Saturday, January 29, 2005

Revisionist Parenting

La MapucheRican and all second graders in her school have a big biography project. Each student has to choose a historical person to write a report about, make a book about, make a diorama about, and do an oral presentation in class dressed as their chosen person.

la MapucheRican chose Frida Kahlo
so I'm actually pretty excited about doing this project with her because it will touch upon so many issues I feel are important for her to learn about.

On Friday I stood in a hallway in la MapucheRican's school chatting with some other parents about the upcoming project. We exchanged information on the chosen subjects for the project. Someone chose Sally Ride. Another one chose Amelia Earhart.
"My daughter is going to do the sanitized Pocahontas" one mother said.
I could feel the blood begin to rush to my face. The mother felt that her daughter couldn't handle the true story of kidnapping, forced Christianization and the idea that John Smith and Walt Disney make up stories. ::Gasp::.
" I don't lie to my daughter about facts" I said very firmly. Especially facts that could potentially impact her view of herself as a female of color in this country. Especially facts that relate to her own indigenous roots.
I was asked how I explained the movie version.
"My daughter never saw the movie version," I stated.
"My daughter also didn't do an assignment that was sent home about the first Thanksgiving because it was untrue,"
I went to school and handed the worksheet back to the teacher myself.

I can already picture biography day and seeing the little girl dressed as a Disneyfied version of the Powhatan girl named Matoaka. Something about that picture really bothers me.

Why is it ok for people to take a historical figure and change her story because it makes them uncomfortable? I rarely hear people say that they are going to do a non-controversial report on Columbus, that's because like most of the Eurocentric history, it is assumed that what is presented is correct. It is always the story of the other that needs to be reworked to save face or to adjust to the comfort level of the non-oppressed person.

I am always told I am too judgmental. Too sensitive. Maybe I shouldn't give a shit what some other kid grows up thinking except that one day in the not too distant future that same miseducated child will be in a social or professional relationship with my brown daughter and that miseducated person will think it is ok to silence the narrative of my daughter, her perspective. Children learn by example.

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