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.
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.
I was at St. Catherine University last month when Library and Information Science professor Sarah Park Dahlen unveiled this updated graphic on the state of children’s publishing in the US.
Dahlen, who teaches a course on social justice in children’s literature and gathered data for Lee & Low’s 2015 Diversity Baseline survey (DBS), had invited me to campus to make a case for community-based publishing. Illustrating statistics gathered annually by the Cooperative Children’s Book Center, the new graphic makes it clear that we need alternatives to the traditional publishing model if children’s literature is ever going to be truly inclusive and accurately reflect the changing demographics of the US. (UPDATE: A graphic of the CCBC's 2017 publishing statistics is available at Lee & Low Books.)
The stakes are enormous.
Can good teaching save America? Considering the number of education-focused government agencies, non-profits, and businesses in America today, there are plenty of folks who believe that this is true. I’m one of them.
Liberal white folks like me usually focus on low-income children of color when we think about saving America’s educational system. In my case, I spent a decade of my life as a dedicated teacher of such students. There were many unmet needs in the schools I taught in, and the resulting costs to my students’ education and health were significant.
But this essay isn’t about the challenges faced by low-income students of color. It’s about another group of at-risk students we’ve been ignoring for too long: rich, white boys.
How American education produced the audience for a nonsense candidate
Our current political crisis, also known as Election 2016, where the weaknesses of the American two-party system are on flagrant display, is a perfect illustration of what happens when American education creates and reinforces a myopic, small-minded culture of exclusion. If the goal of the American education system is to create a society where critical thinkers are the minority and ethical behavior is a niche interest, then it is a booming success. All my post-baccalaureate reading and learning has brought me to the conclusion that American public education is a system built by capitalist white supremacy for the purpose of maintaining capitalist white supremacy. Why on earth would I want to send my children of color to get an education like that?
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.
I worry that “subtle” messages will have huge impacts on my son
I am the mother of two boys. They are two years apart in age and, like many siblings, they have an extraordinary bond. They truly are each other’s best friends. They share everything… except the shade of their skin.
My first son is bi-racial. His biological father is African-Jamaican. He is my birth son, but my husband adopted him after we married. The official adoption took place when I was expecting his brother. The contrast between my experiences with my sons was apparent from the beginning of my first pregnancy.
I became pregnant with my first child at the age of 34. I was ecstatic! My close friends — and some family members — had similar reactions to my pregnancies. But carrying a bi-racial child opened up a new world for me.