Freedom of speech, protected by the 1st amendment of the US Constitution, does not exist in my house. That’s right. But before you think I’m some kind of totalitarian mom (I would describe myself as a food obsessed attachment parent instead!), please read on.
My children have rights. Lots of them, actually. They have the right to their own interests and hobbies. They have the right to refuse to eat a certain dish, after they’ve tasted it and decided they didn’t like it. They choose what games to play with their friends, while I socialize with the moms. The list goes on. But my children are not permitted to use hateful, demeaning, or degrading language. Racism in any shape or form has never, and will never, be permitted regardless of what legal documents say.
When slavery was abolished over 150 years ago, racism did not go down with it, on the contrary. Many countries took steps to reduce it to a minimum, banning books like Mein Kampf, and prohibiting hate speech. But in America, racist organizations –and people– aren’t a dying breed. There are even racist hashtags like #BringBackSlavery. I won’t even get into what many people said after President Obama was elected. It’s definitely shocking to many, but no one is doing much against it. Why? Because of freedom of speech.
Where do we draw the line? In my house, it’s pretty clear. Racism and hate are out. I’m fine with my kids expressing themselves, especially if they feel fear or apprehension toward others who seem different. They know they can trust me, and because we live in a very white town, and the school they attend is even more so, questions are bound to arise.
But instead of of letting our children say whatever they want, or censoring without explanation, we talk about where people come from. Our children learn all the facts about genetics, melanin, and sun exposure. They learn about different countries and their customs, and what people of different origins look like. When they are older, we plan on traveling quite a bit. To not give into color blindness, we also talk about how certain racial groups are discriminated against. My husband took our oldest to Black Lives Matter demonstrations, and when we talk about such issues with friends, our children are often right beside us.
As it turns out, according to the most recent research, racial bias is innate in children. Does it mean that hateful speech is OK, or that we can’t do anything about it? Of course not. I am absolutely in favor of my children expressing themselves. I encourage them to share their thoughts with me, whatever they might be. But it is not okay to believe people are superior or inferior because of the way they look. Hateful speech is not accepted in my house, it’s not accepted in many other countries, and it shouldn’t be accepted by society at large. Allowing it only promotes the idea that racism and other forms of hate speech are acceptable, and it stands in the way of overcoming the many race-related issues we encounter so often in this country. We definitely need to talk about hate, but we need to do so in order to put an end to it, not promote it further.
How can you tell if what you’re about to say should be censored? It’s easy. Do you sound like you are treating others as inferiors because of the way they looks, or their gender, or their sexual orientation? If so, please stop. And don’t just censor yourself. Consider making friends with the people you feel so superior to. Get to know them. If a 4 year old can do it, I bet any adult can, to.