Trying to Raise a Socially Conscious Child

The sex talk is not the hardest talk I’ve had so far with my kid. That conversation has been the easiest, actually. Everything was straight forward and easily explained.

Explaining poverty, racism and sexism along with other types of oppression is way tougher. How do you explain to your child who  is five years old and falls on several axes of oppression about the oppression they will face? Oppression they are facing right now?

Recently, my kid and I were reading a book about different types of dwellings around the world. One picture showed favelas in Brazil. Another showed a house made of scrap in India. My daughter noticed these houses weren’t as nice as some of the other pictures; like the farm house in France. When I explained a bit about poverty, she asked why those people were poor.
If I start explaining poverty, I have to explain all different forms of oppression. She asked why we live in a shelter; that would lead into a conversation about domestic violence, rape and systemic oppression. This is just focusing on the USA. If I expanded the conversation to include Brazil or India, then we get into colonialism and how capitalism needs poverty in order to thrive.

Another time we were playing an online doll dress up game and I made my doll Black. She said the doll was ugly. I asked why she thought so. She couldn’t articulate why. This is why it’s so important for diversity in children’s toys and media. She’s already getting the message that Black equals ugly/bad.

I explained why what she said was hurtful. I told her, in age-appropriate terms, about racism and how racism kills. I reminded her of a conversation we had about a month before:

In her kindergarten class, she was taught about MLK Jr. I doubt they went into much detail, other than him “having a dream”. We were in a store once, and she saw a special edition magazine about the 60’s. She recognized his picture, so she flipped through the magazine and saw that picture of him lying dead in the balcony of that hotel. She asked what happened to him. I once again explained in age-appropriate terms. She seemed to get it and apologized.

At school, she’s dealing with a bully who used ableist and misogynistic slurs against her. I explained to her what those words meant. This kid is a few years older, he obviously has no idea what those words mean but he knows that they’re used to hurt women and disabled folks. He knows they have power.
The school seems to be laying the responsibility of not being bullied on my daughter. Which once again takes me back to the conversation of systemic oppression. She’s a girl, she’s a POC (person of color), she’s of low socio-economic status; the school most certainly won’t take her seriously.

This is all heartbreaking and defeating. She’s seen so much already and I cannot shield her forever. These are ongoing conversations, that will have to be added to as she gets older and better able to understand.

Even as the sex talk gets expanded it will never be as difficult as every other conversation will be. I was lied to. The sex talk is a breeze.

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