“All white people aren’t bad, but watch out for racists” Is 4 too young for this lesson?

“The white man is bad, he’s making the black people work for free, they are slaves” I say. “Remember”, then I stop, I was about to remind Jack of the clip of news he walked in on, that I turned off immediately, but not soon enough for Jack to ask me questions. “Why are those people doing that?” He asked. “Because they are racist, the guys in white are bad.” It was the morning after the Charlotte riots, when the white supremacists were upset because the city of Charlotte, NC, decided to take down a statue of Andrew Jackson, because he was a slave owner and the statue is a symbol of white supremacy that was erected after civil rights were won. Theory being, to keep the fear of what was, of southern white privilege. I don’t like using the words black people, white people, I never have. I’m white and live, unfortunately in a very white county. My kids are turning four years old and I’ve taken them across the bridge to the East Bay or to the city as many days of the week as possible. I don’t want them living in a white privileged bubble, even though that’s where we do live. As I read the story of Harriet Tubman, a book Jack picked out at the book store yesterday, I am having trouble simplifying the story enough for four-year old’s. I don’t like saying “Black people” because I’ve never talked like that, as if that were something I needed to point out. I try to read the story, which is an amazing children’s book, all about the underground railroad. Jack and Fiona can understand hiding and escaping. Harriet Tubman was a hero, rescuing people. “Are those bad people” Jack asks during the underground railroad scenes. “No, some white people were good, are good. They helped the slaves escape.” Slavery is a horrible story, as I sit here and write this I start to cry. Terrible things happened in our country. I change the subject from skin color to freedom, civil rights, and how important it is for them to vote when they turn 18. Jack says, “and when we turn 5 we’re going to kindergarten.” I end on Harriet Tubman was a hero and you guys can be heroes too. Protect civil rights, equality. They both understand what equal means and give me many examples. They get it. I wanted to explain to Fiona she is getting services for her hearing loss because of battles won for people with disabilities but I think that she’s too young for that lesson. It’s hard to know what kids are ready to learn about, but they are curious and want to learn. I am bad at filtering information, I just hope they don’t think all white people are bad! But I think because of our countries history and living in such a white county it’s natural to have suspicions and I would rather my kids know when someone is being racist than ever think it’s o.k. to talk bad about someone because of what they look like.

2 thoughts on ““All white people aren’t bad, but watch out for racists” Is 4 too young for this lesson?

  1. Hi> I enjoy your repartee. You need to tell your kids before they hear it from someone else. You are the adult and you know where you live. Even if they live in a bubble as you describe it they will still hear and see stuff on TV, at school and in their daily lives. Slavery in this country is not taught. I grew up in the 1960’s and any talk of Black Power in American History class was verboten. I could go on but I won’t.

    Liked by 1 person

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