Ask ARP: Is 4th grade too early for some anti-racist topics?

Dear Anti-Racist Parent,

ask anti-racist parent

I am the mother of a 9 year old son who is in the fourth grade. He attends public school. The school is racially diversified.

I have always been truthful to my son about race relations. Up until now, I have spoken to him in the most simplest of contexts: we should not hate someone because of their skin color, segregation is wrong, etc. I’ve spoken to him about Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and his role in the Civil Rights Movement. Nothing too complicated. No use of the “n” word.

His teacher decided to show the class the video The Autobiography of Miss Jane Pittman. The teacher did not tell parents that she would be showing this film. That afternoon my son came home full of questions. About the role of the KKK, lynching, cross burning, and the “n” word. I spoke to him as plainly and as truthful as I could.

I am dumbfounded as to why the teacher would show this to a group of 9/10 year olds. Am I overreacting or is this material over their heads? Don’t misunderstand me, I fully expect that this part of American History will be taught to my son. I just thought 6/7th grade would be the place for it. Am I being unrealistic? I feel now that I should have spoken to him about things like the “n” word and not let him learn this in school. I wish that the teacher would have told us that she was going to show the class this film and then I could have prepared him for it.

Any insight would be appreciated.

from Linda in NY

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