Tuesday, June 20, 2006

sitting in the doctor's waiting room yesterday, I noticed a group of Orthodox Jews come in - Dad with the fringe and head covering, Mum with a kind of turban covering her hair, kids wearing mini suits - and I went back to my magazine. but I could hear the woman sitting across the room from me with her son, aged 7 or 8, whispering "Jews" - pointing them out to him. not necessarily in a poisonous way, but simply making a point of their difference. so far, I've tried not to mention skin colour and age when Alexander looks at people in pictures and on the street. a black man is "a man". a woman wearing a skimpy bikini is "a lady". I saw him staring at a guy in a wheelchair the other day and I decided not to say "don't stare". maybe later when he's old enough to understand empathetic manners. but for now, I just want him to see people, not race. and the best way to do that is to accept differences without comment.

what century is it again?

Dear Baby,
Feel kind of lame picking this paragraph to comment on, when you've written so much else that is commentary worthy...
but the "multi-culti" issue is right of my backyard since I teach it at university...
and let me ask you to rethink your polite ignoring of differences as something that is actually short-sighted...
people ARE different, and handicaps, race, background, age make a difference in how they perceive the world (YOU should know). To pretend everyone is THE SAME is to not celebrate these different perspectives. You might be giving your child the idea that differences are "unmentionable" or taboo...
"....but for now.."
I agree. He's too young. A. will be asking questions soon enough.
Early childhood is the only time we remain completely non-judgemental. Enjoy it!
dear anonymous; funnily enough I'm studying identity issues at university myself; I'm not pretending everyone is the same - he knows, for instance, that his shortsighted friend L needs him to go up close to her for her to see him - I just think that when we pick on particular features of other people to notice, we're selecting those features as the ones that are important in life. he knows when someone is "nice", when they are "noisy" and other behavioural issues. but why should it matter that they're "jewish" or "black". when he starts to ask (which I suspect will be when he goes to school and other kids point out differences), then I'll start explaining. I do believe that to some extent we build our own worlds, and that I have a lot of influence over the filters that A will use to perceive people through.

here's a lame identity politics joke for you: I've been thinking about the idea that identity is simply a tool of power; that when we do as we should we're just subscribing to the dominant paradigm etc; that when he gets to the "why" stage of defiance, instead of "because I said so", I could say "fish". that would be a nice piece of subversion, but would confuse my child utterly. I sometimes wonder if Heidegger, Delueze, et al, ever had anything to do with actual childraising. :)
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