Firstly, the rallies, protests, and violence that took place in Charlottesville, VA were horrible. I have virtually no patience with anyone that wants to defend the “Unite the Right” organizers, attendees, or their goals. You can call me whatever sort of “-ist” you want to, but I will not tolerate Neo-Nazis, the KKK, or any other my-race-is-superior-to-yours or we-should-push-you-out-of-“our-country”-because-of-your-race-or-culture vitriol (and, no, Black Lives Matter does not believe this), and there is no equivocating Neo-Nazi marchers with anything other than pure ugliness and idiocy. And, if you are going to march alongside said KKK idiots, or agree to speak at an event they are celebrating, you support them as far as I am concerned. Similarly, failing to denounce this belief and activity, or to blame “many sides” for this stuff, makes you their defender; what could be easier than denouncing Nazis or the KKK? Someone was killed at a rally supported by Neo-Nazis, the KKK, and other awful ideologues. How is anything about the “other side” relevant at that moment?
I have two kids: an eleven-year-old girl and an eight-year-old boy. My wife and I decided that we simply had to talk with them about what happened a few weeks ago. Unfortunately, the world is a pretty horrible, baffling place sometimes, and it seems dishonest to pretend otherwise.
But, how do you explain the KKK to an eight year old? What sorts of analogies are appropriate to talk about white supremacists and Neo-Nazis?
My daughter is a very sensitive person—to a fault, sometimes—and it became obvious to us when she finally “got it.” She felt so much sympathy for the people effected by the protests, the fatalities most of all. She has two very good friends (a set of twins, actually) that are African-American. They live across the street. The idea that some people might think these girls were somehow less-than, maybe even sub-human, was heartbreaking for her.
We also tried to explain the concept of “white privilege.” Basically, we told the kids that they have been given—as have my wife and I, and our parents, and our grandparents, ad infinitum—a lot of breaks in our lives. People have been willing to give us the benefit of the doubt and we have a lot of opportunities that simply exist, just “because.” Others, including the girls across the street, often aren’t given those things. In fact, it was not that long ago that their family members were slaves owned by people who simply inherited less melanin and an imperial worldview.
Our daughter cried; our son didn’t, but it was clear that he was affected by our conversation. My wife and I are trying to raise conscientious and thoughtful kids. I would love it if this didn’t necessarily result in hurting them at the same time. I am well aware of this statement’s naïveté, but that doesn’t make me wish for it any less.