism, it is.