Teaching hate

I just saw this picture in my Facebook feed.  It made me think about two different ideas simultaneously.  One is that suggested in the caption--that children are inherently accepting of all people regardless of race and the other is that children also do not inherently feel embarrassed or ashamed to show affection in public.

We teach our children much in their young years.  We teach them so many biases and prejudices.  Many of these biases are taught unwittingly.  We may not make a conscious effort to do so.  It's simply what comes naturally to us.  We teach our children the things that we believe to be true--the things that we call "common sense".  Albert Einstein asserted "Common sense is the collection of prejudices acquired by age eighteen."

I feel like there are two important lessons to learn here.  The first, and probably most important, is to be self-critical.  To examine one's own beliefs in order to ascertain which should be kept and valued and which should be discarded.  Rather than accepting something that you've been taught your whole life, ask yourself why this thing you've been taught is true or why it's a useful principle to live by.

The second is to apply the same principle to raising children.  When teaching your children, be cautious.  Is this something you really want your child to learn?  Is this a behavior that you feel will benefit your child, and those around em, for the remainder of eir life?  If not, then perhaps you ought not teach your child that thing.

So, back to the two teachings at hand.  I assume nearly all of my readers understand why racism is a bad teaching and why it should be rejected, so I won't spend any time discussing that.  But I believe there is sufficient evidence to indicate that the assertion "nobody is born racist" is generally true.  Children just want other children to play with.  They won't decide on their own that other children of different skin colors ought not to be played with until they are told so by their authority figures.  I think this is most clearly seen in the observation that nearly all racist people were raised by racist parents.  The South is more racist than other parts of the country because it has historically been more racist, and that prejudice has remained even long after it has been greatly reduced in other areas.  My parents were not racist.  They never told me not to play with black kids.  I never had any reason to believe that black people were any different than white people, unless my parents had taught me to do so.

The other, which wasn't explicitly intended by the creator of the graphic, is that children are also taught by society--by their parents and other authority figures--that affection is to be feared.  These three boys are unashamed in hugging each other tightly.  Three teenage boys or young men would most likely not be as comfortable engaging in precisely the same behavior in public.  We teach our children that it is unmanly for boys to do things like this.  We teach boys that it is gay, icky, inappropriate, and emasculate to do so.  Partly this may be attributable to homophobia.  But it's more than just that.  It's the whole idea of macho masculinity that boys are taught they must exhibit in order to be "real men".  They can't even be overly affectionate with women in public, or overly emotional about various things.  They can't cry.  They can't giggle.  Anger is just about the only emotion that is acceptable for a macho man to show.  This is a horrible thing to teach an impressionable young boy.

It isn't natural for males to be the epitome of the modern concept of masculine.  It is natural for all humans to be affectionate--to hug and be hugged.  To show joy, sadness, anger, excitement, pity, pain, pleasure, and all other emotions we feel as humans.  Boys and girls alike should be encouraged to show their feelings.  They should be encouraged to hug other boys and girls, to be affectionate and emotional.  Not to be controlled by their emotions, but to freely express them without fear of being esteemed as lesser than those who do not show emotions.

Ask yourself, which would you rather see?  Your son fight with another boy or hug another boy?  If you'd rather see the fight, why would you prefer that?  Why should fighting be valued above affection?  I believe that affection and kindness should be valued above violence and anger.

In summary, examine the things you believe and be careful which teachings you pass on to other people, especially impressionable young people.  The things that children learn while young may likely stick with them their entire life.