I’ve been thinking about this event practically every day since it happened, and even moreso since the Black Lives Matter movement became so rightly prominent.
This is something that happened recently – just last October, on Halloween (which is significant to the story.)
Before I tell the story, I want to be clear that my reflections of the day are full of regret and guilt. I didn’t say anything. I stood there in silence, even though I instantly felt the wrongness in the situation.
It was after that event, and replaying it in my head, that I realized just how much I am part of the problem of Racism. I didn’t actively partake in it, but I also didnt say anything. The kids could have had a lesson in standing up to racism; the adults could have reflected on their behaviours and ignorance; had I just stepped in.
Halloween Costume Guessing Game
I was touring a local school last year, and the principal had been bringing me into the kindergarten classrooms to take a look at what my preschoolers could expect in the future. It was halloween and most of the children were in costume. We stopped into one class where they were playing a seemingly harmless guessing game. The teacher would give simple clues and the children would have to guess which costume she was referring to.
I happened to walk in on the following clue from the teacher, and the principal expanded on it. (Fyi, this all took place in French, I am giving the English version.)
« This person hates the indians. » says the teacher.
The principal chimes in and asks « the Indians from India, or the Indians like this? » as she puts her hands in front of her mouth and does a mimic of a native war cry.
I realized then she was talking about a child dressed as a cowboy. There are so many ways the teacher could have described the costume. And this Cowboy was Woody from Toy Story, nonetheless, adding even more ways possible to give clues. She could have said « someone who rides horses, » « someone with a lasso, » or even « Buzz Lightyear’s friend. » Instead, she used an extremely racist example of hate.
I never want to be silent in the face of racism again. And I definitely don’t ever want any children in my care (or my vicinity) to learn racism because I didn’t stand up to it.
This happened in a kindergarten classroom. How many times have the children been exposed to events like this in their short 6 years on earth so far? And how many more times will they be exposed to this type of thing?
Even one more time is too many, which is why Sunnyside is committed to the Anti-Bias Curriculum. It is time we put in the hard work towards a better future for everyone – partly by working on ourselves, but also by giving our children the tools to fight racism which many of us never had.