Twinkle asked me to play Tacky’s Christmas Playlist during a recent car trip, a Christmas CD that came with a book about penguins (good guys) and foxes (bad guys). After listening to the whole thing through, she piped up, “Mom, why do the bad guys sing hip hop and the good guys sing opera?”
Pause, rewind, what? We took the CD back to the first track and listened through again. All of the characters with high moral standing sang in operatic tones. All of the bad guys? They expressed themselves in rap and hip hop.
Twinkle told me she liked the bad guy beats more, they had more flavor, and she decided to keep their song about Sandy Claws (Santa Clause pronounced with an edge) on repeat. We didn’t really talk about it, because I didn’t really know how, but this dichotomy of music style, and its racist implications, bothered me. When she asked me if it was okay to like bad guy music instead of good guy music I felt the pulse of the issue – why are we subliminally telling children that music performed by black people must be associated with the bad guys?
Davey is producing a play, opening this week, called White People. It expounds on micro aggression, privilege and power. We have done a lot of research, combing through every resource we could find, requesting support from an expert in race relations to help us ensure our play is produced with care – is this why the inherent unfairness has played on repeat in my head for the last two days?
When I think of Twinkle struggling to give herself permission to like “bad guy” music, when I think of all the reasons the good intentioned creators of the music would have for differentiating good from bad with style of music, it reminds me that the innocent moments instilled with quietly racial statements that shape attitudes and behaviors. We may be talking about penguins and foxes from a storybook, but its in the stories we tell our children that they recognize their world and their role in shaping it.