Tag Archives: children

“You Isn’t Kind. You isn’t Smart. You Isn’t Important.”

The title is the inverse of a line from the movie, The Help. “You is kind. You is smart. You is important.” These are the words spoken to the child cared for by an African American nanny, the last words even. Perhaps the most memorable words of the film, it instilled the question in my mind that perhaps this child would turn out to be kinder, smarter, and more important than her parents. Self-esteem is so important after all in a young child’s life. If the roles were reversed, reconciliation would have to start with self-esteem, right?

Recently, I was reading the books, Brain Rules for Babies and Nurture Shock, to get a better handle on this parenting thing. And both books spend a chapter or more each debunking the notion that telling a child that he or she is “smart” actually helps them perform better. Research shows that while telling children they are smart so that they feel better about themselves may feel intuitively right, but it actually may not help them learn. Children who were told they were smart actually makes them hesitant to do anything to disprove their existing “smartness” and thus, they don’t put in the requisite effort to learn.

On the other hand, when children were told, “You must have put a lot of work into that” at something the child had done, the child not only associated the result with effort, they were willing to put effort in other projects as well. And thus, learning became related to effort and being smart was a result of that effort put forth, rather than being a pedestal from which to fall.

What on earth does this have to do with reconciliation?

I wonder if it is more helpful to be heavy handed with critique regarding race, gender, class or whatever when I should probably be more focused on the effort we put in; and I also wonder what it means for us to understand our identities as simply “beloved” or “saved” as those feel like titles from which we can fall and not aspire. I understand the theological caution of not bringing back a works-based righteousness, but also want to say that Christians, particularly of the Evangelical stripe, aren’t known for our effort and action towards the reconciling of the world. Rather, we can exhibit the complacency and the fear associated with the static posture of the “saved” or if you will, the “kind, smart, and important.” Ah, and of course, for the true answer, I will definitely need some true “Help.”

Racism – An International, New Generation Phenomenon

For my friends who understand even a little bit of Spanish, check out the following YouTube video and tell me what you think:

This is the Google Translated text from the description of the video:

This video was made by Social Change 11.11 as part of the “Racism in Mexico.”
He became a research with Mexican children / as, replicating the experiment with children / as and dolls designed by Kenneth Clark and Mammi in the thirties in the United States, which has been conducted in several countries.
Here is part of the results and the children shown in this video reflect the responses of most children / as who were interviewed / as.
Given the complexity of the issue, we performed a Racism Workshop with / as children / as who participated and their families, to create a space for reflection and restraint of the emotions generated in this exchange.

An LA Times article reported on this video and the feedback opened with these questions:

Is Mexico’s an inherently racist society? Does the culture overwhelmingly favor those with light skin over those with dark skin? And if so, is that a legacy of European colonialism or present-day images in television and advertising?

These are among the thorny questions emerging in online forums in Mexico since a government agency began circulating a “viral video” showing schoolchildren in a taped social experiment on race.

My first thoughts are that this is a natural extension of racism in the USA. Here’s why, many of us in this country feign shock and get defensive very quickly when we are accused of racism, but the fact of the matter is that we claim post-racial status because we’ve largely exported it. It’s a disease we’ve already transmitted to others. And now even in a single lifetime between now and the Civil Rights Movement, like to think that the opportunities have always been there. That things are now on an equal playing field. But this is simply not true. The Church needs to recognize that this is not true. In our mission trips, in our sanctuaries, we have to realize that racism is something we perpetuate by never taking responsibility of it. And the last time I checked, the Jesus we worship took responsibility for sins he did not commit; whether we find ourselves personally culpable or not of this or  other injustices, we find in Christ the power to own and own this disease, if for no other reason that it may die with us and live no more.