“That’s not fair!” and the concept of protest
by Sachi Feris
One of my daughter’s favorite activities is playing with her vintage Fisher Price people from the 1970’s. At one-and-a-half, she spent happy hours placing them in and out of her vintage school bus…but it proved to be very upsetting that the bus didn’t have enough seats for each person.
We spent hours rationalizing with my daughter:
“Maybe some of them can stand on the bus (just like people have to stand on the public bus if it’s too crowded).” Standing was not an option.
“What if the bus drops some people off and comes back for the other people?” Not acceptable.
No solution satisfied her…until my mom came up with the idea of forming a protest. My daughter loved marching around the living room with an “amigo” in each of her palms, shouting, “We want more seats! We want more seats!”
I tried to convince her that the people who already had seats should get off the bus and protest in solidarity, but that did not fly with her. But clearly, the idea of a “protest” resonated with her.
We live in Fort Greene, Brooklyn and, in nice weather, we wander over to Pratt Institute’s sculpture garden to explore the outdoor art and greenery. My daughter often pauses at a sculpture of five people sitting on their knees with their hands clasped behind their back. On one of our visits, we read the description of the sculpture by Raphael Zollinger, and I shared the following:
“This piece of art is about protest. These people are protesting because they think there is something that is unfair that they want to change. Just like your ‘amigos’ who want more seats on the bus…and guess what? In history, African-American/Black people in our country also had to stand up to fight to have their seats on the bus…and White people stood up with them to say ‘this is unfair!’”
As a result, my daughter chants “more seats” to her protesting friends in stone, and we talk about the other reasons why people protest. Once, I suggested that we thank the statues for protesting and standing up for what is right—and my daughter hugged each of the five statues and said “gracias” before we could go on our way.
Staceyann Chin, an artist and political activist, has created a series of “living room protest” with her three-year-old daughter, Zuri, on Youtube. I particularly like “Living Room Protest #3” which is connected to children’s rights. Zuri tells the world that it is not OK to pick up or touch a child without their permission. This is a perfect example of how a very young child can directly connect to concept of protest.
You, too, can give your child “voice” (without uploading them on Youtube!). You can help your child see that they can do something when they see injustice in the world. As a White person, I want my daughter to stand up both as an ally and for herself. At almost three-years-old now, talking about fairness on a day-to-day basis is how I connect larger social issues and the need to take action for change.
For a related children’s book, read “Click, Clack, Moo, Cows That Type.”
For more ideas on child-friendly activism, please visit Do Something. This website is dedicated to older children (13 and up), but the “campaigns” are a great place to look for inspiration.
Sachi Feris is a blogger at Raising Race Conscious Children, an online a resource to support adults who are trying to talk about race with young children. Sachi also co-facilitates interactive workshops/webinars and small group workshop series on how to talk about race with young children. Sachi currently teaches Spanish to Kindergarten and 1st grade at an independent school in Brooklyn.