Out of the Mouths of Babes:Proof that the USA is a Racist SocietyPosted: May 12, 2012
by: Bryn Gillette
The United States of America as a culture may appear to be accepting of racially mixed couples and their racially mixed children. However, level of acceptance may depend greatly on where you go and who you are with. It is my overall experience that there is still overt racism expressed from child to child. This brings me to the conclusion that there are still many closeted racists who may act ‘politically correct’ in public but must be passing racist sentiments to their children in the privacy of their homes.
In 1967 – two months before the Supreme Court struck down anti-miscegenation laws in the case “Loving versus the State of Virginia” – I was born in New York City. I did not have what most would consider a typical American upbringing. My family and childhood was multicultural. Amongst the close friends that my family had were many mixed couples. This contributed strongly to my worldview that being in a relationship with someone who had a different shade of skin color was not taboo – it was normal. On the contrary the taboo would have been to dismiss a person because of their difference.
By the time I got to High School I had a much broader understanding of the world outside our multicultural community. I was sickened with the knowledge of bondage slavery, colonization and institutionalized racism perpetrated by “whites” against “blacks.”
One summer in the 80’s I accompanied my best friend (who is American with beautiful ebony skin) to Liberty City, Savannah Georgia. Liberty City was a black community. The young children would shyly follow my friend and me down the street with the most curious looks on their faces. I remember one child asking, “You a social worker?”
“No” we said in unison.
“She ain’t your sister!” She said confidently, “So who is she and why she here?”
“We are friends” we said slowly and deliberately.
“Friends?” she repeated back questioningly and stopped walking – scratching her head as we continued on down the road.
My family and friends never acted disapproving toward my choices in relationships based on skin color or cultural background and neither did my community. In my early adulthood my boyfriend was a Marine who happened to be African American. There were obvious inequities that he had to deal with. For example no one ever asked me to show ID when I was using my credit card. However, he almost always was asked to show ID when he was using his. He would be followed around stores while he was shopping. I was most always left alone as soon as I said I didn’t need any help. Women clutched their purses close when he would come near. Women acted as if they knew they could trust me even if they didn’t know me at all.
My ex-husband and the biological father of my two children is West Indian and has dark brown skin. We were never met with overt racism. Not in the Caribbean or here in the United States. However, when he came upstate with me to visit friends he chose not to leave the house. He said it was because he saw too many Confederate Flags on the vehicles and had a bad feeling.
Sadly, in these years which some actually believe are post-racial, my children have had to deal with racism. The special education class room at my children’s first school in New York City served only one white student in a school which was predominantly white. I learned that this is a wide spread condition. Schools all around the country have been labeling children of color with learning disabilities and separating them into special education classes when white children with similar challenges are encouraged to stay in mainstream education and given accommodations.
Upstate, my children eventually met with overt racism from children on the school bus, in the classroom and in the schoolyard. It seems clear that most of these children using racist language are repeating things they have heard. I imagine that the majority of the children that are using racist language and behavior toward others are doing so to exercise their power to be mean and cruel. They are using what they think will get a reaction.
Every encounter that my children experience that is negatively perpetrated by another I take very seriously. We discuss at home and I discuss with appropriate adults. We do not simply tolerate the negative behavior (racist or otherwise), we deal with it. Yet we do so in the most calm, direct and clear manner possible.
Continued on p. 5
Out of the Mouths of Babes (cont’d from p. 3)
I teach my children that we can contribute to the battle against ignorance and racism by being ourselves and continuing to do good even when others are doing bad toward us. Positive experiences with people (the children of racists have been taught are not good) may be the only way to help the children of racists reform their worldviews.
As I understand it and try to explain to my children and others allowing racist behavior to change our own behavior to negative only serves to empower the perpetrators and allows these perpetrators room to justify their ignorance by pointing out the bad behavior of those they put down and who reacted.
My children make me very proud. They continue to be caring, intelligent and peaceful young people – despite the ignorance they often have to deal with. They do not react to racism with violence or even with bad language.
All the overt racist behavior toward my children came from and comes from other children. This leads me to believe that although the majority of people these days appear as if they are embracing diversity they may just be acting politically correct on the outside when inside they still harbor ignorance and prejudice. It is possible that some people in the privacy of their own homes may be spewing racism. This racist behavior may be assisting in the formation of their own child’s worldview. And the negative cycle continues. Very sad indeed – but there is hope as long as we continue to be ourselves, do good work, be truthful, demand accountability and keep the dialogue going.