She Needs A Hero

My daughter has seen tons of male heroes and role models thanks to her older brother. IronMAN, SuperMAN, SpiderMAN. One day we were talking about flying airplanes and helping people and she very seriously said, “No, mommy. Only boys do that.”

So I went out and purchased story books about real life lady-heroes.

I read Amelia Earhart and she positively glowed!

Inspired, I moved on to Rosa Parks, excited to show her how a woman sat down and gave momentum to a whole movement.

And yet, as I was reading the descriptions of segregation with separate water fountains, not being allowed to eat at certain places, separate schools, the racial slurs, back of the bus vs. the front of the bus… I caught myself.

This is a children’s book?

It is easy to forget the depth and the horror of the discrimination that occurred. It took me aback. I had not thought about these things in a long time. Not since high school civics class, in fact. I think about the current state of racial discrimination now quite a lot, but really sitting down and thinking about where it all started? Not so much.

What if it had been me?

I live in the South and not only was it real, it is not really gone. Discrimination may not be as overt, but it is certainly still there. Generations will have to die off before it is completely over.

If ever.

They have every right to be angry.

My kids see their friends as friends, not colors. As I read about Rosa Parks, I started to worry. Is this book going to change that? I don’t want them going back to school talking about black this and white that or even getting the inkling that we are somehow not all equals and all friends. Someday they will have to face the history and reconcile it but not yet.

I don’t want to be the white doctor with the white kids getting in trouble for racial slurs at school. Not because they are mean at heart, but because they are repeating what they heard in a storybook.

How young is too young?

So I finished the story, glossing over some points, and closed the book, putting it up on a shelf to revisit at a later date. I ignored the cries of, “Mommy, read it again!”

Fast forward a few weeks and my kids were learning about Martin Luther King at school. Of course they would. They attend a predominately African American school.

It just hadn’t dawned on me.

After school my daughter excitedly told me everything she now knows about Dr. King. They are not too young to understand, as it turns out. I need to have more faith in kids in general and in mine in particular.

Ignoring the past does not make it go away. We can always honor it and learn from it, but we should never, ever ignore it.

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75 thoughts on “She Needs A Hero

      • I get that. I experience anxiety regarding my blogs on a regular basis. You have touched on a sad but true fact. While humans still have a long way to go in terms of all discrimination, I feel the biggest hurdle is still the discrimination against females. It is so pervasive in society, we often don’t even recognize it. Out of the mouths of babes come the reality. If your daughter picked up the idea that “only boys fly airplanes” then discrimination is unfortunately alive and well. As you mentioned, she does not see color and she is getting a good education in remaining that way. But she has learned gender discrimination because gender role typing is everywhere, especially in media and history books. I am so happy that you pulled out Amelia Earhart and Rosa Parks. I personally like the direction that society is taking with gender identity regardless of a persons chromosomes. I hope this trend continues and as you mention, maybe over several generations people will be identified for their talent/knowledge and color/gender will be seen as the external vessel of an amazing package.

        Liked by 3 people

  1. I live in the South too and see things today that would once have resulted in violence, if not worse. Interracial relationships are so common as to not turn a head today; my great hope is with our young people who seem infinitely ahead of my own generation in this regard.

    Liked by 2 people

  2. Good post, VD. Actually I don’t think there is a time that is too young. Kids see injustice all the time (how come he can and I can’t), but I think it is a good time to let them know that injustice is wrong and they can help make it right.

    Liked by 3 people

  3. It is changing, but very slowly. I’ll never forget the day my youngest child came home from elementary school (a predominately white school), and asked me what the N word meant. She had never heard it at home. I had to explain that it was a derogatory term for black people (at the time, we used the term black, not African American). And while I was at it, I also pointed out that there are derogatory terms for other people too – Polish and German people (which we are), Italian, Greek and Hispanic people (which some of her friends were), etc. I don’t know if I handled it properly (or politically correctly), but I think she got the point that people are just people, no matter what their ancestry or skin color – and that those who use ancestry or skin color to judge others are not very nice people themselves.

    Liked by 3 people

  4. I agree with you; we should never forget the awful things that have happened in the past, discrimination, wars and other atrocities. They all had their own heroes too that made sacrifices to save others. It is a shame that we all still haven’t quite learned the lessons yet, but hopefully we will get there some day.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Good post. There are 2 forks to respond to here. First, that she needs female heroes: she does indeed need female heroes to see that she can grow up to be what she wants to be. My wife has been reading “Women Heroes of World War II” by Kathryn Atwood. I haven’t read it, but it has the right title. Definitely not a children’s book, but you might find some inspiration there.

    Second, the issues of racial discrimination. I’ve been reading and thinking about that a lot lately. I’ve read pieces that indicate that the progression of interactions with authority that leads substantially more black boys to prison than white boys begins in preschool—disruptive actions by black children are treated more harshly right from the beginning. We can also see the differences in the actions of our police and other municipal institutions, and we have seen a lot of this recently. White folks can now assert (individually) that they are “post-racial” and are not prejudiced. We can do this and feel self-righteous because we have built prejudicial behavior and attitudes into the institutions that manage the society we live in and we no longer have to exhibit prejudice ourselves. This is not right. It damages individuals in our society. It damages the society as a whole. It wastes the talents of many of our citizens, and it wastes the energy of all of us. Unfortunately, it will probably take at least another generation to get rid of it.

    Liked by 2 people

  6. Touching upon a tangential point …

    I have spent a great deal reading about the great harm of colorblindness. I’m actually reading a book by a Harvard law prof in which the author describes it as part of “the new Jim Crow.” I am a long way from being able to quickly (and with one hand) summarize the key points in my reading, but I did want to weigh in as saying I feel–based on ample reading–it’s important to mention different skin colors while not ascribing characteristics to anyone based on the color of their skin. (I’ve called this color imperviousness on my blog.)

    One of the biggest dangers of colorblindness is how it can make it difficult to see how many people don’t even strive to be. Indeed, I see now almost daily how “colorblindness” is used to ignore terrible experiences people of color are totally unable to avoid. It’s almost like choosing to filter reality to suit us, instead of to see it as it is/might be for others.

    All of this is to say, it’s great that you read on. It’s great that you discuss inequality with your kids, thereby imbuing a tough subject with the feeling of your love, which love will inspire and empower them to face hard subjects and do so feeling you as part of that.

    Liked by 2 people

  7. What a brilliant and thoughtful post! Thank you… yes, I understand completely! We must never underestimate the ability of little ones to grasp complex issues. They are truly amazing and little miracles of insight. If I had a nickel for every drop of innocent wisdom that dropped from one of my kids’ mouths, I would be a rich woman. As it is, I am not. But, as my grandson would say, “Money isn’t too important, Nanny… people are what matter…” Gotta love kids! History is just that. To state it is not to promote it. 🙂 Mother Hen xx

    Liked by 1 person

  8. I think you found the correct prescription. I’ve been thinking about this myself lately and what kids should learn about it and at what age. Then I think of the families who experience discrimination and have to teach their children to deal with it. The important thing is to keep checking with your daughter about what her understanding is, and how she views things. Good job, Doc.

    Liked by 1 person

  9. Shirley Chisholm once said that she faced many more obstacles being female, than being black. There seems to still be a long way to go to reach equality, for lots of people in this world.

    Liked by 2 people

  10. My little personal stand was always Thanksgiving, the first time the kids came home with the coloring pages of the Pilgrims and those ridiculous hats….I told them the truth. This past year in high school they started learning some of that truth and some of the girls friends were upset, she looked around and said “am I the only one who already knew this?” It didn’t seem to traumatize her….who knows? Does that make me a bad mom? I hope not.

    Liked by 2 people

  11. Reminds me of an experience I had reading a Bible story — in a children’s book — to my son. It was about Samson. I stumbled over the Delilah part, and when it got to the part where Samson becomes strong again and basically topples a building to kill everyone inside, including himself, I just stopped midsentence… In a kids’ book! Fortunately, my son is only 2 and didn’t notice. 😀

    Liked by 1 person

    • Isn’t interesting? I don’t think about hearing these things when I was a kid, but I grew up with them. Bible stories can be terribly brutal. Clearly it was not a traumatic event for me, though, so am I being over protective by glossing over it? Probably. But I still end up doing it. 🙂


      • I’m with you on kids being wiser than we think they are and having good judgment. And in a way it’s actually a good idea to slowly impress upon them the fact that the world won’t always be a nice place, and bad things happen to good people, and they should still try to be good, kind people regardless.

        Liked by 1 person

  12. At the age of 6, my daughter was bussed to a predominantly black school ( that’d be about 1995). She was driven past two schools to get to this school. My Hispanic neighbors were given the option of choosing where they’d like their kids to go.
    It was just odd to me at the time -forty-five minutes on the bus for a six year old.

    She is now twenty-five and had the most diverse group of friends. Her out of the closet high school theatre friends invite her up to New York frequently. She considers her black friends “the most real” of all- no posturing goes on when they are together. Her best friend, a Jamaican, is unsure of her sexuality.
    Eh, if the books are well written and she is curious, keep reading them to her. She’s going to get out there and you’ll be close by to make sure that compassion is the only nurtured from her knowledge.

    Liked by 1 person

  13. Your children are bright and loved. They have an amazing capacity to filter and learn at their own pace. Lovely post as always. My children and I watched MLK’s I Have A Dream, an annual tradition. I cry every year.

    Liked by 1 person

  14. Thank you for writing this post. I was raised in Charleston, South Carolina and I have been toying with the idea of writing what I remember of the first day of desegregation–your post has given me the courage to do it. I’m glad that you’ve given your daughter some hero’s. I find it a somewhat surprising to learn that sexism is still so endemic in our culture that a child would think that only boys are allowed to fly a plain or go into space.

    Liked by 1 person

  15. Thank you for this post. I guess most of the problems we have today isn’t all our faults but we can’t afford to play ignorant of them all when the evidence is all too obvious to see.

    May we continue to learn and grow for a better world for all.

    Liked by 1 person

  16. Pingback: My Article Read (1-18-2015) (1-19-2015) | My Daily Musing

  17. It’s very sad that it still exists. I’m so glad you blogged about it. I think the more we talk about it, the more exposed it becomes. I honestly can’t see it ever being eradicate but I can hope.

    Liked by 1 person

  18. You are so right. I tried to raise my kids with no gender, race, or expectation restrictions. Whatever they wanted to try, we went for. I was surprised later when my daughter described me later as a feminist. I never thought about it. I just wanted them to have choices.

    Liked by 1 person

  19. You have some excellent comments on the bulk of your post. But when I was reading it, in the first few sentences, I saw airplanes, female role models, and helping people. My lightbulb went on, and went -Wonder Woman!
    She does know that Wonder Woman did all those things, right? And that the plane was invisible?

    Liked by 2 people

  20. I am so glad I’m raising my girls in an incredibly multicultural part of Sydney – especially after my own childhood in an incredibly white part of rural NSW. My 6yo is already learning so much about other cultures. Conversations about difference and acceptance are happening way earlier for her than they ever were for me.

    Liked by 1 person

  21. If you’ve received any fragments of comments from me, just disregard. I keep getting booted around from page to page, so I’ll try later.
    I did want to congratulate you. on using your own experience so effectively to generate an unusually productive discussion .This IS political work. Once we make up our minds to, its what the people do better than anyone else.
    Well done!

    Liked by 1 person

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