Let’s make a change
Jamie and I have been extremely saddened by the news of George Floyd’s death and we’ve had our eyes opened to the amount of racism still happening abroad and at home. We want to open a conversation amongst children’s entertainers to discuss how we can be a part of the stand against racism and be actively anti racist.
As a lot of you will know, we’re expecting a baby girl in a couple of months. We’ve already started thinking about the lessons we want to teach her to help her grow into a well-rounded, confident, kind, compassionate and independent woman. However, I am ashamed to say that until this week, I hadn’t really thought about how to teach her about racial equality. I’ve ignorantly assigned racial issues to countries like America and to the past, believing that we now live in an accepting and equal society. However, my social media this week been filled by black and mixed race people describing their own experiences of discrimination which have shocked and appalled me.
We live in an area of the UK which isn’t particularly diverse and our daughter will be surrounded by mostly white children at school. Will she be at risk of bullying at school? Of course, sadly bullying is a huge issue in schools, but will she be bullied or made to feel isolated because of the colour of her skin? Absolutely not. Her white privilege won’t give her a free pass through life but it will make her more likely to be promoted in the workplace, less likely to be unemployed, less likely to be mistaken for a waitress in a restaurant, less likely to be wrongly suspected of crime by the police and less likely to verbally or physically abused by a stranger.
Many people have asked at what age it is appropriate to start talking to children about race and from my own research it seems that they are never too young. I came across the source below this morning which shows that children recognise race and use it as a way to distinguish between people from an extremely young age. In fact, the children that many of our customers will be entertaining, are at a prime age where white children may start to show preference to other white children above black children. So as people that children might look up to, we have a responsibility to encourage equality in our entertainment.
I don’t regularly balloon model as Jamie is the children’s entertainer and I am a wedding videographer but at Christmas I take on some twisting jobs whilst out of the wedding peak season. I often make elf bracelets because they’re really cute, the children love them and they are fairly quick and simple to make. I have made hundreds of elves but I can hand on heart say that I have NEVER made a black elf. I didn’t think I was being racist, I just didn’t give it any thought at all as I reached for the blush every time a child asked for one, no matter what the race of the child standing in front of me was.
So if my child ever asks another entertainer for an elf balloon how will she react if she is handed one made with a mocha instead of blush? Will she ask why it’s a black elf? Will she be upset or complain? Who’s fault will that be? The entertainer’s? No, it will be mine. Especially with a distinct lack of diversity in our area, it is our job as parents to make sure people of minority races are represented wherever possible in our children’s lives. In the books we read them, the TV they watch, the music they listen to and the toys that they play with so that they learn to see all people of all races as equals.
So how do you deal with parents who are upset or angered that you made a black balloon model for their white child either due to their own racial views or because it upset or confused their child. If the child isn’t happy with their balloon then you will be forcing the parent to have that conversation we should all be having with our children and they would know that asking you to make a ‘white one’ would be outright racist and they would be judged both by you and the other parents around them. If it is against their racial views then frankly I wouldn’t want to be interacting with them and I would direct any complaints to the person who has booked you. If the booker then suggests that you shouldn’t be representing black people in your balloons then that would also be someone I wouldn’t want to work for.
Within this current climate I completely understand that we are all feeling very vulnerable financially and risking loosing work or receiving complaints is difficult to comprehend but ask yourself would you want someone of privilege to stand up for your child if they were made to feel vulnerable on a regular basis? Imagine if a white child was paired with a black child at school and the white child complained to their parent about it. Imagine the uproar there would be if that parent then asked the teacher to pair their child with someone else. How many times have you handed a white balloon to a black child and not even thought of how that might make them feel? From looking at Instagram it does appear that some twisters are making balloon people of all races but there are still far more white balloons than black. We stock blush and mocha faces and we sell far more blush, so we know we’re all doing it.
For those of you who do shows, do you actively ensure that you use volunteer children from all races? I imagine that you try to pick an even number of male and female volunteers so if you’re not actively looking to include children of minority races too then why not? Is it reasonable to say that you haven’t picked on a child who appears ‘foreign’ because you might be worried that you will find it difficult to say their name? If that’s the case, think of all the other situations where that might have happened to that child and consider whether they’ve ever questioned why they never get picked, especially when it turns out they were born in England and their name is John Smith.
This blog is not meant to make you feel bad about the way you work. We are very confident that they lovely people of the children’s entertainment industry are not racists. But the issue is becoming anti racist and asking ourselves how we can better represent minorities in our work so as those born into privilege can help pave the way to a better and more equal society. We’d love to hear from entertainers who work in areas of the country where there is a much higher percentage of black and minority groups, does this affect the way you work in any way? If you yourself are a black entertainer do you ever feel you are treated differently to your white colleagues? Is there anything you can teach us so that we can be more inclusive?