Trickle-Down Ignorance

A few weeks back, a 7th grader who hangs around the neighborhood told my kids that Obama was a stupid Muslim terrorist and that if that “nigger” got elected he and his family were moving to Canada.

A week ago, my 10-year-old daughter related the new joke going around her elementary school: What’s the difference between Obama and Simba? Simba is an African lion and Obama is a lyin’ African.

And the day after the election, in a high school lunch-line, a kid standing behind my 15-year-old son appeared to be sulking. A teenage girl asked him what was wrong. “There’s a Nigger in the White House now,” he said. “Yeah, I know,” the girl replied. “I don’t like him either.”

As a parent of mixed-race children, I obviously find the ignorance inherent in these sentiments offensive. But I am not upset with the children who parrot them. I’m unhappy with their parents.

Teenagers are not genetically predisposed to call African-Americans “niggers.“ That kind of prejudice starts at home. Ten-year-olds don’t independently question Barrack Obama’s integrity or sit up thinking of ways to mock half of his ethnicity. It’s something they get from mom or dad as he or she relates a joke from work. And young middle school students don’t instinctively suspect Obama is a Muslim or a terrorist; this kind of obtuseness starts at the parental level.

The “trickle-down” approach to economics may have been proven to be to a terrible blunder of late, but the moniker itself is solid. It’s simply misapplied.

Wealth doesn’t trickle down. Ignorance does.

If a child’s parents are members of the Ku Klux Klan or the Aryan Nation or are simply active, vocal racists, chances are that child will also pursue repugnant ideologies or discriminate against ethnic minorities. If a child’s father hangs out on street corners holding up signs that say “God Hates Fags,“ the chances of that child someday becoming a homophobic bumpkin who is afraid of gay marriage increase exponentially.

If mom and dad are shallow, xenophobic Neocons who mock anyone whom they’re instructed to feel threatened by or disagree with, little Timmy is much more inclined to mock or denigrate anyone he is instructed to feel threatened by or disagree with.

To an absurd, sinister degree, racism, sexism, homophobia, prejudice, narrow-mindedness, and insensitivity are passed down thru too many families in this country, from the grandparents to the parents and from the parents to the kids, like precious family heirlooms.

Hence, ignorance and cruelty continually dim our collective future by trickling down from generation to generation, miring us in an unsavory wealth of malevolence and woe.

I think the American poet Anne Sexton put it best when she wrote “Live or die, but don’t poison everything.”

If you’re so eat up with hate and fear that you can’t abide the skin color or free will or liberty of others because your fascist, close-minded daddy and/or mommy or “good” book told you so, fine. But keep it to yourself.

No offense, but the world would be a better place if the chains for which you are a part of are broken. And if you’ll stop stuffing your children like Thanksgiving turkeys with your paranoia and prejudices, they might grow up with minds of their own, figuring out things for themselves.

Trust me, as a fellow parent–for my kids and yours–life is too short for them to spend years trying to transcend what we’ve done to them.

It’s worth a try, right? Who knows? Unencumbered by our historical flaws and cultural failings, they might even be president someday.

Native Texan E.R. Bills is the author of Texas Obscurities: Stories of the Peculiar, Exceptional and Nefarious and Texas Oblivion: Mysterious Disappearances, Escapes and Cover-Ups. Read other articles by E.R..

19 comments on this article so far ...

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  1. Max Shields said on November 7th, 2008 at 9:22am #

    So, Mr. Bills, what’s your problem with Muslims?

  2. E. R. Bills said on November 7th, 2008 at 9:47am #

    Mr. Shields:

    I have no problem with Muslims whatsoever. I am not particularly religious, but I have no problems with Muslims, most Christians, Buddhists, Zarathustrans, Mormoms, Scientologists, Pagans, Hare Krishnas, etc. I think my point was Barrack Obama is not a Muslim, but if he was, I’d have no problem with that either. He was still the best candidate in the election.

  3. Max Shields said on November 7th, 2008 at 9:56am #

    First, you make a point to say he was NOT a Muslim in conjunction with his NOT being a terrorist. And your piece talks about the KKK and Nazi organizations and mixed in with all of this is the fact that he’s NOT a Muslim.

    I think this attest to your level of tolerance regarding this war-machine system.

    The major duopolyistic party gave us two bad candidates; and like all bad things – they’re not equally bad.

    Nader was the true progressive alternative.

  4. E. R. Bills said on November 7th, 2008 at 10:30am #

    Sure Nader was the true progressive alternative. He stood by his principles, remained true, defiant, etc–that’s why he’ll not play a part in whatever happens next. Which is better? A purist candidate who refuses to compromise principles to get power and therefore contributes little if anything or a compromise candidate who picks his battles and bends with the give and take to gain power and possibly–just possibly–make some small or large changes and/or gains. After the last eight years, I choose the latter. Nader is brilliant, but his politics are pure fastballs. What you see is exactly what you get. Obama employs the knuckleball, the slider and a wicked curve. You will not get the American public behing progressives ideas with fastballs straight down the middle. you need a curve. . . so things are happening before they even know what happened. As smart as Nader is (and you, too) you’d think he’d know this.

  5. Pollux said on November 7th, 2008 at 1:16pm #

    I find your comments somewhat ignorant and disconnected from reality. To automatically blame a child’s parents for the language a child uses at school or on the playground is simply not right. While I don’t condone the use of the “N” word, the place I hear it most often is in the world of Hip-Hop “music.” Second to that would be when I hear the occasional conversation between two or more black people where they refer to each other using that word. While a child may not have the mature level of intelligence to know that such a word is as bad as it is, they are influenced by many people other than their parents. I’m also at a loss to find how you can judge my, or anyone else’s speech separate from their life experiences. Aren’t you doing the same thing when you label them “xenophobic,” “racist,” or any other term you might choose to use on those who’s opinion happens to differ from your own? Walk a mile in my shoes, then make all the comments you wish. Until then, maybe you should consider that others may genuinely disagree with you, and understand that disagreement does not equal hate.

  6. bozhidar bob balkas said on November 7th, 2008 at 1:41pm #

    oh, those darn conclusions. such as nader abandoning one, two, three, many, all of our principles (and not just his) so that the ruling class might invite nader to participate in some talks or what?
    now wldn’t our “dear leader” love that?
    make oneparty system even more oneparty system. i think even kimiljong wld have loved to have nader onside.
    abandon quest for healthcare and end to warfare. was he asked to do that? so that he get in return what? thnx

  7. E. R. Bills said on November 7th, 2008 at 2:22pm #

    Pollux:

    My kids listen to hip hop and it doesn’t compel them to use the n-word in public, much less in reference to Barack Obama. and my ten-year-old and teenagers aren’t getting the n-word from n-word brandishing African-Americans. And if two African-American’s were using the n-word colloquially, they obviously weren’t using it in the same respect as the kids who were using it in reference to Obama. If my kids were using the n-word derogatorily, I’d discuss it with them, point out the derogatory nature of such usage and dissuade them from the practice of such.

    If you feel compelled to reserve the right to teach your kids that African-Americans are “niggers,” gays are subhuman and the Neocon propaganda surrounding Barrack Obama is true, that’s your prerogative. But if that’s the way you choose to meander thru this life, I have no intention of walking anywhere in your shoes. But thanks for the offer.

  8. bozhidar bob balkas said on November 7th, 2008 at 3:50pm #

    pollux, right on
    i try not to label. if we wld stop much of labeling, such as: stupid, ignorant, arrogant, selfserving, greedy, careless, and an endless number of such epithets, we wldn’t have to concentrate on debunking namecalling.
    instead, we cld use this space on dv to inform.
    labels do not explain anything. it’s better to use descriptive languaage.
    avoid talking of what s’mone is; instead, say what s’mthing or s’mone does.
    if s’mone killed ten people, say, He killed ten people; and not, He is a coldblooded murderer.
    same for obama. not what he is or was but what he actually says and does or might say and do in the future.
    it’s ok to conclude. so long as u know u’r concluding. thnx

  9. Don Hawkins said on November 7th, 2008 at 4:07pm #

    I think your right on that bozhidar so like I used to do just the facts.

  10. Don Hawkins said on November 7th, 2008 at 4:20pm #

    Because it might help slow the pace of global heating, we have to do our best to reduce emissions and lessen our destruction of natural forests to feed and house ourselves; but this is unlikely to be enough and we will have to learn to adapt to the ineluctable changes we will soon experience.

    During the early Eocene global heating there was no great extinction of species and this may have been because life had time to migrate to the cooler regions of the Arctic and Antarctic and remain there until the planet cooled again. This may happen again and humans, animals and plants are already migrating. Scandinavia and the oceanic parts of northern Europe such as the British Isles may be spared the worst of heat and drought that global heating brings. This puts a special responsibility upon us to stay civilised and give refuge to the unimaginably large influx of climate refugees..

    Perhaps we must steer a path between the counsel to perfection of Gro Brundtland’s concept of sustainable development and the alternative counsel to perfection of the deep ecologist’s vision of a return to living a life balanced within the Earth system. This middle way, which was touched on by Lord Rees in his book The Final Century will require some difficult choices on what technologies to abandon and what to retain; we should look on our path as a sustainable retreat. My friend Sir Crispin Tickell says we need a climate catastrophe recognised as such by everyone and strong effective leadership.

  11. Don Hawkins said on November 7th, 2008 at 4:26pm #

    I forgot to put the name of the man that wrote that. His name is James Lovelock and for years was dismissed as out there in outer space but not anymore. Forget all the numbers and models and talk but now what human’s are seeing with there own eye’s no longer in outer space but very down to Earth.

  12. joed said on November 7th, 2008 at 5:20pm #

    “Sure Nader was the true progressive alternative. He stood by his principles, remained true, defiant, etc–that’s why he’ll not play a part in whatever happens next. Which is better? A purist candidate who refuses to compromise principles to get power and therefore contributes little if anything or a compromise candidate who picks his battles and bends with the give and take to gain power and possibly–just possibly–make some small or large changes and/or gains.

    thank you mr. bills for this article. iam not sure your “either/or” choices are all there is. however, if you must vote for a candidate that can win then you have already lost because the system will not allow anyone to win unless that winner is acceptable to the system. sorrowfully, you will find, like millions of others, that obama is as murderous and racist as the bush/cheney gang. the murder of dark skin peoples by the people of amerika is not going to slow down at all because obama is pres. he is a bad man too. he is one of them. i will never again vote for a person unless i want that person to be president. i am responsible for my vote. trying to out smart the system by voting for the lesser evil is evil in itself and can only lead to more death chaos and destruction. this is the stuff that obama, cheney bush etc thrive on. obama has yet to prove him self to the system but i am sure he will be one of the best murders of dark skin peoples worldwide.

  13. Hue Longer said on November 7th, 2008 at 5:52pm #

    I’m not sure who this article was being written for…Am I supposed to forward it to racists on non-political web-sites?

  14. Deadbeat said on November 7th, 2008 at 6:28pm #

    Max writes …

    Nader was the true progressive alternative.

    And that implies that McKinney was not the “true” alternative. I guess that illustrates Rosa Clemente’s observation about racism on the Left.

  15. AahBach said on November 8th, 2008 at 5:27pm #

    “if you must vote for a candidate that can win then you have already lost because the system will not allow anyone to win unless that winner is acceptable to the system”

    joed, I’ve been looking for a nice succinct statement to describe this “viable candidate fallacy”. This is it. Thanks.

    Mmh. Would make a cool T-shirt, wouldn’t it? Let’s start production for 2012.

    Oh well.

  16. Max Shields said on November 8th, 2008 at 5:36pm #

    Deadbeat,

    If I recall, it was you who for nearly 2 months kept lecturing us on how McKinney was flawed because she voted to give Bush the ok on invading Afghanistan. And you parlayed that into diatribes about how the “left” was not holding her accountable.

    I, frankly, don’t know what color you are (nor do I care to know), nor do I know whether you consider yourself a leftist (according to whatever definition you consider appropriate); but maybe you consider yourself a “racist” for regularly, for months and posts on end, kept protesting against McKinney – the only woman, black running for POTUS.

    I’m just using your own faux arguments to make a point.

  17. Danny Ray said on November 9th, 2008 at 3:55pm #

    If a child’s parents are members of the Ku Klux Klan or the Aryan Nation or are simply active, vocal racists, chances are that child will also pursue repugnant ideologies or discriminate against ethnic minorities. If a child’s father hangs out on street corners holding up signs that say “God Hates Fags,“ the chances of that child someday becoming a homophobic bumpkin who is afraid of gay marriage increase exponentially.

    If mom and dad are shallow, xenophobic Neocons who mock anyone whom they’re instructed to feel threatened by or disagree with, little Timmy is much more inclined to mock or denigrate anyone he is instructed to feel threatened by or disagree with.

    Is this not hate speech being used to fight hate speech?

  18. Elijah Roberts said on November 10th, 2008 at 1:01pm #

    First let me qualify I don’t believe either of the choices we were allowed were in any way good choices. Neither the cracker or the “N” guy…..oh the cracker comment is okay…..
    OMFG! They used the “N” word. OOPS, sorry about the F-bomb.
    Ah yes, let us be politically correct, create the emporers new clothes and if we HOPE enough and FEEL enough and are TOLD it enough it WILL be so. Go read up on how propoganda works, Goebels, Mao, and others have some valuable lessons in that arena. But make no mistake our children are already being targeted for indoctrination, there is nothing wrong with volunteerism as long as it is volunteerism……
    Kids learn what they live only to live what they learn. And today we have a one party society that is almost completely bereft of any semblence of personal responsibility. “The emporer (government) should do something”. When I hear this I ask that person what they are doing to “change” things…..I get dumb looks and stupid stares of sheeple (persons who as a flock look up to GREEDY men of CORRUPTION to save them). YES I CALLED THEM NAMES! THAT IS WHAT THEY ARE IS CORRUPT MEN…..THE CRACKER AND THE “O” among them! That is why we have names for stupidity….it helps protect us…..
    Why raise your kids correctly, why worry about anything, why read and learn when your feelings will guide you just as well in lifes’ lessons. I studied propoganda, socio-political systems, how to bring them down or how to prop them up to be America’s friends. What I discovered is that the GLOBALIST exist and that this whole this stands a good chance of having been engineered. Name one politician from Illinois, especially Chicago that doesn’ t belong to the Mafia bosses. Yes even “O” belongs to “them” the owners of the “FED” (no the american people do not own the fed any more than the president reports to us what he does at the trilateral comission conference).
    So hey, god yes, we have gotten to the root of the problem……people refuse to call a crook a crook, a spade a spade, wrong is no longer wrong, we simply have the emporers latest new clothes……I wish the “N” word was all there was to worry about these days.
    “So where are WE going and why am I in this handbasket.”
    Enjoy the new world order folks…..there is a reason why they pay about 80% tax on income and $12 a gallon for gas…..because someone has to keep all those crooks who make your decisions for you in the lifestyle to which they have become accustomed and then there is the bill for all the free stuff……and yea, they are all niggers…..crooks, thieves, murderers, conspiratories, and a lot of other names……okay I’ll join the crowd now…..my what a lovely silk purse “O”‘s wife is………

  19. kalidas said on November 11th, 2008 at 12:20am #

    Dear God, I can only imagine how young black kids grow up and the things they must hear and say about me and Mexicans and Koreans.

    And who in their right mind might ever construe Barack Hussein Obama may possibly, just possibly be a Muslim?
    What next? Perhaps the thought that Rahm Emanuel may be Jewish?
    Jose Gonzales Ramirez may be, just may be, a Catholic?
    Oh the horror!