A Letter to My Son’s School: Harmful Words

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Dear Mr. Principal, Mrs. Guidance Counselor, Mrs. Teacher, and Madam Transportation Director,

Yesterday, my 4-year-old daughter was playing a video game, and asked her brother, Archoo, to help her with a difficult level. He was having some trouble, but I heard him say he was going to beat up the “niggers” and get through to the end of the level for her. Now, let me be clear about something up front. The game didn’t feature human characters of any shade; these were imaginary monster-type beings, and there was no explicit racial connotation in the use of the word in my son’s case. However, I was so dumbfounded that my innocent 6-year-old baby had even heard that word that I had to have him repeat it. Twice.

I asked him where he had learned it. He got very quiet because he was afraid that he was in trouble, but eventually, he told me he had heard it from another boy on the bus. Believe me, I understand that children can be loud on the bus. Our route is filled to the brim with kids; they sit three to a seat, and nearly half of the bus is filled on our stop. I get that the bus driver can’t possibly hear everything that every one of them says to another. However, I am pulling Archoo from the bus route. I can’t have him exposed to that sort of hateful language; I do not find it to be in his best interest to hear these things without context and without a grown-up to discourage it with education.

I am sending this email to so many recipients because I find it discouraging that the word could be uttered anywhere in the school and that nobody would respond to it with any amount of disgust, even the children. I have told my son that if he hears it again, he is to find a grown up right away, and I am sure that he will. I’m not entirely sure how you teach children about offensive/abusive words without arming them to the teeth with slurs, but perhaps this can be a learning opportunity for all of us as a school community to find a way to overcome this sort of occurrence. There are children of every shade and of many religions at School; I don’t want it to be a place where ANY such language is tolerated, let alone taught to the younger kids by the older ones. You would be receiving this email whether it had been the N-word or any other slur. I can’t imagine the backlash that would occur if Archoo used his new “vocabulary word” within ear-shot of Mrs. Teacher or one of the students of color in his class – but he didn’t know anything about the harm in using it until I tried, probably ineffectively at best, to impress it upon him last night.

I’m well aware that there is a subculture in the black community that uses the N-word openly and as some sort of affectionate term. I don’t at all share the views of these people; however, I’m also not naive. I never believed that being half-black myself, having a mixed-race family and raising my child to respect others regardless of their color, creed, orientation or status would completely shield him from words such as these. I knew he would hear them on the television, in pop music songs or on the street. I knew, one day, that we would have to talk about the N-word, the horrific connotations it carries, and the way it was used to denigrate an entire race of people. I just never imagined that he would be six when it happened and that he would hear it on the bus ride from school. My heart broke in half when I heard it from his tiny little mouth; I cried. I’m crying as I type this out. I just still can’t believe what he said.

I also have considered that this other child, who I am not really interested in naming because it’s quite possible he has no idea what he’s saying, either, had to have heard it somewhere. Maybe he heard it on the television, in pop music songs or on the street … maybe he learned it at home in a racist context, too. I can’t fathom or begin to guess how or why, but I don’t think punishment is necessarily the best course of action. I would err on the side of education were this a child in my care, just as I attempted with my own son.

Thank you for taking the time to read this email. I know that you strive, together, to make School a safe and welcoming place for our children. I feel you do a great job; you have responded with respect to my concerns in the past, and I know that you will treat this issue with an appropriate level of severity and look for ways to confront it.

– ilkaisha

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On Charity, Care and Ridiculous Ribbons

purple ribbonThis blog post might seem a little nasty. Nah. It will. You can skip over it if you like, but I’m really emotional right now, and I’m just going to roll with it.

I just spent a month watching friends of mine raise money for Children’s Miracle Network, which is great. It’s awesome, actually. I like CMN and think they do great work. I didn’t donate, mostly because I don’t have any money with which to do so. I felt targeted by every call for donation. Why aren’t YOU giving money, Sonja? Why don’t YOU care about the CMN? Why haven’t YOU reposted this petition for support? This was an annoying feeling, particularly because I knew that it wasn’t intended. It was imagined nagging; at least I’m fairly certain it was.
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1 – 2 – 3 Simple Rules, Son

I remember, perhaps incorrectly, that I had a lot of rules in the house when I was growing up. Don’t do this, do do that, don’t forget the other. I’m not a huge fan of detailed lists of rules, mostly because they are tedious and there is something lost in the minutia of “the rule doesn’t specifically say not to do that, so I’m not subject to punishment if I do” nonsense. This is the realm of politics, and I’m not setting my five-year-old up to find the gray area/arguable point in every situation.

Now, I understand that kids are going to get in trouble. They’re going to forget; they’re going to think that we won’t find out; they’re going to just plain make bad choices (hell, some of us continue to make really bad choices well into our adult lives — looking in the mirror here). But, we didn’t want to overwhelm the boy with lots of rules. I think that the Murse and I have come up with three simple ones that are pretty fail-proof. They’re rules everyone should follow. Continue reading

A Sick Sick Policy

So, Kaeloo has had a high fever and cough all week. Between Monday and Wednesday, she wavered between 102° and 103.5°F. I tried my best to keep her cool with lukewarm baths and acetaminophen. Archoo showed his first signs or the same symptoms Thursday when he woke up with a scratchy throat, low-grade fever and large case of whining. I read up on when to call the doctor as far as temperatures and durations, so I ended up calling yesterday. I also kept both kids out of school. Kaeloo missed both Tuesday and Thursday, and Archoo missed Thursday and Friday.
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Pardon me? Kaeloo the TV show?

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Okay, so, I want to take just a quick second to explain the nicknames that I use for my children on this page. The Murse, one evening, decided to call my son, Archer, Archoo Dee-Two. I thought this was brilliant … I am, after all, a Star Wars fan. It was really cute, and he has embraced it. He has an Archoo Dee-Two YouTube channel and everything. (Go like it. He gets such a kick out of followers.)

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