Eusebius McKaiser is radio presenter, political analyst, broadcaster, lecturer and writer.
On the July 2, 2017 he posted publicly on his facebook page his witnessing of an interaction between a mother and child. It seemed like his post was shared with humorous intent. But neither his words nor the subsequent comments from parents celebrating the numerous ways – which include violence and threats of violence – were funny to me.
I found his post and many of the comments disturbing and wrote an appeal and an invitation on facebook to him to consider the social injustice inherent in that conversation. The text of it is below:
Dear Eusebius Mckaiser
I don’t have you as a facebook friend and you have disabled private messages to you (and now it appears that I am blocked from seeing your page) so I refer to your facebook post and some of the comments on this post and I’d like to invite you to consider the social injustice inherent in this conversation.
You generally speak so eloquently and loudly on social justice issues and specifically around racism, sexism and homophobia. I am hoping in this message to convince you to include childism / adultism to your social justice lens.
But first I have to convince you that children are human too and that they too are actually deserving of being free of the same dehumanising treatment that us black and brown folk; women, people identifying as LBGTQ have fought against and still do face today.
Neither childism nor adultism are well understood in our society, nor is the issue on the radar for most people, no matter how committed to social justice they are. The oppression of children and the disregard for their humanity is so normalized that we don’t recognise that our behaviour and attitudes to children are oppressive. Much like the good whites who insist they aren’t racist or the homophobes who try to creatively mask their oppressive behaviours or attitudes.
Even those of us that are advocating for the full recognition of children as human beings don’t agree on terminology to describe the oppression, discrimination and dehumanisation of children – ageism, childism or adultism are all used interchangeably. So let me share two explanations: one of adultism and one of childism:
Dr. Barry Checkoway in Adults as Allies describes adultism as
“…all of the behaviors and attitudes that flow from the assumption that adults are better than young people, and are entitled to act upon young people in many ways without their agreement.”
Pierce and Allen in Childism (1975) write
Whatever qualities the child possesses, he is discriminated against simply because he is a child. We contend that childism is the basic form of oppression in our society and underlies all alienation and violence, for it teaches everyone how to be an oppressor and makes them focus on the exercise of raw power rather than on volitional humaneness. The object of this article is to emphasize the ubiquity of childism, in the hope that with increased awareness it can be minimized, for – like its derivatives, sexism and racism – it is found in virtually everyone. Modification of childist practices would alter other oppressive systems that retard the development of humankind to its full potential.
So Eusebius – if you are truly committed to working towards to full recognition of the dignity of all human beings then I’d like to implore you to include children in that. I’d like to invite you to relook at your post and the comments and your comments, especially the one where you rebuke one of the commentators to get off his high horse. You make clear that yours is a safe space for all parenting values and styles (even if some of those styles disregard the humanity of children?). Would you make yours a safe space for all marital styles? Where we “can’t assume the wide scope the view i.e. the implication that ANY physical smacking of one’s woman is a priori abuse”? Eusebius’ exact words in the comments “The problem Peter is the wide scope of your view ie the implication that ANY physical smacking is a priori abuse” Would you allow men to openly brag about how they put ‘their’ women in their place using physical or threatening tactics? Would you make fun of the ‘white’ male for ‘not standing up to his woman’? Would you tolerate people talking about gays or brown people as less then human and therefore deserving of this kind of treatment you feel adults are entitled to inflict on children?
In the old days white people made fun of us brown and black people and justified their inhumane treatment of us because they saw us as less than. Men still make fun of women as being less then – although not in all social circles since we are making progress in that regard and that kind of behaviour is increasingly being recognised as a contributor to rape culture. How can we be opposed to discrimination against race, gender, sexual orientation and identification and still support the discrimination and dehumanisation of children? Unless, we’re seeing them as less than? That while women, black, gays aren’t less – when it comes to children, they actually are?
I really am hopeful that you will extend the same courtesy of social justice to young people too. Just sharing one link here in case you did manage to get this far in this message: The book Spare the Kids: Why Whupping Children Won’t Save Black America – Dr Stacey Patton. This book isn’t about hitting children. It is about black children and freedom… Something I suspect you care about!
[EDIT ]Here’s a succinct description of the arguments covered in this book. This description is in itself an instructive read. The closing lines sum it up beautifully “No, asking Black folks to stop hitting their children is not a form of respectability politics. It is an audacious act of self-love and self-preservation. Extending bodily integrity to children of color living in a racist mean-spirited world is in fact a political act of warfare because doing so requires us to have the courage to reject every single lie about our humanity and return those lies and destructive practices back to the spiritually dead culture that birthed them!”
I’d like to close with a quote from Alice Miller
“Poisonous pedagogy is a phrase I use to refer to the kind of parenting and education aimed at breaking a child’s will and making that child into an obedient subject by means of overt or covert coercion, manipulation, and emotional blackmail. The mistreated and neglected child is completely alone in the darkness of confusion and fear. Surrounded by arrogance and hatred, robbed of its rights and its speech, deceived in its love and its trust, disregarded, humiliated, mocked in its pain, such a child is blind, lost, and pitilessly exposed to the power of ignorant adults. It is without orientation and completely defenseless.”
Here’s hoping that you would become an ally of children, Eusebius. You have such a powerful voice for social justice. You have such reach and extending your care to justice for children actually helps all your other concerns too. Because social justice begins with the young and the vulnerable in our society – the children!
To a kinder world