In the days leading up to Barack Obama’s first presidential election, I was worried sick. My oldest son was at the Naval Academy and the thought of Barack Obama, with his obvious disdain for America, being his Commander in Chief was horrifying. I am a small business owner and my husband runs a factory; regulation already played a big part of our lives and it didn’t take a crystal ball to see that things would get much, much worse for us if Barack Obama became President.
I followed the election closely, went to several John McCain and Sarah Palin events dragging along whatever offspring were handy. The election and the platforms of all candidates were discussed nightly at our dinner table.
There were two people in my life who scoffed at the thought that Barack Obama would be elected President. According to them, Barack Obama could not, would not be elected. Those two people were my own college-attending children.
Prior to the election I pinned them both down and inquired why they were so sure Barack Obama would lose. They both had the same answer: because he’s Black. They both felt there was no way that a majority of voters in America would vote a Black man into the highest office in the land.
Both of these children had attended high schools with a very ethnically diverse student population, both had dated outside their race. I have a business partner who is Black. They have both worked in the factory my husband runs, where whites are in the minority both in the factory and in the office. After attending school with a Black girl for an entire year my son, then six, informed me that she was Black. And he only knew because she told him. He had seen her in class every day for a year and was oblivious to her color.
My kids are white and I’m sure they’ve figured it out by now, but there’s no “Irish Pride” or “Scottish Pride” in this house. They know they are at best two generations away from knocking the dirt off a turnip. I call it “Scottish Relief”–Relief that my mom and dad left Scotland for Canada, left Canada for Detroit and left Detroit for California. (In the words of my father, “You can starve to death anywhere but there’s no need to freeze to death.”)
So why were my children so certain that America was “far too racist” a nation to elect a Black man? I know their personal life experiences did not cause them to develop this opinion. Obvious conclusion: they had been taught, definitely in college but possibly in high school, that America is a lot more racist than it is.
I was reminded of this focus on race when I saw this workbook page titled “Group Identity and Social Class” posted by Ann McElhinney, of Fracknation fame, on Facebook. This is from SPECTRUM Test Prep workbook, published by Carson Dellosa, Grade 8. On the cover of the book it notes ,“Teacher Recommended for Common Core State Standards”.
So all those years fighting for civil rights – and succeeding – have all gone for naught if you’re Black (or Asian or Hispanic or Albino) and can’t find a bandage in your skin color. And if you’re not aggrieved about it, you’re probably in denial or a self-loathing whatever. Can’t find greeting card that features people of your social class? I don’t even know what that means – but I know I’ve never seen a greeting card that accurately reflects my crazy Scottish immigrant family. And if I did see one, I probably wouldn’t buy it. (The closest I’ve ever come to seeing an accurate portrayal of our social class was Mike Meyers, impersonating his own Scottish father in So I Married An Ax Murderer. Hardly a point of pride, but man, Mike Meyers sure nailed it.)
This “Group Identity” workbook reminded me of when I was a young wife and a new mom, escaping the house to go to a school board meeting or play “Bunco”. The only people there would be other wives and mothers and the most popular pastime was complaining about your husband. I’d sit and listen with little to add and frankly, it takes a toll. After a while you’d hear a complaint that sounded familiar and you’d think: hang on a minute, my husband doesn’t replace the toilet roll either! And before you know it you’re annoyed about something that just a few minutes before you were indifferent to.
And that’s what the legacy of workbooks and lessons like this will be. Children that have been raised in a largely color-blind and class-indifferent society are being told to feel aggrieved because bankers and teachers are a different color. They are being taught how to deal with their (now hurt) feelings when they can’t find a bandage in their skin color (which, they are told, is a personal affront); or how to cope when there are no greeting cards accurately reflecting their social class.
I guess this means I should be upset that the last time I saw anyone on the big screen who looked and sounded like my dad it was Mike Meyers. And the character was drunk…