Friday, January 20, 2012

Straight Hair/Curly Hair (Day 2)

Day two.  I entered this day with much trepidation.  My kids were reluctant.  They asked all evening (yesterday) if we would do the same thing, in reverse, the next day.  I declined to answer.  I didn't want to deal with the rebellion.

I knew Belle would have a problem.  She just doesn't tolerate mistreatment.  Period.  This is the girl that wants to let the *skwerls* keep living in our attic because she doesn't want them to be hurt.  She wants to take care of them.  She would either be so upset and cry, or she would rebel.  I was right.

Sunshine, my straight hair girl, was a superior kiddo today.  She initially asked to sit at the kitchen table.  Again, we insisted they move to a more comfortable location.  She sat in the living room with J's 7 yr old. They worked, they took breaks, they got the same special treatment our curly kids got yesterday.  And they enjoyed it, all while feeling guilty and wanting to share with their siblings/friends.

Belle sat at the kitchen table and worked.  She was grumpy.  She was resentful.  She was sassy.  She talked back, smarted off, and tried to sound tough.  She was protecting herself.  She was putting up a wall so that nobody could see her true hurt.  She was trying to make us think that we weren't fazing her, that she enjoyed her day just as much.  At snack time, she pretended to be happy with the cheese and crackers.  She didn't want us to know how she really felt.  A couple of times I told her she had gone too far.  And my heart ached.

Again, my precious child felt like I was mistreating her.  And I was, but it was my role.  I pulled back.  J and I were sitting at a separate table in the adjoining room and both said, almost at the same time, that we knew we weren't being as hard on the kids today as we had yesterday.  We knew it hurt them, because we knew it hurt us, because we felt like they had all learned enough yesterday.  But we kept on, because we wanted to make sure that the superior kids really felt what it was to be held in higher esteem, given more privileges.  We wanted to make sure they knew that even though it may look good, it doesn't feel that way.

We ended the day by watching YouTube videos of the original 1960s experiment.  We followed it with a great discussion and talked about several points that J & I thought were valuable:

-Although not quite as rampant in years past, there is still a lot of racial discrimination today, even within our community and in our circles.  We may not realize immediately, but it is happening.  

-Discrimination isn't always based on the color of our skin.  There are many variables.  

-A not so subtle reminder that what makes a person is the **content of their character**


Later in the evening, during dinner, I noticed that Belle was still treating me with resent and hurt.  She was wavering, going in and out of this need to protect herself and wanting to believe it was just a game.  She's only 8.  My little girl with unfailing compassion, who wants nothing more than to help people in need.  And I hurt her.

My heart was aching as I held her close last night at bedtime and reminded her that we played a game.  That there was nothing about her that made me even begin to think she was inferior.  Then I reminded her of her gifts...compassion & spirit, the ability to love unconditionally, the ability to forgive, the ability to be a good addition to the other things that I don't think are trivial but have nothing to really do with her heart...her intelligence, her athleticism, etc.  I didn't even try to hold back the tears.


My personal reflections...

Would I do it again?  I'm not sure.  Do I regret doing it?  Not entirely.  Was it one of the most difficult teaching assignments I've ever had?  Absolutely.  Do I think it would have been easier with someone else's kids?  Definitely not.

My dad (Hi, Dad!) tells me often that D & I are strict.  I like to think that's because he's protective of his grandkids, who have no faults in his eyes.  <3  Our discussions about this have led to conversations with D about our parenting.  Not because I question our roles or the way we are raising our kids, but because I wonder about the lasting effects my parenting will have on our sweeties.  We have come to the realization that while we are consistent with our limits and attempt to keep some semblance of structure, we are far from military-strict.  We do not demean and belittle our kids.  We work hard to build them up, to inspire confidence, to foster independence.  In order to discriminate against my own children, or any child, I would have to go against everything I believe helps a child learn and thrive.


More valuable information:

YouTube videos

Lesson that J found that inspired this project.

The Martin Luther King, Jr Research and Education Institute

1 comment:

Me said...

It sounds like it was a hard lesson to get through. I think it was *very* good that you did this, though. Racism and discrimination is an ugliness that can run deep in one's heart. I am considering cutting off a relationship now because the racism is so deep and affects so many conversations. I don't think that you girls will easily forget this lesson. I believe that they will be grateful that you took the risk and taught them just how ugly racism and discrimination are. (((hugs))) momma.