Monday, July 18, 2016

Race and racism

Race and racism. 
Otherwise known as the MAIN TOPIC of today's news. 

As an upper-middle-class white person, 
this isn't really a topic I'd think to discuss. 
I mean, obviously, I believe every single person is created equal. 
A black person should be treated the same as white. 
No excuses. 
But it wouldn't be something I talk about. 

Then I read this fascinating article: 

We adults many times don't talk about race because it's a sensitive issue. 
However, a child's innocent mind can read that "hushing" as negative, 
therefore perceiving differences in race as negative. 


I didn't grow up with much (any?) exposure to black or Latino or Muslim communities. 
Central NY is white, white, and more white. 
Protestant/Catholic white. 
Not even Jew white (Adam was the first Jewish friend I ever had). 

From there, I went to Messiah College which is also Super White. 
WASP white. 

Again, I had no doubt everyone was created equal, 
but we just didn't discuss it because it was never an issue (that we saw). 

Then I moved to Philadelphia, 
which the all-so-accurate Wikipedia (sarcasm) ranks as #3 or #4 in the nation for African-American population.  

Aaron sharing toys at the water fountains at City Hall.
And yes, I'm pretty sure this is the ONLY picture I have of my child with another mixed-race child. 

Aaron's daycare is a melting pot of races. 
Off the top of my head, I can think of black families, Indian families, Latino families, Asian families, and one Muslim family. 

This actually brings me to a pretty funny story. 

At daycare, all the kids know the other kids' parents. 
I will walk into daycare and any kid will announce: "It's Aaron's mom!" 
We were in Wegmans and Aaron shouts/points: "It's Audrey's mommy and daddy!" 
Now, I know Audrey's mommy and daddy pretty well since they do drop-off/pick-up the same time as us. 
This was NOT Audrey's mommy and daddy. 
It was just another Asian family. 
I was a wee bit embarrassed and informed Aaron: "Nope, that is not Audrey's family." 
And moved on. 

A few weeks later, 
we were at Target and passed by a Muslim woman wearing a hijab 
(and yes, I had to google to get the right name, 
because unfortunately I'm not educated enough to distinguish between a burqa and hijab). 
Aaron announces: "That's Caleb's mommy!" 
Thinking that he has, once again, misidentified someone, 
I usher him along. 
The woman turns around and smiles: 
"Oh, I thought I heard Caleb's name!  He's at daycare.  You are Aaron, right?" 

Clearly shows that mommy doesn't always know right! 
(Just y'know, 95% of the time... ha)

The point of these stories is both times my instinct was to hush Aaron's mis-identification of race. 
When in actuality I should have discussed it more. 

Such as: 
"Well, no, that's another Asian family.  
Audrey is Asian but there a lot of Asian people." 

Baby steps.  


  1. I grew up in a less-white centred (WASP) world as my siblings are all adopted and my brother is Native. In Canada, we don't have as much (I won't say "no racism") racism when it comes to African Americans but, if you compare our societal behaviour towards Natives, it would be pretty comparable.

    And I still don't think I'm good at this. My attempt would also be to "hush" and not discuss, and as you pointed out, that's not actually helpful.

  2. I think I saw a similar article and have been thinking about that a lot as well... how do we make our kids aware that there are differences without making them a source of division? Fun fact: the county we live in (Fort Bend) is the most racially diverse county in the entire country! I grew up in a very white community, so C&C will have exposure to a lot more diversity than I ever did from a very young age...

  3. I agree with you that it is best to provide a little extra explanation when it comes up, but not go out of your way to draw lines and divisions when children don't. My mom tried to explain race to Luke when he was young. It ended with this comment, "But Jesus loves the white people most, right mommy?" Facepalm! :-/

  4. Go, you, for putting this all out there! My very favorite teaching assignment was at a very diverse elementary school (much like the preschool) with kids from so many different countries.

  5. Very interesting thought. Trent asks questions - he has a friend at school who is Indian, and we've talked about why he is 'brown' and how he isn't Native American Indian but an Indian from India. I try to always stress that skin color is just that - color - and that isn't what matters. We also talk a lot about being kind to everyone (even the people we don't like - not racially motivated obviously but just being a 7 year old boy you have people you like and people you don't). I am always saying 'we don't have to like everyone, but we have to be kind to everyone'. I hope something I am saying is sinking in because our world is so sad right now with all the racially/religious hatred out there right now!