"[S]chools are segregated because white people want them that way. ... We won't fix this problem until we really wrestle with that fact.”
In this hour-long episode of Talking Race & Kids (recorded on April 24, 2018), Melissa Giraud and Andrew Grant-Thomas of EmbraceRace are joined by Courtney Everts Mykytyn and Mindy Wilson of Integrated Schools. They are two white parents who have been actively wrestling with other white caregivers around the issue of school integration for some time. This one is deep, y'all. They share what they’ve learned, where they think the struggle is headed, and why you need to care.
The video recording is glitchy but the content is well worth it! An edited transcript follows, starting with the framing conversation, and then to community Q&A further down the page.
I am a white woman, married to a white partner, raising two white children, ages 5 and 3. For the past several years, I’ve followed the lead of organizations like EmbraceRace and Raising Race Conscious Children who are educating and empowering parents to ditch the “I don’t see race” approach to child rearing. Instead, I’ve learned to talk about race explicitly and often with my kids.
Research shows that children notice racial differences as early as infanthood. We also know that not speaking about race with young children does more harm than good. We live in a culture rooted in white supremacy, so when kids are left to make sense of race by themselves, they often develop biases their own parents may not share.
Because of his age, I’ve talked more openly with my 5 year old about the violence that accompanies racism. After Charlottesville, I shared what happened, albeit in vague terms, and asked my son if he had any ideas on how we could respond as a family. He thought for a moment, and said, “why don’t we buy 100 Black Lives Matter signs and hand them out to people walking down the street?”
“Nothing about us without us.”
You’ve probably heard the rallying cry and support the sentiment in principle. But for most children and teens, the practice is dramatically different, especially for young people who are poor, undocumented or in mixed-status families, LGBTQI, of color, or hold other marginalized identities. Happily, some organizations are lifting up youth voices, and it's crucial that we learn what they have to teach us.
This video features our conversation with Adriana Gonzalez and Ashley Naomi Rodriguez of Youth Funding Youth Ideas which happened on February 27th, 2018. Adriana and Ashley talk about some ways adult allies can increase youth voice and youth leadership, and share their model and best practices. Access the video above or read the speaker bios, edited transcript and slides that follow. Community Q & A starts towards the end of the transcript, HERE. Enjoy!
Most people considering bringing their children to see the ground-breaking movie Black Panther are concerned about exposing them to violence and profanity. Once I confirmed that, as my younger daughter argued, the level of violence and (mild) profanity was about “the same as Star Wars,” my primary concern with bringing my 8, 11, and 13-year-old daughters to see the movie shifted to where it often does as the parent of Black American Muslim girls. I wanted to know, which parts of their identities would be affirmed in Black Panther and which parts might be called into question?
The morning after James Earl Ray murdered Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., I celebrated his killing with another fourth-grade classmate at our elementary school in a suburb of Eastern Massachusetts. It was the first thing we did that morning before we went to homeroom.
Word of Dr. King’s murder had struck during the evening news the night before. Walter Cronkite announced it to the country as it was happening. My uncle and grandmother had come to visit from where they lived together nearby. We were saying our good-byes in the driveway when my older brother came running from the house. “Someone just shot Martin Luther King.”
“Oh great,” my father said. “This is gonna be trouble….” He and my uncle exchanged knowing looks.
Why my friend (let’s call him Timmy) and I were in the hallway rather than homeroom when school started the next morning, I can’t recall. But there we were, two 10-year-old white kids, in an all-white school, in an all-white town, arm in arm, skipping along as we chanted, “Martin Lootin’ Rootin’ Tootin’s Dead! Right! Martin Lootin’ Rootn’ Tootin’s Dead! Yeah!”
What if We Othered Your Child and You?
What if we surrounded you in a sea of blackness
And in an attempt to get to know you,
Peppered you with a barrage of questions and statements
That only served to undercut your value
In our eyes, if you fail our surprise
battery of quizzes and challenges to test your knowledge, your worth,
on issues deemed insignificant by you.
What if we told you you're the first white-skinned Caucasian we knew
and asked to run our hands through your straight hair of red hue?
Without regard for how our actions feel like an assault to you?
On your mind, your body, and Lord, help me, your spirit, too?
Our words leave your young ones off-balance, feeling out of place
Even in what used to feel like the safest space.
How do we nurture children who remain resilient in the face of injustice, whether to themselves or others, children willing and able to mount meaningful responses to injustice even when that’s scary and hard to do so?
In this hour-long episode of Talking Race & Kids, Andrew Grant-Thomas and Melissa Giraud of EmbraceRace discuss resilience and joy with child psychologist and EmbraceRace friend, Dr. Allison Briscoe-Smith. Most of the conversation was spent responding to your questions, concerns, and suggestions. Watch the video. The edited transcript follows starting with the framing conversation and then to community Q&A further down the page.
EmbraceRace: We're here with Dr. Allison Briscoe-Smith. We asked her to come on because we adore her and value her strength-based approach to her work with children and families. She's taught us to see a lot of strength in our own responses to parenting around race and has helped us think about adding to our toolkit. Building on strengths and nurturing resilience in children is a central goal of EmbraceRace.
First, let me just tell you a little bit about Allison who is joining us from San Francisco with her 5-month old baby in her lap – so that’s the cooing you’re hearing!
When you think of what an “American” looks like, what do you see?
The diversity I see as America is still not what most of the world sees. If you ask most people around the world, they would say an American is blond and blue-eyed.
How do I know?
I chose a job as an international teacher and am a White woman married to an African-American US Diplomat. For the past 8 years, we have been traveling around the world with our biracial daughter. We watched the shocked faces as we introduced ourselves upon arrival at each new post.
Fighting my husband’s deportation: Reflections on being a white mother in a mixed-race, mixed-status family
I stumble down the driveway with our five-week-old infant in my arms, in the hushed quiet of dawn. My eyes are gritty from interrupted nights and early mornings. My baby’s eyes widen to take in the contrast of dark trees and sky. Already, the sky is sullen with forest fire smoke and the anticipated heat of another 100 degree day.
Soon, my husband will wake, and sit at our kitchen table to wrap his hands around his coffee cup and these few moments of silence before his day fills with both the brute sounds of roofing and those of our four and six-year-old sons.
He has pushed right through this heat wave. If he and his crew stop and rest at midday, it is only because the shingles will melt and distort from their weight, and not for the sake of their bodies.
Teachers all over the country are preparing to talk about Dr. King with their students. How many of us are asking ourselves if we are about to fall into the trap of telling a "single story"?
In her TED Talk, The Danger of a Single Story, Nigerian author Chimamanda Adichie describes what often happens when Westerners talk about Africa — we tell the story of poverty and extreme suffering. In doing so, we miss critical understandings of the place and people, and we step into the minefield of continuing stereotypes and age-old misconceptions. Adichie recommends that we, in the words of another Nigerian author, Chinua Achebe, commit to telling a “balance of stories.” She proposes that it is only through this balanced telling that we will begin to truly appreciate the complexity, humanity, and depth of the lived experience on the continent.
ADVOCACY & ACTIVISM
PARENTING & MENTORING
RACE + ...
RACIAL & ETHNIC IDENTITY
SCHOOLS & EDUCATION
TALKING ABOUT RACE WITH KIDS