Squirming

By jeans

One of the things I love about Primary is that it’s incredibly forgiving. Kids are very patient with adults’ mistakes, and (for the most part) vice versa. It’s pretty rare that I find myself truly uncomfortable in Primary. Total acceptance is the norm.

However, there are a couple of things that I wish, wish, wish, I could make disappear from Primary forever.

One is sticking two fingers behind your head (“feathers”) as the hand signal for “Lamanites” in the song “Book of Mormon Stories.” Sheesh. In 2012, I can’t believe this still happens or that it passes as okay without any comment or notice in the vast majority of LDS Primaries. It’s a demeaning sign, and it should just go away. In our ward, we swapped it for the American Sign Language sign for “Lamanites,” which is a letter L held near your right ear. That, at least, has the advantage of not being saddled with a lot of racist baggage. (I also wish the song said that their “parents” came from far across the sea, since it would be a really short civilization if only the “fathers” came, but I guess I can’t have everything).

The other is playing “hangman” in Sharing Time or in class. Anyone who’s studied American history and has an inkling about the long history of lynching in America, and the decades-long struggle to end it, can no longer see a group of (usually white) children playing “hangman” without feeling a little ill. Need a substitute idea? Just make a “man.” You can still build a person, one piece at a time… just don’t string him up. That’s barbaric and there’s nothing gospel-promoting about it.

Some of you will no doubt think that I’m overreacting with either or both of these. But believe me, they send awful unintended messages to very impressionable young people, and insult the memory of disadvantaged groups in our collective past. And, they make some of us cringe every single time they happen. Sometimes, a gentle word, or just doing it a different way, is all that’s needed to make things a little less squirmy.

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9 thoughts on “Squirming

  1. Nope, I agree. I don’t like violence, real or pretended, and hangman has always bugged me…
    And you make an excellent point about how offensive the ‘feathers’ are. As a kid I never thought about it, but between the racial issues and the whole DNA are-the-native-american-peoples-actually-the-‘lamanites’ issue, it seems like the only rational thing is to put that one to rest.

  2. Love your alternative action for Lamanites. That one bothers me and a lot people. but it is the kids favourite song and I couldn’t think of a way to stop it. This is a good idea.

  3. The feathers sign has bothered me. Your arguments against hangman seem quite rational and reasonable. But I decided that I am really overthinking it on both of these. Did making the feathers sign make me more or less racist, and did playing hangman make me more or less violent? I don’t think so. I think the approach I would take would be to not initiate these activities myself, but not get worked up if someone else does it in my ward.

  4. We play “Resurrection Man” in our class when this sort of activity is suggested. We draw a big sun on the board or a fluffy cloud and on it draw the resurrected person piece by piece.
    Seems to work.

  5. MB, I love this alternative! Great idea. Katie, right – I don’t get worked up either, I just think there is a more sensitive alternative, one Primary and one enlightened leader at a time.

  6. I think that’s a very good point–one leader like MB can start a new habit in their ward, and then it will slowly spread… whether playing Resurrection Man or using different hand motions for something, it’s great to be the one to start those habits. On the other hand, the people using them currently are (almost certainly) not doing so maliciously…I still am one who likes being a mover and a shaker, so I tend to try to make changes happen…but it’s good to be level-headed and not get uptight over it when others do those things. 🙂

  7. I love the “L” idea. I’d like to re-do the actions to the whole song. I feel like we’re singing the song from Peter Pan “what makes the red man red?” so this is a great start!

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