Sondheim tried to tell us in a warped fairy tale; hatred is taught, not born. Prejudices are enforced with blind caution create a self-perpetuating cycle of racism, gender bias, and mindless violence.
My own experience reaches back to first grade where I sat in a classroom with white kids, black kids, Asian kids, and who knows who else! My rationale behind how I interacted with my classmates was based on our personal interaction; if you were kind to me, I was kind to you.
The stories I was told about the difference between myself and my peers were so confusing. I knew the adults in my life cared about me, but, what they taught me did not match up with the overall innocent and positive experiences I had with every race, creed, and gender.
Five-year-old Jax obviously never heard the stories I heard in my childhood. He recently asked his mom if he could cut his hair just like his best friend, Reddy.
According to his mother, Lydia Stith Rosebush, her son thought he could play a really funny trick on his teacher. She posted on Facebook, “He said he couldn’t wait to go to school on Monday with his hair like Reddy’s so that his teacher wouldn’t be able to tell them apart.”
Mom had to take a minute to understand what would make her son think anyone would mix him up with Reddy. The photo Rosebush shared of the two boys standing side-by-side reveals the source of her confusion.
Rosebush continued to say in her Facebook post, “If this isn’t proof that hate and prejudice is something that is taught I don’t know what is. The only difference Jax sees in the two of them is their hair.”
The point here is not to teach everyone to be colorblind; rather, I think the point is to judge people by how they treat you rather than their appearance. We still live in a world where race, sexual orientation, and religion can be a life-threatening situation. Protecting our kids from the evils of this world need not come at the expense of our humanity.
Racist commentary hurts everyone. In my case, the people I trusted were saying things that my own observations told me were outright wrong. I found myself in the position to choose between my caretakers and my friends on several occasions with varying, and always disappointing, results – not because I perpetually sided with the adults in my life (because that wasn’t happening) – but, because I had to choose at all.
So, Rosebush is basically my hero. Here is either a woman who did an excellent job at cultivating love, and/or just bearing an extraordinary little boy who doesn’t give a single shiny hair about what you think.
Rosebush did not initially let her son shave his head short like Reddy’s; however, her story went viral and the pressure was on. Game over, Jax! Go fool those teachers!