Janet Aalfs: Racist stereotypes quietly do major harm

Last modified: Monday, January 27, 2014
To the editor:

Regarding discussion about the “Tintin” books or any other controversial material, we need to consider the violence, in this case racial and cultural stereotypes, that children will experience on some level as being condoned.

The damaging everyday effects of racist micro-aggression are cumulative. We sanction aggressive behavior when we do not clearly identify racist images, nor interrupt the violence they portray. White supremacy is an epidemic infectious disease, as is male violence (consider the Gazette’s Friday Page One headline, “Epidemic of rape”).

Healthy education can create a stronger immune system. One honest observation that questions the status quo can spark positive action, and make a world of difference, especially to a child. Cultural comfort zones that are white are by definition contrived, and therefore unsafe. The challenges in moving out of these zones are humbling, the risks profoundly healing and the benefits immeasurable.

We can and must support young people in gaining basic skills that promote respectful and inspiring cultural exchange — one word, one image, one step, and then the next. One of the many local organizations that offer resources for undoing racism is Mass Slavery Apology (massslaveryapology.org). In the words of Toni Morrison, “Somewhere inside you is that free person I’m talking about. Locate her and let her do some good in the world.”

Janet Aalfs