Friday, 10 January 2014

Does he take sugar ?


It's not often I'm asked to give evidence for why I think something. Even less frequently am I asked to give examples to demonstrate that I am all for equality. Apparently it's not ok to just say, "Well I've been an equality and diversity manager for a living and they don't let you do that if you're not fair and just." I think that's up there with, "Of course I'm not racist or sexist, I can't be, I'm an asian woman."

Well today I was asked to show how I can prove that I'm all for equality and how I support this in my family. So, partly as an instructional guide and partly to demonstrate that I've thought this through here's what I came up with:

Disability:

During the Paralympics we took our son to watch the football and as a result we spoke to him a lot about the difference between a wheelchair and a pushchair, ie. 'you use a pushchair sometimes and you walk sometimes, if someone uses a wheelchair they may not be able to walk or they might have difficulty walking so the wheelchair helps them to do things."

Since he was little our boy has watched Cbeebies so he has seen programmes featuring children with disabilities and is also familiar with the person signing in the corner of the screen. He once asked me about Cerrie's arm and I explained that it looks different, but she uses it the same way as her other arm for some things. He was happy with that and I didn't use the words, 'normal,' or 'disability.'

I took him to baby signing before he could speak so he also has some signs and understands that this is a form of communication. My father and mother-in-law are both quite deaf so we've taught our son that he should look at them when he's speaking so that they can understand what he's saying to them. It's just showing consideration really isn't it ? 

Ethnicity:

Our son has parents of different ethnicity so he is (in newspeak) 'dual heritage.' In theory this means he has a rich and diverse shared cultural experience to draw upon. In reality it means he loves to eat indian food and knows how to say 'hat' in two languages. He also knows that anyone who wears a turban is from the same 'club' as my father. That Grandma will not tolerate shenanigans from errant toddlers late at night. He also knows that some things only happen at my parents house - ie. food is constantly offered - and some things only happen at Grandma's house - ie. Grandpa goes to play golf.

I recalled a Louis Theroux weird weekend programme in which he asked white South Africans about their attitudes towards black people. One of the people he met loved listening to Lionel Ritchie records, but admitted that of course he wouldn't be allowed into his home as he was black. It occurs to me that disliking someone for their skin colour, but being ok with listening to 'dancing on the ceiling,' is beyond parody. That's how I feel about having to explain that I'm not racist.  

Sexuality:

Now I do struggle to show that I'm not homophobic, I mean how do you do that exactly ? Do I point to my music collection and say, "look, so many gays !!" Or point out that I follow Boy George on my twitter feed ? Do I mention that it's irrelevant to me or is that going to sound too flippant ?

I was asked, "what if your child was gay ?" and what I wanted to say was, "I'd cheer, whoop and take joy in knowing that his gorgeous looks and sense of humour wouldn't be wasted on some silly girl." Does this make me heterophobic ? The best reply was given by our dear friends who were asked the same thing - she is a Christian - and in response to the question, "what would you do if you son was gay ?" she said, "erm, love him ?" I hope this was accompanied by a rolling of eyes and '"Duh !!"

When my boy has asked questions I've said, "You have a mummy and daddy who love each other. Some people have two daddies or two mummies who love each other." He's fine with that and if he asks more I will build on what I've already said.

Underlying all of this, however, is the sense that I'm trying to explain something that is startlingly obvious to me. Of course we don't treat someone as inferior because of their age or their height or their hair colour. That would be just stupid. 

Some questions are so dumbass they don't deserve a response. 

38 comments:

  1. It's sooo important to start thinking about these things early, before they start asking questions. We have lots of gay friends and Austin asked me the other day whether his nursery teacher & the teaching assistant 'lived at home together like xxxx's two Mummies'. It made me chuckle (they're such an unlikely couple), but I was pleased he sees this setup as a completely regular one. Great post.

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    1. Thank you. Children don't have prejudices, it's the adults around them who give them the idea that certain things are weird or wrong.
      I love the idea that Austin thinks teachers are married. My son thinks all the staff at nursery live there :)

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  2. It is hard to explain but well done to you

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  3. Agreed. I don't think you can show that you're not racist/anti-gay etc. If you are, you show it daily. If you're not it's just a non-issue.

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    1. Absolutely - the idea that you have to prove you're not something is really odd.

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  4. Great post :) We are 'multi faith' round ours, the husband is a born again Christian and I'm err...not. I figure our kids will grow up respecting that people have different beliefs and that all of these are ok. At least, that's what I'm hoping will happen!!

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    1. Thank you - I like to think that children adapt to different situations. They certainly seem more willing to accept difference than a lot of adults I know :)

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  5. All of this is so very true, what a great (and very hard) piece of writing!

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    1. Thank you - I find writing about it much easier than trying to explain it :)

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  6. What a fabulous post and thought provoking too

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  7. What a great post, well done you :)

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  8. People are a mystery sometimes with their double standards, bigotry and close mindedness.

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    1. Very true - I try my best to help my son steer clear of those ideas.

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  9. Great post and it sounds like you are doing a great job explaining the world to your son!

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    1. Thank you - I just want him to be a kind and thoughtful person :)

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  10. It is not easy to prove something like that but you have made some good points.

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    1. I agree - it's like asking me to prove that my eyes aren't blue. Well just look at them, they're not :)

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  11. I agree with Actually Mummys comment, if you are not prejudiced in these ways it is just a non issue and hard to demonstrate. In fact, I think actions speak much louder than words really for these things. I know people who are very quick to come and speak about how racism is wrong but at other times they will let their prejudices come out - because what they actually mean is that they don't like others to be racist towards them, but when they turn it round then that is "ok" apparently?! How come you were asked to prove it?

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    1. I know most people have something that they are hypocritical about. It's a shame when that gets passed on to children though.
      We're part of an assessment process that I can't talk to much about at the moment.

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  12. A great post. My children have been taught to look past appearance and look at the person inside.

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    1. Thank you.
      That's great. If we don't teach them to be kind and thoughtful who else will ?

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  13. Really good post. I totally agree - we live in a world where it'd not enough to simply "be" without justification. Whilst this can be important at times, even essential, it shouldn't always be the case. A teacher can no longer record a professional opinion without justification, many examples which I blogged about a while back http://musingssahm.blogspot.co.uk/2010/06/science-of-childcare-scourge-of-modern.html#.UtLat3kqjIo Challenging is good sometimes, but we are losing the ability to make a statement and have it accepted appropriately!

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    1. I guess it's a case of being able to show that all bases are covered isn't it ? It's frustrating to have to prove something that is just so obvious, but it has made me think about what it means to me and how I communicate it to my child so not all wasted.

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  14. Great post. A huge thumbs up on all counts.

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  15. Well thought through and clear. Sounds like an unpleasant remark prompted it so sorry to hear of that. Hope all is otherwise well.

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  16. Thank you - not an unpleasant remark at all, we're taking part in an assessment process that I can't go into detail about just yet and this is one of the areas that is covered.
    It just irked me I guess.

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