Monday, July 15, 2013

Cautionary Tales

Where is all of this coming from? The racial vitriol, the seeming sense of entitlement that allows one person to feel that it's okay for personally judging or publicly bullying and even persecuting another based on race or sex or sexual orientation or religion or lack of religion? Because it just so isn't.

I was talking with a friend about that Cheerios commercial, the one with the biracial family, and how people felt so compelled to criticize the commercial to the point of levying harsh criticism and slurs about biracial families. I said something like "racism is the new thing," which garnered me a strange look. I know that racism is not a new thing. Far from it. But there is a new wave of it that is extremely disturbing. And it needs to stop.

I take my role as a mom seriously. Part of that role is to teach my children that they should form their opinions of others based on behavior, not appearance. It's not our place to judge others. And to judge someone based on their race, religion, sexual orientation or gender is wrong. I rely on role models to help me with teaching this lesson--it takes a village and all that--but lately all I'm seeing are cautionary tales.

So we watch the news about the Zimmerman trial and not guilty verdict and we talk about our thoughts--like how maybe the prosecution didn't prove their case. And how we don't know for sure what happened that night, but we can be sure it wasn't as black-and-white as we may be led to believe; things rarely are. We talk about racial tension and the huge strides that have been made in relations... and how there is clearly still a long way to go.

We talk about the repeal of DOMA and what that means. Why people deserve civil rights, what it means to them. We've talked about marriage and different kinds of families and why it's okay to love the people you want to love. Love is an important thing. Stronger than hate. But, unfortunately, fear is stronger than love.

We talk about the protests in Texas, why I feel it's wrong for the government to legislate any part of the female body. Why I think this is infringing on a woman's civil rights and why I feel it's wrong. We talk about how women fought for freedom, how there was a time when women weren't thought of as equal citizens, and how this was a step back.

We talk about Big Brother, a show that my kids have been looking forward to since spring break. Only now, the crazy, slightly off-color fun has been tainted by a clueless racist spewing rude remarks, bullying other people on the show. Her actions, her words are indefensible. She doesn't seem to care. She continues to tear a bullying path through others, whom she thinks are unworthy. And when she's advised by a friend to rethink her behavior? She blows it off, plays the victim card and becomes even less likeable than one would think possible. This show is like a "how not to behave" primer.

Things aren't all bad. I think there are far more people who think like I do--that it's important to love, respect and share kindness--but that's not what's going to make headlines. So we'll hear more about the negative and the persecutors and we'll use it to fuel our desires to continue to be respectful and kind. But there is some positive coming out of the negative.

On Big Brother, we get to see the reactions of those being bullied based on their race and sexual orientation. We see the other people who refuse to stand quietly by and watch it happen. They stand together and refuse to be defined by hateful speech and actions. They take this angry, bitter vitriol and instead of fueling an explosion, it fuels their desire to rise above; to work hard and to win.

Another positive is the website We Are the 15 Percent, showcasing crowd-sourced family photos of the estimated 14.6% of marriages in the country that are interracial, as based on 2008 census data, inspired by the racist backlash that Cheerios commercial garnered.

Don't take that angry fuel and burn up; use it to fuel your desire to be better. To rise above. Life is just too short to be mean. Please don't be a cautionary tale.

8 comments:

  1. Mari you are doing such a great job talking through tough issues with your kids ongoingly. I also used "bad" television to review "good" behavior and attitudes with my own daughters and although they claim I spoiled Juno for them, we had some great conversations! Thanks for this timely post.

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    1. Thanks Lisa; It's a work in progress, for sure! :)

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  2. Try growing up in the Deep South and raising kids not to be racists. Well, actually it wasn't that hard. Mine turned out just fine because their parents practiced what they preached.

    ~Joyce Scarbrough

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    1. I'm seeing too often that parents forget this part of raising their kids--how much kids rely on them to teach them the lessons that really matter.

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  3. This reminds me again of watching the first episode of Mad Men. I told Garrett that I was embarrassed about the behavior in our country. He reminded me to "look how far we've come." Surely, young eyes and ears are paying attention to those who share love, acceptance, and understanding as you do. We will grow. We will be stronger.

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    1. Isn't it great when the kids remind us of things that they can see because they don't look through eyes that have been jaded? My kids restore my faith in the future!

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  4. Great sentiments well said. I wish there were more parents like you.

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    1. I just wish we would all put more stock into the idea of personal responsibility. I don't know if the world could handle any more of me. ;)

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