TOLLIVER: Tell me — what about the kids? – The Daily Rider


In 1984, Alice Walker’s “The Color Purple” was banned in several school libraries for homosexuality, violence and explicit language among other themes. Most recently, Governor Glenn Youngkin banned Virginia Public Schools critical race theory – despite this never first taught. These two actions were carried out under the appearance to protect children from subjects they should not or could not understand. This argument about concern for children is an argument of normativity, not substance. Children are not only able to understand the world, but it is imperative that they do – race, gender and sexuality are not new trends seeping into schools and playgrounds. As these concepts have been around forever, children should know about them – not only for them, but also for us.

When it comes to race, the argument that children are aware is often made around this assumption that children will imitate anything they see without any understanding. Show them racial segregation, intersectionality or police brutality and black and brown kids will become baby Black Panthers while white kids walk around apologizing for their ancestors. Many people think that race is an adult issue and yet the concept of color is formulated for the most part as a child. Studies show that children – as young as four years old – have a concept of race ranging from simply discovering that they are different colors from each other to actively bullying each other for these differences. Race is far from an adult issue, and exposing children to it in a diverse, inclusive, and intersectional light is not a disservice.

It can also be seen in more than formal education. Many people cringe at the idea of ​​allowing their children to learn about unmarked graves at the University filled with nameless slaves. The same goes for children who attend racially marked events — like a Black History Month parade or a Black Lives Matter protest. In some ways, this thinking is justified – exposing children to concepts they are not ready to assimilate can lead to misunderstandings. An example of this can be seen in the summer of 2020, when a five-year-old black girl demand a white officer at a protest if he was going to shoot protesters. From the heavy and complex exposures to race, she assumed that white cops always shoot black people. However, it was proven that children are already developing concepts of race on their own. Thus, there are ways to develop the concept of race at gradual levels – so as not to generalize any race – that offer children a chance to understand the world as they grow.

The same goes for the concepts of sex, gender and sexuality. Studies also show that children have some understanding of these three concepts and can even develop their own conclusions. Not seeing LGBTQ+ members does not guarantee heterosexual and heteronormative children and vice versa. Therefore, these protests against the public exposure of children in pride parades or in ads and cartoons with LGBTQ+ people, are rooted in this fear of anything other than heteronormativity. Protests against Lil Nas X to kiss another man on stage and the exasperation with Superman’s son – who also becomes Superman – being bisexual all suggest that this argument is not rooted in child protection. It’s rooted in queerphobia and the perverse, misconception that if kids see gay, trans, or genderfluid people, they’ll get ideas. Identity is not an idea.

The particular aspect of this argument about limiting exposure for children, however, is that it is hypocritical. Concepts like being transgender are considered too much for children, and yet, from assigning one’s sex at birth to telling little boys they can’t play with Barbie dolls, we’re exposing them to gender. and to sex – only the parts we deem exposable. The same goes for race – children never learn the in-depth history of the Black Panther Party or Malcolm X, rather they are exposed to a Disney-trusted version of the civil rights movement. Apparently, this argument does not make life easier for children. They grow up ignorant – or worse, implicitly biased – while different races, genders and cultures will always inhabit the Earth.

The argument that children are not exposed to certain aspects of society is not in the interests of children. It is in our interest. We don’t have to understand other races, religions or genders, nor do we have to teach it. Instead of taking advantage of the fact that children today have more information than previous generations, this argument is used to try to keep things exactly as they were in the past. Ironically, children are meant to be our future. Tell me, how can you know where you’re going if you don’t know where you are?

Shaleah Tolliver is the Cavalier Daily’s Senior Associate Opinion Editor. She can be reached at [email protected].

The opinions expressed in this column are not necessarily those of The Cavalier Daily. The columns represent the opinions of the authors only.


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