Out of the mouths of babes

The same girl came up with two most interesting and connected themes last week and this week. The first time we were watching a film which depicted some typical behavior in a Mexican home. I asked the class to imagine a family in South Dakota, blond-haired, blue-eyed kids, Norwegian origin, and picture what the interaction in the family would be like. The girl asked if that wouldn’t be racist. I asked what was racist about it. She had a hard time articulating it, so I asked if students could get in trouble for talking about ethnic differences and another student, a very serious girl, vigorously nodded and exclaimed, “Oh, yes.”
This week we were going over descriptions of people and came to nationality. She wanted to know if she could put “White”. I replied that that was a description of appearance while nationality asked what country the person is from, what nation, the root of nationality. She said that people got mad at you for that. I asked who got mad. She replied vaguely and I kept asking who, probably seven times. Eventually she said, “The government.” A politically astute and very conservative boy turned to her and said, “Drop it.” He stayed a minute after as he usually does and mentioned that she had been “getting political”. So he recognized that her comments were coming from conservative Republican households where the Pat Buchanen type of speech about American being a White Christian country is felt to be correct but under assault by “the government”.
What they mean is that presenting the history of the U.S. as a parade of White males a la John Wayne building the country to the exclusion of women and non-White people is considered racist and a distortion of history. But it is their version of history, one in which Blacks were in the cotton fields, Mexicans picked fruit, women bore children and stayed home while White men strode forth and created a God-fearing nation. The Mormons incorporated this into their theology, and some historians of our culture have stated that this is pretty much the theocratic view of American history promulgated by the Right.
Out of the mouths of babes.

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