Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Anti-racism week

Last week at school was anti-racism week. When I heard the announcement, I felt a twinge of irritation, something I didn't like about it, much like when people talk about feminism as a movement. But not something I feel compelled to act upon, it's not like I object to feminism or anti-racism. But then we got the cardboard home to make the anti-racism poster.

Firstly, poster competitions judged by random, non-school punters for 5-8 year olds are problematic. Said punter has no hope of recognising how much work any given child has had to do to achieve the final product, and so in the words of Ben's best friend, "Only the kids who can draw good win." I know at least one of the kids who won the last one knocked hers up in half an evening. As kids get older, I have no problem with that. I think Kindy kids should be recognised for what they have achieved as measured by their own abilities, and not compared with everyone else. After Ben's monumental effort on his first poster, he was resolutely refusing to do this one. I have devised an incredibly lazy poster design, and he has decided that he will do it now.

Secondly, I'm just not convinced that racism is an appropriate topic for kindy kids. After a week of anti-racism, Ben now notices race, where he never has before. He has learned that it is a classification schema. Good work. He also had no concept was racism is. He seemed to think it is people being a different colour in his general vicinity. Once I finally managed to get across to him what racism is, he looked at me dumbfounded and said "Why would anybody do THAT?". Yeah, I see the need for anti-racism week.

Which brings me to the discomfort I felt when they first mentioned it, and that which I feel when I hear the word "feminism". I just don't like singling out any particular prejudice. It feels a little like its own kind of prejudice. Don't get me wrong, I'm good with feminist action, or anti-racist action. I'm good with projects that focus on a specific kind of prejudice, no individual project can tackle all of them. But to identify as one kind of anti-prejudice seems odd to me. Not wrong, just... odd.

And in terms of K-2 kids, it seems that addressing prejudice of all kinds, with some examples involving disability and gender stereotypes might be more appropriate. Things they have some experience of - so that perhaps we might be reducing prejudice instead of teaching them about it.


  1. I can see what you are saying, but feminism really has changed to incorporate many difference inequalities. And I also think that our oppressed experience (as a woman, a gay person, non-white etc) is what drives us to create change and it is natural that we would want to align ourselves with people who have shared that same experience.

    I don't know though... that's pretty heave stuff for elementary age kids...


  2. Yeah, and I can see your point too, I can feel the effect of talking about sexism with other women.

    But somehow I just can't shake the discomfort of any label that focuses on one type. It's not that I think people who call themselves feminists are, by definition, ignoring other forms of inequality. It's just that label feels wrong to me. I wonder whether a reasonable proportion of "women who reject feminism" have a similar emotional reaction to me. It is hard to put my finger on it, it's like a slightly ill fitting jacket, fine in every respect, but just not quite right on me.

    And I think especially inappropriate to be choose one bandwagon for kids, when the whole parade should be presented to them.