The other night as my four year old filled up her cup from the tap and had a drink after brushing her teeth, I reminded her how lucky she was to live in a country where she could drink the tap water. We have just returned from a vacation in Cuba, where I had to teach her she couldn’t do that (as a tourist) and why. We have traveled to many countries with her in her 4 years, mostly to see family, but this time I had to be more vigilant as she is more independent. Plus, she asks a lot of questions.
Then I caught myself.
Because not everyone in Canada can drink their tap water.
Who doesn’t have clean water in North America?
Many First Nations people have been living on reserves with boil water advisories for years. Water on reserves is a federal responsibility. And these boil water advisories have been going on for years. Hmm….
Here’s a great article to make you think more about this and differential treatment.
And then I thought about Flint, Michigan. Where the water is not safe to drink either, because the government decided to change where the water came from, and didn’t treat it properly. It then began corroding the pipes and leaching lead into the water supply. And it took two years for the government to admit the water was toxic.
Catching assumptions and negative stereotypes
So. Non-potable water isn’t a “developing country” problem. But if I hadn’t caught myself, I could have imposed a negative (and inaccurate) stereotype on my child. I’m so glad I caught myself. And I quickly changed my sentence to “place” rather than “country”, and explained to my daughter that there were places here too, where people couldn’t drink their tap water. When she’s older that can be a longer conversation, but I want her to know that we aren’t “better”.
How easy it is to shape someone’s perspective
It reminded me how easy it is to shape someone’s perspective by the things we omit, and even how we talk about the things we do talk about. As parents we have a particular responsibility in this regard. And everyone has personal bias because of who we are, and how we see and experience the world. But this is also how unconscious bias is created in society – through the media and school (etc) representation of people and situations (the stories we tell about them), and the omission of other people and situations (the people and things we leave out altogether).
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