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.