I grew up the daughter of a White, American mom and an indigenous Mexican dad. They divorced when I was young, and my mom raised my brother and me in rural Wisconsin. For much of our childhood he and I were the diversity in our community. In those days, and even today, “Mexican” meant illegal or criminal. This had a significant impact on me, but it wasn’t one I was able to understand until I was much older.
My White mom couldn’t help me learn how to deal with my identity or even talk about it; she didn’t face the same issues. My dad was very relaxed talking about his racial identity and history and many of our talks focused on identity. Still, I had a hard time finding the right words to talk about my experience and the resources I found didn't feel right to me.
During the November holiday, I binge-watched Stranger Things and relished every throwback to the 1980s that the series pays homage to such as when we used to ride our bikes to friends’ homes, played Dungeons and Dragons for hours, listened to the Clash on our Sony Walkman, or rode our skateboards. For a Pakistani woman growing up in the 80s in a small New England college town, Stranger Things is more than just a walk down memory lane to a simpler time when there was a conspicuous absence of technology and today’s pervasive cultural anxiety. There was also a refreshing absence of turban-clad, villainous bearded men dressed in black, sporting machine guns, and shouting “Allahu Akbar!” The bad guy, thankfully, was not a Muslim terrorist in the series, but a scary other worldly monster.
Only 1% of the children’s books published in the U.S. in 2016 featured Indigenous characters, and even fewer (1/4 of the 1% = 8 books total) were written by Indigenous authors.
“Most of what kids see in books today are best sellers & classics that stereotype & misrepresent Native people in history. There’s a lot of bias in them. The books that I recommend are ones that can counter that bias in several ways. One, they’re not stereotypical. Two, most of them are set in the present day, which is important in countering what we see in a lot of children’s & young adult literature, which says that we vanished, we didn’t make it to the present day, and of course we did.” -Debbie Reese, Nambe Pueblo, of American Indians in Children’s Literature
Growing up Black in a predominantly White church, I didn’t believe racism angered God. In retrospect, this is no surprise: the standard practice in Christian churches has been to push a message of unity at the expense of addressing deep-rooted issues of oppression. Common narratives within the church often echo the message, “We are all Christians, aren’t we? So put aside your differences. Focus on the goodness of the Lord!”
Consequently, I assumed that racism was outside of God’s realm of concern. How else to explain why my church leaders stayed clear of any discussion of race when Trayvon Martin and Michael Brown were murdered by police and when Sandra Bland died in police custody? I assumed that because my pastor didn’t focus on these issues, neither did God.
My family tells me that for several days after November 8th, I curled up on the couch and cried inconsolably. I barely remember that week, as I was frozen with terror for my family and other loved ones. When I told my children what had happened, my 11-year-old, an immigrant and Latinx child, asked if she should leave the country and go “home”.
An EmbraceRace Community Conversation
Professor Amber Williams
The challenges we face as a country and as communities around racial equity and racial inequality won’t be solved simply by increasing the number of cross-racial friendships among children (and adults, for that matter), but it certainly would help! Our guest for this Community Conversation was Professor Amber Williams who researches the why and how of cross-race friendships among kids.
In this hour long conversation, first, Professor Williams presented what she’s learned and discussed the implications for raising kids. Next, EmbraceRace Co-founders, Andrew Grant-Thomas and Melissa Giraud, facilitated the Q & A with the community. WATCH THE VIDEO, check out Professor Amber Williams's slides. Resources are included in the edited transcript that follows.
In the darkness of the very early morning of November 9, 2016, my husband and I lay awake in our bed. By 3 a.m., we realized that neither of us would sleep again that morning, and we turned to each other and began talking. During those fraught early morning hours, we cycled through grief, anger, numbness, disgust, and then back through them again as many of our worst fears about our country became much more real.
My white husband cried at the now all-too-real prospect of nuclear conflict and of our now ten-year-old son and his peers going to war. Stunned, I replied, “You’re worried about THAT?” While nuclear war seemed much less far-fetched than it had the previous day, it was nowhere near the top of my list of immediate concerns. Rather, as a woman of color, I feared that overt acts of racism and hate crimes would be perpetrated close to home in our progressive, left-leaning Boston neighborhood.
When I explained this to my husband, he replied, “You’re worried about THAT? That won’t be an issue here. I don’t think you need to worry about that.”
A post about kids and costumes might seem out of season but I live in San Francisco; kids in costume are year-round here.
A little over a year ago, my mother-in-law got me a subscription to Parents magazine. Parents is not a magazine I would have subscribed to on my own.
Without much knowledge about the magazine, I assumed it offered a lot of mainstream, stereotypical, commercialized views on parenting, which it does, but it also provides some unexpected and thoughtful perspectives. I’ve been pleasantly surprised (thanks OMom!). For example, the first magazine I received included an article on parents raising transgendered children.
Check out this archived EmbraceRace Community Conversation with leaders of IntergrateNYC4Me. In New York City, home to among the most segregated schools in the country, IntegrateNYC4Me, this student-led effort, is pushing back hard against educational segregation and the inequities it represents in their city and across the country. Find out how, why, and what difference its made so far – both to the cause and to the student leaders themselves.
EmbraceRace's Andrew and Melissa facilitate a community conversation with IntegrateNYC4Me co-founder Sarah Camiscoli and with student leaders Matt Diaz and Hebh Jamal. An edited transcript and more resources follow.
Research from Harvard University suggests that children as young as three years old, when exposed to racism and prejudice, tend to embrace and accept it, even though they might not understand the feelings. By age 5, white children are strongly biased towards whiteness. To counter this bias, experts recommend acknowledging and naming race and racism with children as early and as often as possible. Children’s books are one of the most effective and practical tools for initiating these critical conversations; and they can also be used to model what it means to resist and dismantle oppression