This weekend I have the pleasure of spending time with my grandson. He is a cutie who triggers a smile every time I look at or think about him. Being a grandmother is much different than being a parent. I have time to observe and enjoy how my grandson sees the world. It’s a second chance to be part of my children’s lives.
I want him to grow up confident of his self-worth and never doubting his life matters. I fear the future will undo my effort. Trump made it clear through his actions and words children of color, whether they be American citizens or not, do not matter. Their lives can be turned upside down, they can be traumatized and victimized by entitled whites without consequences. Look at the ICE raids in Mississippi conducted when children were on their first day of school. Their first day of school ended with many feeling abandoned by their parents. Some of the children left alone without any provisions for their care were American born infants and toddlers of color. Do you think ICE would abuse the children of undocumented white European immigrants in that manner?
As I sit watching cartoons with him, I’m sickened by the shows. Invariably, the lead characters are white or pink-skinned with blue eyes. Sometimes there is a dark character in the background who echos the words of the leading white characters. It’s not unusual to see these dark-skinned characters with blue or green eyes. This morning I was struck by white characters break dancing to hip hop. The show “Baby Boss” had no characters of color.
My grandson is mesmerized by these shows that have no one who looks like him. When there is a character of color that character is in the shadows and irrelevant. How does this affect the development of my grandson? What impact will it have on his emotional development? Will he view white as always right and black as dirty and always wrong? I know my children struggled growing up in a sea of whiteness.
During our last visit, I unsuccessfully attempted to introduce him to shows like the Harlem Globetrotters or Fat Albert. The shows were not ones I enjoyed watching as a child, and neither did my grandson, but they were the only ones that had characters who looked like me.
For Black or mixed families, another challenge is finding children’s books with leading black characters, some who even save the world and keep the interest of the child.
Cartoons are part of the development of most children. I know too much TV is not good, but the reality is most parents use TV to catch a break such as taking a shower or preparing meals. The messages in cartoons mentally prepare children for the world. Unwittingly or deliberately, cartoons undermine the development of children of color. They are relegated to be background scenery and white children to be confident and privileged.
Among the lessons I learned this weekend was the recognition that cartoons and most children’s books brainwash our children before they enter school. White children learn about their privilege while children of color learn to idolize whites who save the world from evil people who look like children of color.
I am reminded the more things change, the more they stay the same.