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.
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.
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
Because of my work in social justice, equity and inclusion many people believe that my children have an advanced, even adult-like understanding of these complex social issues.
No. My children understand these issues the way a seven and four-year-old would
Recently, I joined more than 1,000 people in Park Slope, Brooklyn at a community meeting convened to resist Trump’s agenda. One of the speakers was Hebh Jamal, a 17-year-old Muslim student who led a citywide student walkout to protest the travel ban and Trump’s anti-immigrant policies.
She’s also a leader in the movement to desegregate New York City schools, among the most segregated in the country.
She looked out at the nearly all-white, upper-income crowd — which included many parents — and asked us to recognize ourselves and our children as beneficiaries of a rigged educational system. While this is a known and somewhat lamented fact in our liberal community, the silent room got a little more silent as we contemplated ourselves as both new resisters and longtime collaborators.
Gardening with my 9-year-old daughter has become a tradition, one that she and I both look forward to at the dawn of new springs. Urban gardening is a tradition I borrowed from my African American, Mississippi-born grandma. There is an excitement I get at the chance to dig in the soil with my daughter and nurture a plant that will give us both nourishment, the fruits of our labor. My daughter, a self-proclaimed “meat-a-tarian,” will set aside her picky eating habits to try the vegetables she has planted; she enjoys and takes pride partaking in something she watered and set in the dirt months prior. I, too, have found empowerment in the sowing and reaping seasons.
This past summer I had the good luck to be part of an unusual collaboration: two elementary school teachers, a handful of school administrators, and nine parents coming together to assess and revise an in-depth, 14-week curriculum on American slavery and abolition.
For the past twenty years, Linda Donnelly has taught this curriculum to her 5th- and 6th-grade students at The Common School, a small, progressive, private school in Amherst, Massachusetts. And every-other-summer, Linda and her co-teacher, Chad Odwazny, devote several weeks to reassessing the content and the goals of the curriculum.
Experts answer your questions.
Listen to the full conversation or read an edited transcript below. EmbraceRace co-founders, Andrew Grant-Thomas and Melissa Giraud, brought questions submitted by you all — the EmbraceRace community — to child psychologist Dr. Allison Briscoe-Smith and educator Dr. Sandra “Chap” Chapman. The resources recommended throughout this conversation are listed in full at the bottom of the transcript.
I worry that “subtle” messages will have huge impacts on my son
EmbraceRace wanted to know the difference that racial difference makes within families. We reached out to people with one or more siblings whose racial identity(ies) was different than their own or from each other’s. We also reached out to people with kids whose racial identities differed from each other.
We asked them not to write only about racialized differences in treatment, but also to share insights about how those differences in treatment have shaped how they think about race, family, privilege, personal identity, and more.
Racial socialization involves the implicit and explicit ways that families convey their own views about race and racism to their children. At times, these messages are purposely delivered to bring affirming language and pride to one’s racial group and to protect against the child’s inevitable encounters with racism. At other times, these messages are unintentionally delivered after a racialized moment.
Racial socialization among African American parents has been found to be a primary way parents assist children in coping with racial bias, instilling racial pride, and contributing to their children’s self-esteem. Can too much preparation be harmful?