How to whitewash a history of racism to kids

I’m kind of horrified at this article in the nytimes from the other day, How to Read a Racist Book to Your Kids.

Although some lip-service is paid to the idea of using these books as “teachable moments”, where parent and child can engage in serious conversations about the history of racism, for the most part the author seems to feel perfectly justified in “cleaning up” objectional texts so his children will never know they contain racist elements. And yes, this includes whitewashing the word “nigger” out of Huckleberry Finn.

The is the most insidious kind of revisionism, in my opinion. Shall we tell our children slavery never happened? Shall we protect them from the realities of segregation, colonialism, the abuses of the class structure? I can’t tell that this approach serves any purpose, except to pretend that dominant groups have never committed any crimes, and to reinforce the notion that power structures exist because they are natural and inevitable, and certainly not an artifact of historical acts of oppression.

It also helps build the lie that genius is immune to immorality, and that great evil is never done by people you admire. Which helps ensure that these children will never feel the need to interrogate their own motives because they’ve been taught that racism is something other, something Bad People do, if they’ve even heard of it at all.


  1. Comment by cat_hellisen:

    I am in agreement with you, 100%.

    It’s too easy to pretend stuff never happened because we don’t like what is says about us. It’s an insiduous lie designed to make us look better in the eyes of our children/grandchildren at the expense of erasing the histories of the people most effected our actions.

    What we’re saying is – “Your suffering never happened, and we’re going to pretend that way to our kids, because our guilt is more important than your history.”

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