[This is a guest post from SWPD reader jw, who adds the following self-description: "As a white German I see it as my responsibility that history never again can repeat itself. Without ideology I am politically left, embracing humanism and trying to be a part in the fight against the system of white supremacy. Anti-racism is more than just being against racism."]
When Alice Miller wrote her book The Drama of the Gifted Child, she did not intend to address specifically Eurocentric or "white" families. Nonetheless, her book is in effect about a specific tradition within Eurocentric families, or what amounts to the training of children to "become white." Miller's book doesn't talk about the intelligent child, as the title may imply. The "gifted" children are those who are sensitive enough to empathize with the emotions and needs of their mothers, and thus learn to act in ways that do not hurt their mothers' feelings, and thus to "fit in" most comfortably within their families.
Such children learn, via emotional abuse, that they aren't accepted and loved because of their own identity, but only because they are able to fulfill the needs of their parents. They learn, then, to silence themselves. The "drama" for the gifted children is that they learn to create a "false self" in order to be an accepted member of a confining family. The true self can't develop, and so the child, and later the adult, doesn't know his or her own emotional needs, and thus becomes alienated to itself. Miller writes about the lost world of emotions and the disconnection of the individual to one's own self. So much for Miller's book.
Being nice, decent, not emotional, perfect, an object—the presence of a controlling environment of other whites creates an unquestioned tradition of standards. Relatives, neighbors, schools, and so on control the families, and the parents control their children.
This control from outside can start as early as kindergarten. My niece, who is four years old, is a child who knows what she wants. Curious, active, and hardly ever accepting a "no" from the kindergarten teachers, she caused the kindergarten to write a letter to my sister. The letter stated that my niece is hyperactive, uncontrollable, and therefore an unacceptable burden for the kindergarten and the other children there. She needs, the letter said, a special kindergarten for difficult children.
Now, while nobody would call what these kindergarten teachers expected of my niece "making a child white," it definitely would be a first step in the direction of producing a "yea-sayer," a person who would learn that resistance to the status quo in whatever form will not be successful. My only response to my sister was:"Fight for your daughter." Finally my sister did, and after some interventions from outside, the kindergarten teachers were told that they have to change their expectations, and that they have to respect the needs and limits of my niece. The interveners recognized that she is a normal, active, and lively child who merely challenges the expectations of some adults about "comfortable" children.
Curiosity, "uncomfortable" emotions like anger, and questioning adults, including parents, are unappreciated characteristics, and they are therefore suppressed with different methods of emotional abuse of the child, who will later become the adapted adult who doesn't speak up against authorities (be they imagined or real). The more a child is able to deny itself and to instead "properly react" to the needs of other whites, the safer it will be in a white world. Empty, but safe.
Eurocentrism is full of irritating contradictions, and even the notion and celebration of individualism is not real: True individuals aren't welcomed. Eurocentrism concentrates on the outside, and image is more important than true being.
Children "becoming white" also means that they finally feel comfortable with their status quo, including the mistreatment of people whom they learn to regard as "Other." They accept the definition of success, which is materialistic, and they adapt to the rules of white society.
Their whiteness is nurtured by learning that they belong to a supposedly superior group, which they are told is "civilized" and should be considered an example for other nations or races. Positive stereotypes about whiteness as a synonym for goodness helps with denying a history and reality which is the opposite. They replace the self that they lost during their childhood with a dangerous feeling of safety, by belonging to a group that they think will accept and protect them.
That this tragedy for a child's soul does not always work as intended, by creating functioning members of (white) society, is not surprising. As Tim Wise says, in "Membership Has Its Disadvantages,"
specific crimes, like serial killing, mass murder, child sexual abuse, or drug use, and other dysfunctions, like suicide, eating disorders, or alcoholism, are mostly found in the white middle class. And whereas everyone, right or left, would seek to explain "why" in the case of dark and poor folks—the left saying economics and structural causes, the right saying genes or cultural flaws—when it comes to white and middle class dysfunction, the question, "why," isn't asked.
Or if it is, the "causes" are inevitably located externally—the video games, the music, the movies—and never viewed as possibly intrinsic to the group in question or the environment in which that group finds itself.
I would like to add: We need an education and training of children that doesn't deny them the right to be human.