Tuesday, February 2, 2021

Prejudice or Racism? Understanding the Difference


When Arturo Alfonso Schomburg was in 5th grade, his teacher told him that black people had no history, nor heroes, nor any achievements. That moment stayed with him his entire life and is perhaps why he dedicated his life to researching and collecting literature, art, and artifacts related to Africans and the African diaspora.

"Cancel culture" is a term thrown about a lot lately. Although it mainly refers to ostracism on social media or other social circles, cancel culture actually goes back hundreds of years and has existed since the birth of the United States. Traditionally, the history and stories of people of color have been left out of history textbooks and lesson plans. 

This doesn't just affect the perspectives of whites toward people of color, but also how marginalized groups - specifically children - feel about themselves. Studies by researchers at the University of North Carolina - Chapel Hill have shown that "Latino adolescents in the U.S. who maintain ties to their culture of origin are more likely to develop healthy behaviors than their peers who do not. Latino adolescents with strong awareness of their family’s culture reported higher self esteem, fewer social problems and less hopelessness, aggression, and substance abuse." 

This is certainly true for children of any race or culture. 

American author Ray Bradbury once said, "You don't have to burn books to destroy a culture. Just get people to stop reading them." 

And one way to stop people from reading about different cultures is by not publishing books about them or limiting access to them. (In today's society, it's also about not sharing stories online.)

What's the difference between prejudice and racism?

What is the end result of erasing or omitting information about a race or culture? Prejudice and racism. But what's the difference between the two?

According to Merriam-Webster, the definition of prejudice is "a feeling of unfair dislike directed against an individual or a group because of some characteristic (as race or religion)"

Racism, on the other hand, is defined as "prejudice PLUS power." It's the actual ACT of marginalizing or oppressing people based on prejudice. And most social justice organizations attribute racism to one group of people who control social norms and policy.

Diversity in Children's Books: Huyck, David and Sarah Park Dahlen. (2019 June 19)

3 Ways to fight prejudice and racism at home

Schomburg once said, "Pride of race is the antidote to racism." 

What do you think that means? Why did he say that? Well, we only give antidotes to victims. And if you've been the victim of racism, which leaves you feeling poisoned and "less than" - you need a treatment or antidote to help you recover. Pride of race (or culture) - as I mentioned above - helps to rebuild your self-confidence and your pride in who you are and where you came from.

So it's up to parents and educators to put a stop to the nonsense. There are many actions we can take. In fact, I wrote about 15 ways to raise non-racist children back in 2016. But today, I've chosen three immediate ways to do so at home with children...

First, we need to actively seek out those books, videos, websites, lesson plans, and more that share the stories of ALL people, but especially people of color and marginalized groups. Then we need to teach them to our children. While it is important for our kids to read about Latinos in history, it's also important for them to read about Blacks, Asians, and Indigenous people. They should learn about the contributions of Jews, Muslims, and others.

As homeschoolers, we are in an excellent situation because we are not bound by the rules or limitations of a school district or curriculum. World Cultures or Ethnic Studies or Heritage Studies are subjects that we can easily add to our curricula.

Second, we need to purchase, promote, and otherwise support the publishers and companies that are publishing these stories. Most books, for example, about the Latino experience are published by small independent publishers or small imprints. We need these companies to stay open, grow, and invest in the history and stories of people of color. 

And third, we need to encourage our children to write their stories and the stories of their families. According to an inventory made two years ago by the Cooperative Children's Book Center, only 5% of the children's books published each year are by or about Latinos (see image above). That needs to change. So let's get our kids writing. And inspire them by writing down your family's history yourself!


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