This is going to a be a very short post, but it came to me from when I had my nephew around for the afternoon yesterday. He often asks the most interesting and innocent questions that would be expected of an inquisitive and cheeky 7-year-old mind of a young boy absorbing the world and developing their sense of self (young children are so refreshing!)
The reason for the post all started when I asked him what his favourite cartoon character was (just after we had the longest debate over the names of the teenage Mutant Hero Turtles!). He tells me “Spiderman is my favourite superhero.”
Now what shocked and saddened me deeply is what he said next: “I want to be Spiderman. But can you get a ‘black’ Spiderman?” Immediately I responded (whilst trying my best to hide my reaction from his innocent statement) “You can be any Superhero you want to be! Spiderman can be any colour- he can black or white or any colour!” He seemed to accept this and I could tell that he was excited slightly by this prospect in his imaginary mind (as he started to jump around the room and pretending to cast his web from his hands!) although he did so with a level of trepidation given that the idea that he could be Spiderman, was only a few minutes ago, an impossible thought!
And there you have it. A seven-year old boy does not think he can be a certain superhero as what he see’s on television is that Spiderman is white when he takes off his mask. This is an innocence of a child who does not get into ‘race-rows’ and shoot, probably doesn’t even really grasp the concept of racism and stereotypes. But he is aware of who he is, and more interestingly- what he is not. And on some level, this could affect what he feels he can attain and become. Remember although a cartoon, these celebrated and endorsed fictional characters are their hero’s- they are winners! They fight the ‘baddies’ and win. They save the world. They are rewarded for their good deeds, thus they convey positive images alike. Whether you like it or not, Barbie, Sindy, He-Man, She-Ra, Superman- we all grew up with these characters and they play a big part of imagination, and so much more on a subconscious and conscious level. Obviously they are not the only influences and impressions for a young person. Obviously not. But. They exist.
Now knowing this, it is up to myself and all those he comes in contact with, to always try and dispel this way of thinking. It will always be a challenge when I guess you live in a country where you are not the majority. However living in London- which has a population of just over 8 million people, with more than 300 languages are spoken and where black and mixed-black make up 15.6% of the population- (versus 59.8% white, 20.9% Asian), I feel lucky that there is cultural diversity. I also, as an adult have the ability to choose to find images and relate to topics that are linked to my being and I guess we will have to try as hard as possible to make sure that we do so for even the youngest ones of our community.