We live in an extremely polarized culture right now. People are fighting and killing one another over their differences. This of course is nothing new, people have been slaughtering others for race, ethnicity, sexual orientation, religion, and any other reason since we have historical records (and likely before that).
But this is not the world that I want my son to inherit and I struggle with the the balance between disclosure (at age appropriate levels) and keeping him blissfully ignorant, just a little while longer, to what the world is really like.
His great-grandmother is a horrible racist. So are some other family members. I have had to tell them to STFU with their crap when they are around me and my son. "That is false, ignorant, and racist- and you WILL NOT expose my son to that kind of stupidity," I have said on at least one occasion. I am surprised at how they actually shut up. They are not used to uppity women nor are they used to anyone challenging their worldview, I suppose.
My son is two-and-a-half and repeats everything. He has no filters to know what is righteous speech and what is harmful speech. He is starting to learn with his playmates what is a mean thing to say or do, but toddlers are not qualified to filter themselves yet, we have to do it for them.
This is why I do not let him watch very many mainstream movies or TV shows. The sexism and racism on these programs is astounding, especially anything branded Disney (don't get me started on Disney!). I watch everything first, so that I can be ready for questions and commentary as we watch together.
And yet, in reality- those movies reflect a reality that I dislike. Like this reality, the Republican delegate from Puerto Rico being jeered at with taunts of "USA! USA!" (Um, hey xenophobic jackasses- Puerto Rico is part of the USA.)
Or this reality, also from the GOP convention. Or the racist shootings of unarmed youth of color by civilians and police alike. Or the more subtle racism that many of us or our friends and family exhibit- jokes, slurs, or avoidance of those different than us (and the corresponding instilling of fear into our children about those people). I am heartsick over it all.
I do what I can- I am raising my son to be a good person who values difference and diversity and is comfortable with the myriad people around him. I teach kids and youth at church that looking to different cultures is not only interesting, it is necessary and an asset to their lives. I call people on unchecked assumptions. But the problem seems so HUGE. What else can I do?
This post started after reading this article about Sikh children explaining the massacre in Wisconsin. The children in that article grapple, as I do, to make sense of a crazy splintered world. Their theology is also a theology that dictates that everyone is divine and disconnection from that source can make people do horrible things to one another.
How do we connect? It's times like this when I am overwhelmed with fear and anger about my world that I try and remember the African American adage, "Each One Teach One". We can't do everything, but we all can do something. Maybe that will be enough. Gods, I hope so.