Children of a Hateful Culture

The subject: “One of the children’s comments that the US should ‘kill everyone in China’ produced controversy, and critics have taken to Youtube and created a White House petition boycotting Kimmel’s decision to air the comment on his show. ‘I was very disturbed by Jimmy Kimmel’s ‘Kids Table’ show,” the White House petition reads. “It was aired on ABC recently and talked about killing all the Chinese so that the States do not need to pay back their debts to China. The kids might not know anything better. However, Jimmy Kimmel and ABC’s management are adults. They had a choice not to air this racist program, which promotes racial hatred. The program is totally unacceptable and it must be cut. A sincere apology must be issued. It is extremely distasteful and this is the same rhetoric used in Nazi Germany against Jewish people. Please immediately cut the show and issue a formal apology.'”

LG: It’s so shocking (sarcasm) that this would be a child’s response, what with living in a war-and-racism-saturated culture!! What we need is a petition to have adults in the child’s society to stop marinating him/her in war culture!

XB: The kid who said “kill everyone in China,” wasn’t the only disturbing aspect of this video. Notice what the other kids said. One said we should “build a wall” (as we have done to stop immigrants coming from Mexico and Central America and Israel has done to imprison Palestinians in the Gaza Strip) while another said, basically paraphrasing the Bush doctrine, “if we kill them, they can’t kill us.”

It’s worth asking how they, at such a young age, have already accepted violence as a legitimate way to solve conflicts. As you accurately point out, it’s the “war-and-racism saturated culture”, a culture so deeply rooted in conventional narratives of America that it escapes notice. Another fact worth recalling is how our inability to examine the hatred engendered by popular culture in America compares with our harsh denunciations of people in other countries under far more oppressive conditions.

For example, this video reminded me of the now mainstream stereotype that Palestinian children are “taught to hate” Israelis. President Obama reinforced this orientalist doctrine in a speech he delivered in 2011. He said “For Israelis, [the conflict with Palestinians] has meant living with the fear that their children could be blown up on a bus or by rockets fired at their homes, as well as the pain of knowing that other children in the region are taught to hate them.”

In response to this statement by Obama Ali Abunimah stated that “this formulation feeds the myth that hostility to Israel is primarily a result of Arabs being ‘taught to hate,’ when in fact if Arabs do hate Israel it is a result of Israeli actions.” Unlike the lives Palestinian children under Israeli occupation, there is no record US citizens can allude to of China carrying out massive atrocities against innocent people in the US, nonetheless we still have these illustrations of socially sanctioned hatred. There will be no speeches about how American children are “taught to hate,” Chinese people.

Quite apart from Palestinian children who are allegedly “taught to hate” Israelis, in America we have an entire media, academic, intellectual and entertainment culture that socializes and encourages children and adults to either fear or “hate” the majority of the world, especially those in what Edward Said called the Orient. This is why Kimmel and the audience appeared so unbothered, and even entertained, by the responses. They, like the children, grew up in a society where the State was seen “as a human community that (successfully) claims the monopoly of the legitimate use of physical force within a given territory,” making it “the sole source of the ‘right’ to use violence.” Also unlike the alleged hatred of Palestinians, the US actually has the means of destruction to act on these ideological conventions.

There’s such a depth of social commentary to be had on this video and it’s really a shame it hasn’t received as much attention as what I think are far more trivial examples of this culture of racism in pop culture (the Paula Deen story for example). In particular, this video differs from the Paula Deen story because it illustrates how the culture of imperialism and the culture of racism coalesce in our long-standing obsession with military terror as a legitimate means of dealing with our so-called adversaries. As this video shows, this doctrine so fundamental to what power centers wish to be the “American identity” that even a child can understand it.


Islamic Peril: Media and Global Violence by Karim H. Karim


One thought on “Children of a Hateful Culture

  1. Yes, its disturbing to see how so many young children have to carry the burden like such fears and irrationalities thanks to adults and our power games. *Sighs*..children should be children.

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