Just when I thought my daughter wasn’t listening…
Last month I had a stomach flu and succumbed to my daughter’s request for more minutes than usual of watching videos. First, we watched “Los pollitos dicen,”, a song about chicks and a mama hen. This cartoon includes two random White children hanging out with the chicks, which I always found strange. Usually, I would point their Whiteness out to my daughter, but my exhaustion had me in a bit of a stupor and I let it go.
Then, I clicked on a compilation of videos by the same company. The fourth two-minute video was based in China, made apparent by a change in musical tone, a sign that said “China” and, I almost couldn’t believe it, the same two little White children but, now, with slightly “slanted” eyes. (Click here if you want to watch this video that sadly has 35 million views or click here for a related post about anti-Asian racism.)
I abruptly closed the video saying, “I don’t like this video, it is making fun of people who are Asian.”
My daughter only heard the word for “joke” in Spanish and immediately started to cry, thinking I was purposely denying her a joke—and she is quite the jokester.
It was almost time for lunch and after a couple of unsuccessful attempts to explain why I did not like the video and some faux attempts to “find it again,” I distracted her with lunch. (Note: In retrospect, if she were a bit older, I might have paused the video initially, but then let her watch it…to show her why the video made me uncomfortable.)
After lunch, it was nap time and before reading our requisite three books, my daughter asked to play “pat-a-cake.” I was thinking how soft her little hands were when mine brushed up against them while I murmured the words, “Pat-a-cake, pat-a-cake, baker’s man…”
“You say woman?!” my daughter interrupted“pat-a-cake.” For a long time, I had fought her on this one, trying to insert the word “woman” into the song instead of man. In response, my daughter had forcefully asserted that the song required the word “man.”
“Yes.” I acknowledged. “Sometimes I say ‘woman’ instead of ‘man.’”
“Because the baker could be a man or a woman, don’t you think?”
“Grandma says ‘man,’” she informed me.
“Well, I like to say ‘woman,’” I confirmed, and we went back to pat-a-cake.
Even if my daughter didn’t understand why I turned off a video right before lunch, our pre-nap ritual was a reminder that the words I use do matter.
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.