Professor Jennifer Harvey took to the New York Times yesterday to ask: “Are We Raising Racists?”
She begins her article by recounting how “dismayed” she was that her daughter admired George Washington. Her daughter was “singing the praises” of the first President, which surprised Dr. Harvey.
“I was dismayed,” she writes, “that the peace- and diversity-centered curriculum she gets at her public school had left her with such a one-dimensional view of history.” Her 7-year-old daughter, she felt, needed to know the whole story.
Eventually, her daughter asked her about news. Professor Harvey, after discussing ethics violations with her 7-year-old, said, “Well you know how you’ve been running around here celebrating George Washington? We always talk about George Washington fighting for freedom. But George Washington also owned black people as slaves.”
Dr. Harvey’s small child’s “intrigue turned to horror.”
Along with the conception of George Washington, Professor Harvey starts to wonder what affect society is having on children. And she pins the blame on “parents of white children.”
She explains, “We know the youngest children internalize racist perceptions of themselves and others… And let’s be frank, it’s parents of white children, like myself, who tend to rely on these sincere, but ineffective, strategies.”
Instead of teaching toddlers and small children to just “be nice to everyone,” we need to have them “recognize racial meanness and understand that white kids have a particular responsibility to challenge racism.”
“One-dimensional, generic teachings are tempting,” Dr. Harvey writes. “They feel easier and safer. That’s the only reason my daughter’s school would settle for partial truths about George Washington.
“But raising children who are resilient for justice and able to do their part to create an inclusive society takes more, especially now.”