Zip It!

10 Jan

‘Zip It!’ A popular expression in our house. Normally employed for smaller human beings who are gobbing off beyond a reasonable level. But the recent horror of Charlie Hebdo has left me and many other parents that I know, wondering if we now need to be uttering this phrase a bit more at the kids.

Interestingly, it seems to be the more switched on, politically aware, well-read and generous folk who are fretting the most about their children saying or doing something that might offend someone else – in this stoked-up atmosphere of religion, politics and race.

Regular readers of this blog will know that me and mine represent everything that your anti-multiculturalist sorts love to hate. So you might think that I have all of the perfect answers when it comes to discussing such sensitive issues with my kids. In fact, no. No. And I certainly didn’t have all of this off to pat before Charlie Hebdo.  Here are some recent examples of the level of dialogue that has always been ongoing within My Fam:

Scene 1 Namibia (southern Africa). Me, Him and 2 kids.  Driving through a police check-point on the road outside of the Capital. Unlike the rest of us – my 6 yr old lad is a chap of very few words….

10 yr old: It’s not fair! They never stop us. They never search us!

Him: You don’t want to be searched. Look at the people in the cars over there. They’re really naffed off.

10yr old: But it’s not fair! I really wanna get searched! We’ve been through these road-blocks about twenty times now and they never stop us. Why?

6yr old: It’s because we’re white.

Me: Whaaaat?

"I'll swap you a Stop n' Search exemption for the Right to Wee"

“I’ll swap you a Stop n’ Search exemption for the Right to have a Wee”

Scene 2- Namibia (southern Africa) a few days later. Visiting a national monument which is only usually visited by people from the different black ethnic groups. We are desperate for the loo.

10 yr old: This is awful! They keep telling us the wrong way to the toilets and we’ve been back three times now and ask and they still just flap their hand at us and tell us to go the wrong way.

Me: The seem to think that we’re just being a nuisance. We should have gone to the loo before we got here, though. Oooh – I’m bursting!

10 yr old: Well, they’re hardly busy… we’re the only ones here in the car park! Why are they being so rude and unhelpful? I feel like they don’t like us! People! Why aren’t you helping us? Before our Mum wets her pants!

6 yr old: It’s because we’re white.

Me: Pardon?!

Of course, in both of these instances the normally oh-so quiet 6 yr old was making a mere observation. One which very much shocked us. Because of his lack of verbosity, we simply haven’t  sat with him and explained to him issues of race, apartheid, politics etc in the way that his older sibling might have had our attention…

Scene 3Leaving our semi-rural immediate neighbourhood we are now driving through an inner-city suburb, somewhere Up North.

6 yr old: Hey, Mum! I think you’ve got us lost, Mum. Hey!

Confused of Africa? Or of UK?

Confused of Africa? Or of UK?

Me: Why?

6 yr old: Because I think…we’re in Africa

10 yr old: What are you on about? You little weirdo.

6 yr old: Look – outside – everyone’s looking like…we’re in Africa! It’s well cool!

10 yr old: Yeah, right – Stupid! Do I see any giraffes? Or those termite mound things? It’s raining! Are you totally thick, or what?

6 yr old: Well – that one over there in the doorway-thingy is a street child. I think.

10 yr old: It’s a drunken man asleep in a pile of sick! You idiot!

Me: Stop being horrible to your brother. I think he only means that there a lot of black people in this area.

6 yr old: Yes – that’s what I meant. I just never knew there were so many black people in England.

Him: (to Me) Keep him away from the English Defence League and their lot, eh?

6 yr old: (sulking) And anyway. I want to go back to Africa now. It’s better than living with you lot.

Me: (to Him) I don’t think his sentiments lie with the EDF, dear. It’s just his use of language and terminology that we perhaps need to work on…

Scene 4 After a troublesome time in the playground

6 yr old: I don’t like them brown boys. I won’t ever play with them.

Me: (shocked) What do you mean? What’s wrong with them?

6 yr old: I just don’t like them.

Me: But … well. You can’t say that you don’t like ‘brown boys.’ You shouldn’t…

6 yr old: Well I just don’t like any of them.

Me: But you can’t say that! You can’t go round saying things like that. Your cousins are… well – ‘brown.’ Aren’t they?

6 yr old: Yeah. But they’re different. I know them.

(NB – It turned out that what he meant was the Pakistani-British boys all knew each other and he found it hard to break into their games. One week later it was “Mum – I always play with the brown boys now and they’re all my best friends!” “Great,” I replied. “But shouldn’t we maybe not use the word ‘brown?'” Only to be corrected by daughter who goes “Well, my auntie always says she would rather be called ‘brown’ because that’s the shade she is as she isn’t the colour of black or of Pakistani. And calling someone a ‘Paki’ is just nasty and upsets people and like… has gone out with Martin Luther King’s time. Or whatever. Although…I heard someone say ‘that Paki shop’ the other day. But there were old and a bit stupid so you can forgive ’em”)

Scene 5 – Our kitchen. Children sharing out coloured sweets.

10 yr old: I’ve made little piles of the different ones, see? But I’m not having any of the blacks as I hate them…..(thinks)  Oh no!! Did I say something racist, Mum?

6 yr old: It’s okay. I hate the whites. So it all works out fair dunnit?

Got sick of discussing matters of race. So promptly lobbed the bitter lemons back at the grown ups.

Got sick of discussing matters of race. So promptly lobbed the bitter lemons back at the grown ups.

These kind of conversations go on all of the time in most households across the land. And each of these little scenarios were remembered by me – not because the kids said something cute and funny – but because my own reaction felt confused. Blustered. I wanted them to know ‘how we try and say things’ in the adult world. But without doing the whole politically-correct overkill thing on them and without squashing their right to expression and to just be… an innocent little kid.

But sure – there was a bit of me that was thinking ‘Gawd, PLEASE don’t say that in school – will you?’ Even though the school knows us, our background and work etc and probably realise that I don’t stomp around in jackboots of a weekend.

So if I feel like this – with my own family, experiences and interests… how the hell must most other caring and concerned parents feel about what their kids hear, see and say – at this particular moment in time?

I can only remind others (and myself) that all of us – whatever our ethnic or religious background – we are only human if we trot out some ‘corkers’ from time to time. At my Nan’s funeral for example, the Minister said “Edith was the kindest soul ever. Who still clung to what some perceive to be old-fashioned language. But this ‘Blackie Preacher’ knew the love in her heart and the kind of woman that she was, so he never minded the out-moded words.”  And a Pakistani friend told me that on preparing to marry a white woman he was told by his elderly relative “first thing you must do is to teach her to wash her hands properly. If they’re not a muslim, these goras are very dirty.”

So maybe we shouldn’t be panicking and maybe we should be more gentle with the kids and with ourselves. Less of the gut reaction of telling the kids to Zip It (unless they’re calling me a ‘clumsy old tart’ again.) If we are the kind of people who are worried about causing offence then our hearts are already in the right place.

And maybe those of us who genuinley care about this kind of thing are exactly the sort of people who can stop the status quo from worsening. I believe that the attach on Charlie Hebdo was a deliberate act to kick off yet another secular versus religious and racial war.  It didn’t even have as sophisticated an intention as trying to flag up discussions about the freedom of speech. It was an act of contempt and hatred –  spread by psychotic nutters who claim to be religious but who haven’t got a breath of compassion or love left in their bodies. People who are rubbing their hands with glee at the confusion and division that they have created between folk this week and because of whom – hundreds of thousands of more innocent civiliants in the Middle East may well end up losing their lives.*

So let the kids speak. They often make far more sense than the adults do.

*Note the cunning refusal to write ‘muslims’ and ‘non muslims’ there. Because we are all just human beings at the end of the day…


9 Responses to “Zip It!”

  1. Sharon Alison Butt January 29, 2015 at 3:43 pm #

    😊 This reminds me of the silly rule made years ago, preventing children from singing “Baa baa black sheep” you weren’t allowed to sing, “White sheep” either, so some smart ass decided it was politically correct to just say, “Rainbow sheep”. I was then very intruiged to see how they were going to meddle with “Ride A Cock Horse”. What do they sing now? Dare you print it?

    • funnylass January 29, 2015 at 4:11 pm #

      Hey Sharon – it was GREEN Sheep where I’m from! That’s what we were told…

      Anyway. These days that wouldn’t be allow as UKIP would complain that it was ‘political correctness gone mad’ and was giving an unfair advantage to their rivals, the Green Party.

      As for your jockeying of masculine-type animals, I couldn’t possibly comment.

      Genuinley upsets me though … any form of sentence directed at someone that begins with ‘you’re not SUPPOSED to SAY *xyz*. Treating people like they are idiots – making them feel so scared that they might use the ‘wrong word’ is what causes more divide amongst communities and different ethnic groups than anything!

      We should all be united and not fret too much about the odd word that isn’t 2015-approved (or whatever year and accepted terminology we have now entered into). Being scared of language actually makes one group of people look down on another group, ultimately – so the ‘latest terminology’ should never go unchallenged. We should always ask ‘why.’

      My medicine for genuinley racist people – who clearly need to feel superior to another group of folk – is to go and get it out of their system by watching Jeremy Kyle or something like that. I always feel rather morally superior after only 30 seconds of that programme….

      • Sharon Alison Butt January 29, 2015 at 7:30 pm #

        Yea, don’t we all? Ha, ha, ha! I must say he’s getting a bit too stroppy. Once when I was channel flicking (honest) I heard him tell a woman that he hopes the rest of her life is awful.

  2. juliathorley January 12, 2015 at 1:57 pm #

    The events of the last few days are too big and too awful for me to understand. All I know is, some folk killed some other folk, and that’s bad whichever way you look at it.

    • funnylass January 12, 2015 at 3:30 pm #

      Sometimes we need to go back to the complexities of why it all happened… but I suspect (like you) that we need to keep reminding ourselves that it all condenses down to this. And hate begets hate.

  3. Beata January 10, 2015 at 6:09 pm #

    Well, turns out kids are just kids and it’s not only mine who come out with these sort of gems, LOL! And they don ‘t mean anything in particular by these comments, they just state facts, plain to see by everyone! A couple of ours:
    1) my youngest, when driving through Bradford: ‘Mum, why does it look like we are in India or Pakistan?’
    2) my eldest and me, after a not so good result in a maths test:
    me: ‘So what was the top mark in your class?’
    my son: ‘I don’t know, 78%?’
    me: ‘And who got it?’
    my son: ‘It was R. He always does well in maths, he is a human calculator’
    me: ‘How come?’
    my son: ‘What do you think? He is Asian!’
    Just to clarify – my son is half-Asian, which probably means that I must be rubbish at maths if the genes he got from his Dad are not enough to make him a human calculator. Or at least more careful checking his answers. Just saying.

    • funnylass January 10, 2015 at 6:28 pm #

      Fantastic! I have no need to worry eh?!.. Love the ‘well he’s asian’ comment. Esp considering his own ethnicity! Its the sicko adults in the world who should be afraid. Of the next generation…cause I am hoping they will learn from our confusion and ridiculous levels of self-consciousness. And stamp out this crazy black n’white world (& that remark is meant philosophically, rather than racially.) 😉

      • Beata January 10, 2015 at 11:05 pm #

        Let’s keep fingers crossed for that, Chris!

  4. Lesley Elliott January 10, 2015 at 5:13 pm #

    You should get these published in a book all on their own.

    Love em.

    Lesley xx

    Sent from my iPad


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