My son accused another child of acting "racist". - Mothering Forums
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#1 of 5 Old 04-26-2009, 09:43 PM - Thread Starter
 
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I took 4 10 year old boys to the amusement park today:

DS (African American, adopted at birth by a white single mom -- me)

BF (DS's best friend for the past 7 years, white. He's in DS's school but not class, and on DS's soccer team, very much the leader of the group)

SF (School friend, another white child who attends DS's school, is in BF's class and is friends with both of them)

NF (Neighborhood friend or maybe New Friend, plays on DS and BF's soccer team, goes to a different school. American born of Ethiopian descent, had never met SF before, pretty shy kid).

At one point the 4 boys decided to play a game that involves team on this big playground they have. SF asked BF to be a team with him, and BF agreed. DS was a little hurt. I know that he wanted BF to be his teammate (he's a little territorial about him). But that wouldn't have made sense at all since SF and NF had just met and hadn't really "clicked" yet.

So, as far as I can tell (I didn't hear the beginning of the conversation), DS turned to BF and said "we can't make our teams like that, that would be racist".

Now, I believe in teaching my child to be aware of racism, and to stand up for himself when he sees it. But I just didn't see it here. What I saw was SF asking someone he knows well to be on his team -- nothing more or less. I also know that "racist" is a really hurtful term. I've been called racist, and even though I knew that in the situation it was used, the behavior that was being referred to had nothing to do with race, I was still really hurt.

Any suggestions on how to talk to DS about this. I did step in at the time and say "I don't see the racism here, if SF asked BF to be on his team because he wanted to be with another white person that would be racist, but I'm guessing that SF asked BF to be on his team because BF runs fast or is fun to play with or is someone SF knows and is comfortable with. Just like on the way here you chose to sit next to NF in the van, not because he's got brown skin but because he's fun to talk to."

Would you follow up on this?
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#2 of 5 Old 04-26-2009, 10:03 PM
 
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Originally Posted by Momily View Post
Any suggestions on how to talk to DS about this. I did step in at the time and say "I don't see the racism here, if SF asked BF to be on his team because he wanted to be with another white person that would be racist, but I'm guessing that SF asked BF to be on his team because BF runs fast or is fun to play with or is someone SF knows and is comfortable with. Just like on the way here you chose to sit next to NF in the van, not because he's got brown skin but because he's fun to talk to."

Would you follow up on this?
I don't know if I would have said those exact words, but I think you first should have asked why he felt that his other friends were being racist. It may have been unintentional and it may not have been - this just coming from a person of color who grew up around only whites and played many games where, looking back on it, they had some racial undertones (but not every ten year old is aware that they are being insensitive - maybe not racist). It's quite possible that at his young age, he truly felt like it was racist for them to be "blacks vs. whites". Or like you said, if he's a little territorial, maybe he was saying that in order to make his friend feel bad and be on his team. Either way, I think the feelings/thoughts behind the comment should be addressed and then you can go on into the issues as you see fit.

SAHM to DS 12/29/07 and DD 9/15/10 smile.gif
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#3 of 5 Old 04-26-2009, 11:47 PM - Thread Starter
 
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Thanks mads,

DS isn't growing up in a majority white environment for which I'm thankful. The amusement park, the soccer team, DS/BF/SF's school, and NF's school (which is our local public school) are all majority kids of color with AA kids the plurality. That doesn't mean that they don't encounter complicated racial issues all the time, but I just wanted to clarify that.

The biggest reason I stepped in is that BF was looking at me with a very anxious look as if he was worried that he'd done something wrong -- he's a really good kid and the thought that he might have done something offensive was obviously pretty painful to him. The second reason is that NF was looking a little alarmed at the possibility of NOT being with DS who was the only person he really knew and the one who invited him. I felt like I needed to come to the defense of both kids.

Also, the pattern of someone else makes a move to claim BF (which happens all the time because he's a very likeable kid) and DS does something goofy to pull him back is one that repeats over and over. If the other kid hadn't been white DS would most likely have said something else with a similar aim.

I did follow up with DS he said that he was being "silly". I asked outright if he wanted to be with BF and he said not really, but he didn't want to be with NF and gave reasons unrelated to race. He didn't say that what he didn't want was for BF and SF to be together, but I do believe that was a factor too.

Anyway, I told him that I understand that he was being silly, but that I didn't think BF took it that way. I explained that for those of us who share the value of being anti-racist (a value BF's family and ours share) that's an accusation that we take seriously, and that while it's generally a good idea to be honest about racism when we see it, it's probably not something to call someone in jest. He seemed to get that.
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#4 of 5 Old 04-26-2009, 11:55 PM
 
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Oh good I'm glad you figured out what the real issue was. I think addressing the sensitivity of the issue was a good idea! And at 10 I would think that's something that will stick.

SAHM to DS 12/29/07 and DD 9/15/10 smile.gif
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#5 of 5 Old 04-27-2009, 12:00 AM - Thread Starter
 
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I should add that DS is a pretty kind kid at heart. Me saying "that hurt BF's feelings" is enough to make him stop. He'd definitely say something goofy if he thought BF's attention was straying, as a way of rebuilding the connection, but would not intentionally hurt BF.

The tricky part is that I didn't want to say "Don't call people racist" because in fact I do want him to call people out when they're being racist.

To be more specific I said something along the lines that I was pretty sure that when he grew up BF would choose to be an anti-racist ally, like me, and that like me he'd want to know if he made a mistake and did something unintentionally racist, but that having his action called racist probably made him feel pretty uncomfortable and shouldn't be done lightly or without good reason.
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