Wanting to Give the World to My Children (Or, How It Felt to Send My Black Son and Daughter Abroad This Summer)
When I was nervous about sending my oldest son, Rory, to preschool, I came across a quotation, attributed to writer, Elizabeth Stone, that captured a feeling I’d had since becoming a mother but hadn’t been able to articulate: “Making the decision to have a child — it is momentous. It is to decide forever to have your heart go walking around outside your body.”
Her words acutely described the vulnerability I felt in loving another person so fiercely that I made bargains with the universe about his safety and well-being: “Throw anything at me. I can handle anything that comes my way — except losing this child or having something terrible happen to him.” This was the sort-of-prayer, or exercise in magical thinking, that I indulged in as a young mother determined to protect Rory and guide him safely and whole through his life and into adulthood.
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
(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.
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.
It felt the familiar buzz of my phone in the pocket of my jeans as I walked with a friend back to my dormitory. A Snapchat? A GroupMe message? Maybe even a Facebook message? I fumbled for the slab of connectivity and glanced at the screen. Nothing. An email, I thought to myself, as I opened the phone with my thumbprint.
“You can’t be two races. You have to pick one: white or black.”
“Those are the only two options?”
Confident nods all around.
“What about me?”
Pride in Not Seeing Race = White Privilege
A Facebook post by mom Lydia Rosebush from Louisville, Kentucky went viral. In it, she brags about how her 5 year-old White son befriended a Black boy and does not see race. Here’s what she and those posting it as a sign of hope are missing: This is the epitome of White privilege and color-blind racism.
“….He said that he wanted his head shaved really short so he could look like his friend Reddy. He said he couldn’t wait to go to school on Monday with his hair like Reddy’s so that his teacher wouldn’t be able to tell them apart. He thought it would be so hilarious to confuse his teacher with the same haircut.
Here’s a picture of Jax and Reddy from their Christmas program. I’m sure you all see the resemblance.
If this isn’t proof that hate and prejudice is something that is taught I don’t know what is. The only difference Jax sees in the two of them is their hair.”Kids do see race by the time they get to be 5 years of age. Research shows theyalready have racial bias and favor Whites.
“What should I say to my students after the election, if Trump wins?” a principal asked me recently. Good question. What should we tell our children?
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.
A Conversation about Who We Are and Cultural Appropriation with My 7-Year Old.
My son and I live two blocks from the end of one of the subway lines in Dorchester, Boston. Our neighborhood is full of people of many races and cultures. The hairstyles we can see in one day are amazing in their diversity and detail. So when my son asked if he could cut his hair into a mohawk about a year ago, I wasn’t surprised.
We see a lot of different versions of the mohawk: young African American women who’ve combed up the sides and combed out the top of their hair; first generation Irish American boys with the shaved sides and the tops gelled up; Black men with locks or braids intricately twisted up along the top of their heads; West African young men with detailed designs shaved on the sides and short locks on top; Vietnamese American young men with cut and styled hair.