What Not to Teach Your Kids This Black History Month

My youngest learning about Harriet Tubman.  Photographed by her dad Brian Ali Harding

My youngest learning about Harriet Tubman.  Photographed by her dad Brian Ali Harding

Every year we find a way to screw up the Black History Lessons we teach our offspring.  I believe in the importance of educating children in the cultural contributions of our forefolk.  But how do you properly teach lynching to a little kid?  

I sugarcoat way too much already.  The Tooth Fairy. The Binky Fairy. Old Saint Nick.  I don't want my babies to grow up and discover that I've done nothing but make shit up their entire lives.  So I try to teach the cold, hard facts of America's fine past in a child friendly manner.  I try, but sometimes it backfires.

Take for instance, when my teenager was 8 years old we read this book together...

Remember.jpg

When she asked if she could share it in school, I was delighted.  "Of course!  It's Black History Month.  Why Not?"  Her elementary at the time was about 6% African American.  What greater way to chat up old times than in an academic setting?

We brought the book to school the very next day and spoke with her teacher.  Mrs. Funaki, visibly hesitant, pulled a chair to the front of the class.  My kid sat, opened Toni Morrison and paraphrased the subtext out loud to her classmates:

"Back in the day, back in the day White people were crazy!"

She then showed a picture that looked something like this...

Photograph Don Hogan Charles/The New York Times

Photograph Don Hogan Charles/The New York Times

Imagine a class full of gaping-mouthed third graders.  Imagine the conversations they had with their parents after school.  Imagine how the teacher avoided eye contact with me the rest of the school year.

There must be a kid friendlier way to tackle the sordid portions of our past.  

How does your family approach Black History?