This episode is dedicated to Sidney Poitier, the first actor I remember seeing who looked like me, may he rest in peace.
I don’t remember when it happened, but somewhere along my journey, I lost my taste for ‘classic’ movies. As much as I loved curling up together with my grandmom to watch old Hollywood movies, and as much as those memories warm me, the movies themselves no longer hold the same enchantment. Without using Google, the only big stars I remember who looked like me in mainstream movies were Butterfly McQueen, Lena Horne and Sidney Poitier. As a matter of fact, the cartoons and sitcoms were similarly populated, until Norman Lear came along, with mostly Americans of European descent. Since that was my norm, I never really knew what I was missing.
She missed–without knowing what she missed…
The old adage “you can’t miss what you never had” could not be further from the truth. Just as childhood trauma leaves scars to be reckoned with in later life, the lack of representation in my childhood smacks me in the face quite often. Scooby-Doo? Where were the diverse actors. After school cartoons? Same question. And hollywood ‘classics’? Well, geez, we couldn’t even get a Black Cleopatra.
Amazon Prime for the Win!
This year, that smack in the face came as I settled in to watch some of my childhood favorites for Christmas. My invisibility weighed heavily on me, cast a pall over my downtime–until Amazon Prime Video breathed new life into the phrase “Christmas Classics”. I found myself in romcom heaven with Black protagonists doing all the kitchy stuff people do in romantic comedies. And they were doing it in falling snow and red and green Christmas lighted backdrops. My little girl’s heart found what it had missed!!
Everytime a child sees themselves reflected in the classroom around them, they stand up a little taller, knowing that their place in the world is secure. And everytime children see the world as a place rich in diversity, they develop a little more empathy, understanding and respect for differences. That’s a win for us all.
The next time someone tells you that culturally responsive teaching is a bad or dangerous thing, share this blog with them. Responding positively and with inclusivity to the diverse populations that make up our nation isn’t indoctrination, it’s just good teaching.