Thinking of the Children: The Effects of Internalized Racism

Thinking of the Children:
The Effects of Internalized Racism
Cut by: Davita Cuttita


“…I, for one, as a Muslim believe that the White man is intelligent enough. If he were made to realize how Black people really feel and how fed up we are without that old compromising sweet talk (of) ‘Why, you’re the one that makes it hard for yourself!’

The White Man believes you when you go to him with that old sweet talk because you’ve been sweet talking him eversince he brought you here. STOP sweet talking him, tell him how you feel! Tell him what kind of hell you’ve been catching and let him know that if he’s not ready to clean his house up, he shouldn’t have a house.

It should catch on fire—and burn down.

–Malcolm X

In light of my and especially, Grandpa Dinosaur’s articles here on racism, we’ve been receiving some positive commentary and discussion as well as an onslaught of ignorance.

Of course, we were well aware of the consequences of talking about racism—at all. If they don’t even let us do that in real life, chances are, some Internet Police were gonna come, thrashing around their apathy and big heads, saying that racism is no longer a problem, no longer exists and even implying that Coloured People should be “forcing” White racist people not be racist anymore.

If the above sounded like total garbage to you, congratulations: You’re not racist.

You may even have a soul.

What was the most alarming was that almost no one thought that Euro-centric curriculums (and media) hurt Coloured children. They were even quick to bash Afrocentric schooling and regurgitate nothing but misinformation and yes; even racist comments.

Almost no one seemed to show a single drop of sympathy for the children at all.

Education follows a person for the rest of their lives: whether it be public, private or religious school, a “special” program aimed at minorities or even a child or teen innocently reading a book; the refrain is the same: White is Right and You, Coloured boy or girl, are…the opposite of Right. Everything about you is, from head to toe.

Dear reader, I encourage you to take three minutes and twenty-eight seconds of your time to watch this clip entitled “A Boy Like Me” hosted by Bill Cosby and tell me, honestly and truly, that Black children are not affected by internalized and systematic racism:

Did your heart bleed? Congratulations: You have a soul.

Some people may be thinking, “Hey, that clip was a little out-dated. I’m sure we’ve made some advancement encouraging Black children. Haven’t we?”

In 2007, high-school student Kiri Davis, wondered the same thing and conducted the Doll Experiment of over sixty years ago (created during the Brown vs. Board of Education trial of the 1940s and used to gauge the effects of segregation on Black children) on some five-year-old Black children.

If you lasted three minutes looking at the shocking drawings of 4th grade Black and White children, I’m sure you can spend another minute watching these kindergarteners unknowingly display their own self-loathing:

Who taught (or teaches) the Black children to hate themselves?

Why does the young Black boy in the Cosby clip see White people as people and himself…as a monster?

Where do these five-year-old Black children learn that their skin colour is bad?

This is not a problem exclusive to Black children, either. You can find it in the Latino community and in the Asian community as well.

These Black children deserve better. All children do.

From history books to fairytales, Coloured children have no place; no sense of self. They are invisible, hardly mentioned and their achievements are never seen as significant as those of Whites. The achievements of those before them are taught minimally, if at all.

It boggles my mind as of to how anyone could look at these children and still think nothing is wrong with what is being taught to them.

Ignorance simply never ceases to amaze.

Naturally, I am around many children as I come from a large family. I have seen that Black children can draw arms, legs, smiles and big, full trees; flowers too. I have seen them drawing themselves as giants–bigger than all the houses and trees, birds circling their heads. I have seen them happy with their hair and at ease amongst their Black and yes, even White friends, family members, or parents.

But I have also seen my little cousins collecting dolls with blonde hair and blue eyes, Barbie and Ken no doubt; while the only doll she has not fitting that equation is a rag doll: barely human with its sewn on features and shabbily dressed with mop-string hair that quite simply; isn’t as fun to play with or pretty as Barbie’s.

She is left on the floor. Barbie is kept in the stroller or on the bed.

I have a younger brother in 7th grade. I asked him about history today and he could tell me a bit about Thomas Edison, Benjamin Franklin, Sir Francis Bonhead (a White general during the formation of Upper and Lower Canada). He brought down his history book, telling me about the pioneers, settlers, explorers and generals (All White with the exception of four Natives).

We looked through all 258 pages and only 10 pages talked about Native peoples. It was good—it showed the differences between the various tribes’ ways of life, how they lived, what their cultures were like. However, in relation to the Europeans, they kept talking about Natives as though they were benign baby sitters. How they taught the settlers how to hunt, trap and farm—nope, no mention of murder, theft or battles here.

Okay, maybe they would’ve taught them better about slavery. Twelve is old enough for them to learn about sex and thirteen is old enough for them to go watch people get killed in a movie theatre and by fourteen, they can watch just about any kind of ultra-violence they want on their own (we have a “Rated A” here in Canada, many movies get this rating) so they could at least mention slavery in a history textbook, right?

WRONG!

Not ONE page mentioned slavery. AT ALL.

There were two pages on the Underground Railroad, a quarter of which paid lip-service to Harriet Tubman but nothing about slavery…not a word. It was just like: “Black people used to be slaves, then magical Ms. Tubman suddenly helped them all along with some WHITE PEOPLE and hooray, now they are free!”

It’s amazing how White people are always the hero and never the villain in this book.

I already told ya’ll before, my boy Anderson Cooper needs to be all over this shit.

BUT it’s history, right? No one argues with history books—especially children and their sponge-like, impressionable brains.

Did I mention that these two pages were the last two pages in the entire book?

I suppose someone screamed “STOP THE PRESSES! WE FORGOT THE NEGROES!!!” right before this thing went into print and they just scraped something together during lunch.

My little brother looked down with a blank expression on his face, “Two pages. I thought that was kind of weird when I opened it up the first time, too” he said.

“So when will you learn about slavery? About the lives of slaves before the Underground Railroad?” I asked him.

“Maybe next year in grade eight for Black history month, I’m not sure,” he responded “I looked at the grade eight textbook before and it seemed to have a few more pages with Black people in it”.

In the entire illustrated history book, there are a total of fifteen pictures featuring Coloured People.

Please note…

There are no Asians, Indians, Latinos, or Mixed people in the textbook.

I guess they all just showed up here in the past twenty years or so and that Chinese head tax was just hogwash. Ho-hum.

Why, if I didn’t know any better, judging from this textbook I suppose history or, the making of it; is a pretty much a “White Only” activity. I’m sure the kids’ll figure all this out on their own–right after they’re done watching Spongebob Squarepants.

What is interesting though, is all the talk about how the Europeans had to struggle and suffer to live on the land, fighting for it for hundreds of years, the people who were killed, killing and wounded, wars and battles, pioneers braving winters, farming, hunting and “making something” out of the land. Which is true; in a way, with the exception that slaves usually did the rest/most of the work.

However, when the book referred to Natives, it made it seem as though they all had this kinda laissez-faire attitude and laid-back nature, because, you know; Natives didn’t struggle; EVER, things just came to them so naturally because they are SO IN TUNE WITH THE EARTH. (A little sarcasm for those of you paying attention)

Yup, Canadian history was just such a great walk in the park for these people! If only they weren’t so busy dying of small pox from tainted blankets the pioneers gave them or running for their lives; they could’ve stopped to smell the roses! Oh I’m sorry—his history book referred to those events as “shaking hands with the settlers” and “spending time together”.

“Tell me something about Black History, anything, anything at all,” I asked my little brother as he sat in the other couch.

“A black man invented the traffic light!” he answered, shuffling about in the couch.

“Cool! What else?” I queried.

“I don’t know,” he responded and sank onto the floor.

He will learn his history, even if I have to teach him. He will know that there are civilizations in Africa spanning back for thousands of years. He will learn what dreadlocks mean, who Haile Selassie is, of the Maroons in Jamaica and their fight for freedom against the Spanish and British. He already knows we have Scottish, Syrian, Maroon, Indian and Chinese origins. He will also maintain his assessments of people based solely on the content of their character. He will know who he is and who he can be and continue to appreciate the cultures of others. (And their food, haha!)

I will keep all the children I can from suffering, but my heart will always bleed for those who remain; drawing themselves small, armless, legless and faceless, flying towards the word “Person” in the sky.

You don’t need to fly, pretty baby. You’ve been a person all along.

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~ by davitacuttita on June 19, 2008.

8 Responses to “Thinking of the Children: The Effects of Internalized Racism”

  1. Wow, great post. That our country is still like this seems really backward.

    I’m an adult, and even I would like to relearn primary school/high school history with an non-Eurocentric curriculum. I know that there are so many gaping holes in what I was taught; I can see the inconsistencies.

    I’m also glad I’m no longer a child and have overcome a lot of self-hate, although there is still so much to learn.

  2. Thanks, Restructure.

    Like Wu-Tang, I did it for the kids.

  3. […] Thinking of the Children: The Effects of Internalized Racism « Pregnant Drug-Dealing Prostitutes “A black man invented the traffic light!” he answered, shuffling about in the couch. “Cool! What else?” I queried. “I don’t know,” he responded and sank onto the floor.” (tags: racism Canada education school history black white eurocentrism) […]

  4. That made me sooo sad.

    I saw a similar experiment with four pictures of children of different ethnicities. The children said they liked the blonde child best and the black child was naughty.
    I wondered if the children were saying that because the experimenter herself was white and all the children wanted to please her.
    I’m sad to say it doesn’t appear to be the case.

    The bit that gets me is the last kiddie “Which one looks like you?” and she is so torn.

  5. Kelly: Yeah, it really and truly is depressing. The part you mentioned tore my heart in two as well.

    The thing that really pisses off not only myself but Grandpa Dinosaur, is the fact that there are people in the world who see abosultely nothing wrong with this.

    I am so glad you (and Restructure!) are not one of them.

  6. […] Is It So Typical For Asian People NOT to Marry Outside Their Race?”by Grandpa Dinosaur Thinking of the Children: The Effects of Internalized Racism by Davita Cuttita Racism, Pretty Privilege and Running from the Law by Davita Cuttita Write Right […]

  7. My five year old daugther is struggling with this now, saying she wants to dye her skin and get a straight hair wig. It is breaking my heart. Unfortunatley we live in a mostly white area. I am looking to move schools, as she is the only black child in her school.This is so hard to hear a child make these comments.

  8. Hi Lesli,

    I really hope you get all the resources and support you need so that your daughter can have the healthy educational environment she so rightfully deserves. All the best in your search for a good school.

    When I was little, my Mom used to read me Anansi stories. I dunno if you’ve heard of them but they’re African folktales still very popular there and in the Carribbean. It was really good to have fairytales that featured people who looked like we did and I’m pretty sure they sell them in major bookstores still. There’s also the original Courdoroy Bear series and another about a little girl named Jamaica; both featuring young, black, female protagonists. I used to have them both read to me at elementry school, I hope your daughter will enjoy them too. All the best.

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