“Is Youth Day a day when we kill all the black people?” Was the question that had me experience a whole array of emotions few years ago when Middle K asked me. I went from shocked, to wanting to roar with laughter, to upset (not at her), to wanting to laugh again and also scared witless because exactly How do you explain RACE to your child when you’re doing a
kind of grand job (I’m kind of awesome 😉 )of raising them to believe that just like some people are tall and others short, some people are green and others are red/blue etc. Skin colour ranks pretty much the same as disabilities and everything else that “normal people” don’t find “normal”. Ignorance and prejudice have no place in our home yet those unwelcome visitors do stop by from time to time for a meet and greet.
No matter how you brooch the subject and what you indoctrinate them with (good things only, I hope), the world out there will always, always convolute their little brains and have them ask questions like these. Turns out my daughter watched too much TV and interpreted all the negativity to mean that we can go guns a blazing and kill black people for the day every 16 June. I’m sure if she were to watch Nazi doccies she would have asked if we could go killing Jews too.
That day I took a deep breath and had to explain Sharpville to her in the best way I could. Also with the information that would satisfy her curious little mind but careful not to give her an information overload. She was only 6yo. Though I can’t recall my exact words it was somewhere along the lines of reminding her that skin colour is not a factor today as it was in the olden days when people didn’t understand “different” and refused to accept things they could not understand. It’s like them learning the alphabet and using the letters to spell words in their language but not being able to do the same with a different language. Just because it’s different, doesn’t mean it’s wrong. We are all people and what happened then was wrong because it was inhumane regardless of the skin colour. We had a long conversation and eventually she got it and Youth Day became a day just like Mother’s Day or Father’s Day. A day to celebrate the youth because they are our future.
Am I discounting the fact that innocent kids lost their lives that day? Definitely not. But if I were to make a bigger fuss over history, I could run the risk of my kids joining masses and rioting for some statue to be torn down or make a mess of the N2 or any random cause they want to because of ignorance. My kids could possibly end up hating “White” people because of generalization, hate “Black” people for pretty much the same thing and resent being “Coloured” and live life with inferiority complexes. I wasn’t affected by Apartheid and neither are my kids so it’s kind of a moot point getting them up on arms over it. Instead we try our utmost to teach them that you should love each other as you love yourselves. Those commandments can seem trying at times but hey Love conquers everything. No amount of cultural history is going to help them prosper in life so the Biblical way is my guide.
That day was such a learning curve for Keith and I too. People are always saying how you should sensor what your kids listen to and watch on TV, and I completely agree. What many don’t realize is that we should sensor EVERYTHING, including news too. Our kids see these things and there are many kids that aren’t as outspoken and inquisitive as my brood who will go through life accepting certain things to be true. Our youth are very impressionable and it’s up to us to guide them. I don’t want to think about what life would be like if we leave kids to assume things and grow up with those same unhealthy thought patterns.
We’ve stopped watching any doccies regarding the history of Youth Day since. In fact we don’t allow much of South African history in our home unless it’s positive. We have no control over the media but we have control over what we allow the kids to see and we encourage them to ask questions about things that they’ve seen or heard outside.
And after all was said and done, we laughed. We laughed so much and so hard that we’ve done so every year on this day for the past 6 years. My kids say the funniest things…