Friday, April 30, 2010

Bethnal Green Museum of Childhood: An anti-racist postcard

Greetings from the UK and the East End which is a veritable heaven for anti-racist parenting. Books like ”I am a Sikh” and Arabic alphabet boards are the norm here. White people here usually talk to someone African or Asian if they need social services, legal aid and citizens advice; an interesting concept. I’m glad we are raising our son England as it is less racist and backwards than the US as a whole. It is the centre of the world afterall. He’s gone from having one African-American friend to Somalian children next door neighbours, Turkish cafe workers who adore him, a Bengali man who gave him a blessing when he passed us on the street last week, Georgian meals and our local laundrette staffed by lovely cockney women who love him to bits.

CBeebies, state run and which we pay for each year as part of the BBC (about 225 USD) offers so many amazing multi-cultural kids shows and is 100% inclusive with not one but THREE black male TV presenters who present concurrently, children and adults in head scarves and one Cerrie Burnell, who was born without a left forearm. DO check out the website if it is new to you and your children.

(apart from the NHS- I LOVE the NHS) though is the Bethnal Green Museum of Childhood where my son is learning to crawl and walk around in the huge baby section/play areas (flats and homes in London don't have the large spaces to crawl unless you have SERIOUS money for a stately home.) Nearly the entire museum is created from an inclusive and pro-diversity perspective and houses the largest collection of toys in the world. I thought this display called “Families: Three Generations” about local residents of E2 and the toys that various generations of family members have used would appeal to those interested in tolerance. Please check this out and ask why we don’t have more exhibits like this available over in the US for children.

Of course there are problems here like the BNP’s resurgence prior to the May 6th election up the road in Barking/Dagenham, areas which have seen a decline in white industrial employment and a rise in immigration. The BNP has now let in POC which is sad that some are actually joining. My husband is a white indigenous Brit (his own label) and I listen to his feelings of how in one generation where he grew up is no longer majority white and now nearly all Asian. He enjoys diversity but wants immigration radically scaled back because of the size of the island. He also want to see more white British people included in diversity education and centres. My hero Billy Bragg got in there on St George's day and gave the BNP what for pointing out that the patron saint of England had been Lebanese!

Romani children out of school harassing people for money, their parents oblivious to any societal code of conduct including touching my baby without permission to the point where I had to physically take one adult Romani woman’s hand off of him at the checkout line at Tescos and threaten violence is another big problem here. Women in full Burqas their eyes obscured which I don’t feel good about and which SHOULD be banned to protect innocent girls from such destructive subjugation. Head scarves, half burquas, or the burqas where the eyes are unobstructed are fine and lovely if that is the WOMAN’s choice but seeing a woman with her eyes covered is frighting to me as a feminist as well as an anti-racist. GOOD ON YA BELGIUM! Honour killings are still a big problem in the UK among immigrants and asylum seekers.

Finally white welfare culture with anti- social teens and adults flaunting dangerous dogs, drugs, drunkenness and having no respect for society at large is apparent, scary and heartbreaking because it feeds into racial hatred and class warfare.

(the Golliwog dolls and above puppet are not explained properly-actually at all-at the museum, my only complaint)

All in all though this is an amazing country and London is an incredibly diverse city. Paul Robeson could not study Africa in the US during the 30’s and 40’s (no US university had an African studies dept.) so he came here and said in England he “discovered he was African.” And fittingly our trans Atlantic move was blessed with a wonderful inflight movie (our son was amazingly asleep!) which is required viewing for all anti-racist parents and which was unfairly ignored at the box office last year (most likely because the leads comprised a Bi-racial couple) : Away We Go directed by Sam Mendez. A MUST SEE!

Hope all of you are well and wish you were here.

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