Those Bygone Days of Racism are not that Bygone.



I love old movies! Absolutely love them!

I grew up watching Charlie Chaplin, the Marx Brothers, Cary Grant and Jimmy Stewart. In fact, one of the first thoughts that came to mind when I held my son for the first time was how excited I was to show him all of these great films and open his eyes to some really wonderful story telling.

So there we are one cold rainy day and I decide it might be a good chance to start my son off on his cinematic education. I pop in “Holiday Inn”, an old Bing Crosby, Fred Astaire movie with lots of Irving Berlin songs and dancing. Ten minutes into it and he seems hooked. Yes! Score one for the movie geeks.

But then comes the moment that this blog post is all about, the moment when Bing Crosby and his entire orchestra take out their black shoe polish and perform an entire song in black face.

It was at this moment that it appeared I had put red shoe polish on my face and I instantly dashed for the remote to switch the movie off. But then something made me stop. What if I draw too much attention to it and Henry starts to question why I was making such a big deal about it. Can I really have an in depth discussion about racism with a two year old and have him get anything out of it? Is it wrong that I didn’t want to make a big deal about it? Because I feel that we should be making a big deal about it… but… not right now? What does that say about me? That I’m saying that this sort of thing is okay? I would hate for him to think that.

In the end, the song came and went, my son never asked about it and I never mentioned anything else about it.

I don’t know if I handled it the correct way. At what age do we as parents feel as if it’s okay to pull back that innocence curtain and say that, no, not all people were and are treated the way they are supposed to be. And sometimes this wonderful human race can turn on itself for completely ignorant horrible reasons. When do we say this?

The sad truth is that there are children my son’s age and younger that not only already know this fact, but have to struggle with it on a daily basis.

I’ll never know if what I did that day was right. But I do know that when my son is ready to have that discussion, I’ll be right there with him trying to understand why people do things that can be completely not understandable.


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