Embarrassed By My Toddler's Racism

My kid is geeked for Tinkerbell and the Great Fairy Rescue, but I don't want her to see it. Not because of the gender roles, or the Disneyfication, or the fact that these straight-to-DVD Tinkerbell movies botch the Peter Pan backstory in ways that would make George Lucas ashamed.

I'm afraid they bring out the subtle racism in her.

They're admirably multicultural -- like old Benetton ads with wings attached. But as my daughter read a Tink-themed magazine recently, she was asked to rate the fairies from first to worst. Iridessa -- the "African American" fairy voiced by Raven Symone -- came in dead last of the five. At least she beat one of Tinkerbell's firefly buddies, who for some reason was included. Imagine my embarrassment if she had preferred the insect. Her favorite was Silvermist, the "Asian" fairy voiced by Lucy Liu. Not lily-white Tinkerbell or ginger Rosetta. So that's some consolation.


But the entire episode reminded me of many moments from her toddler years that made me cringe and might have come from an episode of Curb Your Enthusiasm or The Office. Here are just a couple:

Presented with two dolls, one black and one white, at the indoor play place that was our hangout, she would always immediately opt for the white one, against my silent wishes and crossed fingers. And she was willing to fight for it.

At the park, there was an older Asian man who would walk his tiny dog around the outside. If children approached him he would shout, "Not friendly! Not friendly!" Now he was talking about his dog -- at least I think he was -- but I was worried that it would give my child the wrong impression about Asians and I would try to distract her as he yelled. I'm hoping her love of Silvermist shows that it worked.

Newsweek had a feature about how babies discriminate. Will they grow up to be racist? How do you make sure they don't?

I think we all know what to do when our child displays even the slightest hint of racism:

Get down to their level, look them in the eye, and say a firm "No! You will not reinforce the centuries-old racial prejudices and institutional biases that still sometimes pervade our culture. No!"

That totally works.

Does your child have racist moments that embarrass you? What do you do to make sure your child doesn't become racist?

Image via Flickr.com/ChristeneS

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