Melissa Harris Perry, professor of political science and television host on MSNBC, recorded one of those groovy little channel promos you have probably seen before for the “Lean Forward” campaign that runs on MSNBC. In her spot, Perry says that:
“We have never invested as much in public education as we should have because we’ve always had kind of a private notion of children. Your kid is yours and totally your responsibility. We haven’t had a very collective notion of these are our children”
Our kids belong to the community. It takes a village. This makes sense, right? The idea that we have to do better for our children, that we need better public education, more after-school programs for kids, more community involvement in making things better for these little humans who will one day be big humans.
I have watched the above clip about 20 times and I still don’t understand the reaction that some people are having to it. And neither does Perry, who answered the vitriol she has received with this:
My inbox began filling with hateful, personal attacks on Monday, apparently as a result of conservative reactions to a recent “Lean Forward” advertisement now airing on MSNBC, which you can view above. What I thought was an uncontroversial comment on my desire for Americans to see children as everyone’s responsibility has created a bit of a tempest in the right’s teapot. Allow me to double down.
One thing is for sure: I have no intention of apologizing for saying that our children, all of our children, are part of more than our households, they are part of our communities and deserve to have the care, attention, resources, respect and opportunities of those communities.
Perry goes on to cite examples from her own life where she felt the community was involved in raising her and others:
Then I started asking myself where did I learn this lesson about our collective responsibility to children. So many answers quickly became evident.
I learned it from my mother who, long after her own kids were teens, volunteered on the non profit boards of day care centers that served under-resourced children.
I learned it from my father who, despite a demanding career and a large family of his own, always coached boys’ basketball teams in our town.
A return to living in the sort of world where if your neighbor saw your kid falling off their bike they would help them up, and not walk right by them because this is sort of what most people do these days. A community where the kids who live in it knew if a grownup saw them bullying another kid they would stop and intervene, not ignore it. The sort of world where if an athletic coach heard rumors about an alleged rape, he would immediately alert authorities, not “take care of it.” I’m expounding on what Perry said in her video, obviously, but what I view as a totally benign commentary on the need for better public education has been translated into a call for extremist measure by people like (Spoiler alert? Nah, you guessed it!) Rush Limbaugh, who said this on his radio show:
“So how does this manifest itself? So you need your yard mowed, what do you do?” he continued. “You go knock on the door down the street — your kid that you don’t own. I do today. For the next hour, your kid is going to mow my yard. And then after that, my trash needs taking out and after that I need somebody to go to the grocery store for me and my kid’s tied up, so I’m claiming your kid. How does this work?”
“What is the practical application?” he continued. “But what she is saying — Melissa Harris-Perry, what she is saying here is as old as communist genocide. But the fact that it is said in America on a cable news channel and is considered fairly benign is what has changed. What has changed is that this really — people believe this. This isn’t that big a deal. That is what’s changed, folks.”
I liked his suggestion that kids help the adults in the world. Why is this a bad thing? I have a good kid, a teenager, and even though he is a “good” kid he is a lazy kid and you better believe if I see an elderly neighbor outside doing yard work I send him out there to offer to help. There is nothing wrong with that. But good ‘ol Rusty isn’t even talking about practical “it takes a village” applications, because he then goes the insanity route and claims Perry is suggesting that all the children belong to the communist collective. It makes no sense, and makes me think that they are watching a totally different promo than the extremely brief video shown above.
Children do belong to the community. The collective. The world. We all have to do better in raising them, in looking out for them. We need to volunteer more, to speak to them more, to give them adult role models from all economic backgrounds, races, sexes and religions. Your kids are yours, yes, we all know this. But one day they won’t be kids anymore, and they will go out into this world, and they will belong to the world. If anything, more community involvement will give them better security, confidence, and a sense of belonging.
If this is an “extremist idea” then you can totally count me in. And if you need your yard raked, feel free to let me know.