Monday, September 2, 2013

Children & rebellion against oppression

When I posted the photo of the little guy from Belfast marching off to take on the occupying British army with his home-made lance, I commented that nothing is so ardent as the indignation of children. One person objected. saying, “Shouldn't that say there's nothing as vile as a hatred that's indoctrinated into unknowing children from a very young age?”

When children grow up privileged by class or nationality or gender (or in other ways), indoctrination in supremacist views is essential. It’s how the status quo justifies itself to its young. Children who grow up on the short end of things receive a very different kind of indoctrination, a far more brutal sort that relies on deprivation, insult, degradation, & demeaning imagery--though imagery plays a central role in enforcing the social postures of both subordination & supremacy.

The role of children in society & social conflict is not taken for granted by the ruling elite & nothing makes that clearer than racist imagery prior to the Civil Rights Movement of the 1960s. For decades prior to that movement, the most frequent racist imagery was pickaninny “art.” Pickaninny was the racist term for a Black child. In magazines, newspapers, postcards, & posters, caricatures of Black infants were depicted being menaced in some form--most frequently a wee child would be hanging by one arm from a small limb over a swamp loaded with snapping crocodiles. Pickaninny caricature is only one of the “art” forms to hit the skids as a result of the Civil Rights Movement. (Cowboy & Indian movies is another genre, though racist depictions remain the norm in films & on TV.)

I once viewed an entire exhibit of this crap in Washington, DC & it makes your skin crawl with its sentimentalized & disguised depiction of hatred. Immersed in this repugnant imagery, I tried to grasp its psychology & pathology; what could possibly explain such venom & violence directed at small children? My conclusion was that every generation of the oppressed presents a problem to the status quo, a challenge, a new batch of potential rebels that must be chastened & broken. Pickaninny caricature reflected the anxieties of white supremacy about their ability to break Black resistance. Despite historic setbacks for Blacks after their emancipation (like the violent reversal of Black Reconstruction, the reign of terror in the US South, Jim Crow, & the present war on Black youth), white supremacists have never been able to curb Black defiance without extreme violence.

And this is where the indignation of children comes in. Since it is beyond dispute that children who suffer persecution understand early in life that something is wrong & begin to “act out” against it. That's why they're often on the front lines in social rebellions--including the US Civil Rights Movement.They don’t need to be indoctrinated into hatred but they do need to be supported in their rebellion against oppression & not in taking it out against themselves. Hatred is often maligned as a social evil but that entirely depends on what it is you hate. If it’s social inequality you hate, then beat the drums loudly; if it’s others you’ve been taught are inferior, then you’re going to have to learn the hard way that your head has been stuffed with horse manure.

I didn’t want to post a photo of pickaninny “art” since it emits a toxic miasma hard to dispel, so I’m posting a photo of child workers with the question, does anyone actually believe they require indoctrination in hatred?

(Photo by Daniel Berehulak/Getty Images)

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