Monday, November 16, 2009

Anti-racism week - 2009

Last week was anti-racism week at Ben's school. I ranted about this last year, but a few new things have started to annoy me.

The example posters shown at school to provide inspiration have a common theme - we may be different on the outside, but we're all the same on the inside. This is pretty much the message in Mem Fox's Whoever You Are, from which I essentially stole last year's poster theme. However, Mem Fox's version is slightly less problematic, in that it specifies particular things that are the same - love, laughter, pain and so on.

But to just generally describe us as all the same on the inside - I have a problem with that. First of all, it still implies that we need to be the same to be equal - the different outside can be tolerated because the insides are the same. But also, it lays the foundation for the "I wouldn't do it, so anyone who does is inferior/evil/wrong" kind of argument that is so, so prevalent in justifications of racism, sexism, ... *ism.

This argument is often genuinely based in egalitarianism - when I've challenged people to defend why their own stance is the gold standard, they generally say it is because they aren't any better than anyone else, that all people are the same deep down - all the simplistic messages that are given to infants school kids about racism. Some people may be hiding behind these answers, but I'm convinced that quite a lot are not. The concept that people may be very different, and yet equal seems impossible to comprehend for many.

I'd rather see a celebration of difference week. In fact, I'd passionately rather see a celebration of difference week - there is so much more to be gained in so many aspects of children's lives from such a celebration.

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