(Almost) the Only Brown People at the Reunion: Raising Kids of Color in a Predominantly White Extended Family
A few years ago, some of my children started noting that when we attend my father’s family reunions they are “the only brown people there,” and that’s almost true.
My dad is the eldest of thirteen siblings in a family of French Canadian heritage hailing from northern Vermont. Two of my thirty-seven surviving first-cousins have partial Puerto Rican heritage. Another cousin has a Latina partner, and they have a baby girl. And, two other kids in my children’s generation self-identify as multiracial with a quarter-Black heritage, though they are nearly always perceived as White due to their physical appearance.
Why we must, where to begin
EmbraceRace is about building a strong and nourishing community of practice for parents, guardians, teachers and other caregivers who want to help raise a generation of children who are thoughtful, informed, and brave about race.
In this online event, Andrew (Grant-Thomas) and I, co-parents and co-founders of EmbraceRace, talk about the Big Picture of race in the United States that led us to launch the community. We also share the goals we derived from that Big Picture and describe some of the work, both current and upcoming, we hope will help us all move toward those goals. And the best part — then we get feedback and questions from participants like you who are building this community with us.
The need to thrive in toxic times
On June 19th, I was looking for local activities or celebrations that could introduce my daughters to Juneteenth, the occasion on which Texans learned of the Emancipation Proclamation two years after it was decreed. While browsing my Facebook feed, I instead came across the news story about Charleena Lyles, a black woman who was shot by police inside her own home in front of her children after calling the police because she believed her house was being broken into.
After a record-setting number of deportations under the Obama Administration, Donald Trump is making good on his campaign promise to outdo his predecessor. Undocumented immigrant adults are mothers and fathers, sisters and brothers, grandparents, neighbors, community members, and workers. The prospect and realities of often violent ICE raids, detentions, and deportations are potentially traumatizing, not only for them, but also for the children who love them, depend on them, and are only sometimes forcibly removed alongside them.
EmbraceRace co-founders, Melissa Giraud and Andrew Grant-Thomas, frame the discussion and facilitate the community conversation with expert guest, Dr. Cinthya Chin Herrera. An edited transcript of the conversation and related resources follow. (Let us know if there are others you’ve found useful.) Remember to sign up for the EmbraceRace twice monthly newsletter to keep informed about upcoming community conversations or events and to receive a curated collection of perspectives, articles and resources about race and raising kids.
My neighborhood, like so many across the country, has a racial profiling problem on our online community forums. I live in a predominately White, affluent community in Atlanta, Georgia comprised of nearly 8,000 residents. Despite our reputation as a liberal enclave, on Nextdoor, a social media site that purports to connect neighbors, people of color are criminalized on a nearly daily basis while White people doing the same things are extended compassion and understanding.
Neighbors share “be on the look out” posts when Black transients are seen in our neighborhood, while a White transient is fiercely protected — a beloved fixture in our community, actually.
One of the many plusses of teaching 3rd grade is that you get the opportunity to observe children figuring out who they are.
In a classroom full of black students, racial stereotypes definitely came into play. Some students readily assumed familiar roles and interests: D’Jenique, an outspoken girl who rejected any semblance of disrespect. She was quick to check anyone who mispronounced her name. Quintrell, a confident boy who adopted a tough persona and would not be caught at recess without a football.
On June 30th, EmbraceRace posted an article by a gay black man entitled “Why I’m Giving Up on ‘Allies’.” The author, Ernest Allen, writes this: “What I have realized is that too many allies conduct themselves as service providers: They show up only when there’s an immediate need, they require me to explain the problem again and again, and they may or may not actually fix anything. In other words, allies are more trouble than they’re worth.”
This piece, submitted anonymously, was prompted by Allen’s reflections.