How do you choose children’s books about Native peoples? Because most of us were socialized and educated to think of Native peoples in narrow and biased ways, we typically don't recognize how deeply flawed many of the books we choose are. Too many children's books present Native peoples exclusively as historical figures, for example, ignoring the presence and realities of the 500+ federally recognized Native Nations in the United States today. Too many present American Indians as "people of color," which they may or may not be, dismissing their defining attribute as people of sovereign nations. Watch this Talking Kids and Race conversation with special guest, American Indians in Children's Literature founder Dr. Debbie Reese. Andrew and Melissa of EmbraceRace interview Debbie and then she takes questions from EmbraceRacers in attendance. Dr. Reese offers an opportunity to move beyond what you've been taught to a place where you're able to identify great books about Native peoples, the original people of the lands currently known as the United States of America.
Find the transcript (lightly edited for length and understanding), related resources and more about Debbie Reese below. Don't forget to check out about past and upcoming monthly Talking Race & Kids online conversations, too.
On April 23rd, EmbraceRacers gathered online for our first-ever Talking Race & Kids Open Forum. Hosts and EmbraceRace co-founders, Melissa Giraud and Andrew Grant-Thomas, shared what they’re seeing and experiencing on the frontlines of race and raising kids and invited participants (you!) to do the same. Hear those stories, insights, triumphs, disappointments and more in this hour-long video. See an edited transcript below followed by resources.
Andrew Grant-Thomas: Welcome folks. Really glad you're here and I'm excited about this. We’ve been doing these webinars for over two years now, and this is the first time we're really talking with each other and with you to the extent that we hope to do it today. So, this is the way it'll go.
We are going to start out by talking a little bit about the road we've traveled so far. It's been three years – we started EmbraceRace in earnest in April of 2016. So, we thought this would be a good time to take stock, reflect a little bit, tell you where we've come from and maybe a little bit about where we are going.
Caregivers, educators, coaches, extended family members and other adults in young people’s lives have opportunities to have meaningful conversations with young people every day – conversations that can help young people process their emotions, understand their experiences and the world around them, receive validation and perspective, build a sense of identity, and connect with a sense of purpose. But how many of us really see ourselves as “mentors” to the young people in our lives? And how can mentoring relationships of all kinds directly address the impacts of race, class, gender, sexuality and other factors on young people’s identities and experiences?
On this episode of Talking Race & Kids, Andrew and Melissa of EmbraceRace spoke with Dudney Sylla, program manager at Mentor: The National Mentoring Partnership, and with Dr. Torie Weiston-Serdan, the author of Critical Mentoring, and the Founder and Executive Director of the Youth Mentoring Action Network, as well as engaging comments and questions from the EmbraceRace community. Watch the video. Find the edited transcript of this episode below, followed by amazing related resources, and then by our special guests' bios.
As a child of Indian immigrants growing up in white suburban Connecticut, I was the only brown kid in school for most of my early childhood. Constant race-based microaggressions and straight-up bullying in elementary school taught me that my Indian identity brought ridicule and shame at the hands of my white peers. No one could pronounce my name, and both kids and teachers found humor in butchering it. We had statues of Hindu deities in our home, I knew no Bible stories, and I had never been skiing. Our kitchen at home “smelled weird”. Some of my friends’ mothers remarked that they had never had an Indian kid at their house.
My mother had this funny habit of always pointing out every other Indian-appearing child in any public place - “Look! There’s another Indian girl! Go and say hello to her; maybe you’ll make friends?” When I was a young child, I found it perplexing and didn’t understand why I would have anything in common with a random girl across the room. I would reply to my mother, “Just because she’s Indian doesn’t mean that we actually have anything in common!”
Last year for Black History Month, Georgia art teacher Kymm Daniels celebrated by creating a crafty homage to black hair on the doors to her classroom. When her students walked in, she recounts, they asked her: "'Miss Daniels, who are they?' I was like, ‘They are you, or you, they could be anybody.’ It’s something that relates to them, and they just love it.”
Her students weren't the only ones to love it. Daniels posted pictures and a video of her creations on social media and they quickly went super viral. On Facebook, her video had over 3 million views and her overall post has 75K shares and counting.
So often, when we at EmbraceRace introduce our work to someone new, the response includes something along the lines of, "Wonderful! I'd love help knowing how to talk to my kids about race!" However, the truth is that what adult caregivers say explicitly to children about race, when we say anything at all, forms only a small part of what children learn about race.
In this Talking Race & Kids video, we take a close look at the childhood landscape of racial learning. Beyond what we say to them explicitly, what other factors shape what our children learn about race? How do differences in racial and class identities shape the ways children learn and are taught about race? Maggie and Erin share their research then Andrew and Melissa of EmbraceRace take questions and comments from the EmbraceRace community (you!). The transcript of this conversation follows. Further down you'll find the Community Q&A, then related resources and lastly guest bios.
“Ammi, How many suitcases will we need to pack our home?”
I looked quizzically at my son thinking this was another of his oddball questions or that he had inadvertently let slip his plan to run away from home. “Don’t we have to leave now that Trump is President?” His question seared right through the protective barrier that I thought I had encased around my innocent seven-year-old. I was stunned and it took me a while to formulate a response and reassure him that the U.S. is our home and we are not going anywhere. When I spoke about this incident with other parents, a hush fell on the group and then slowly their own stories tumbled out. Each of them recounted words thrown like barbs either at themselves or their children - terrorist, ISIS, "towel-head," do you have a bomb in your backpack?
‘It’s Not in Our Head’… and yet Pain is in Our Brain: Why Racialized Exclusion Hurts and How We Can Remain Resilient
Going into your home while Black, waiting in a coffee shop, playing with your child, styling your hair, swimming, cooking, flying as a doctor while Black…living while Black. And as such, being subjected to undo questioning, demeaning and sometimes life-threatening reactions - you name it, we have seen it. And we feel it…which means our children do as well. A starkly sobering example in recent weeks with the news of a 9 year old Black girl who committed suicide, no longer able to cope with the racist taunts she faced from peers at school.
Each of these widely known and growing incidences of exclusion, harassment and race-based violence impose criminalization of everyday behaviors onto people of color and others in marginalized groups. These attacks have and continue to have a cumulative impact that injures psychological and physiological well-being. Evidence regularly grows about the impact of racial trauma and race-related stress on our emotional and physical health. What may not be as widely known is how racialized exclusion and violence show up in the brain.
We generally assume that people see us, racially speaking, in the way we see ourselves, that if I see myself as "black," say, or "Asian American," that others do too. But what about people for whom that identity alignment isn't in place? The mixed-race man who is often identified as White? The phenotypically Asian American woman who is "culturally black"? How does that experience of misalignment - or "racial incongruence" - shape a person's experiences and relationships? And how can parents, teachers, and other caregivers support a young person in these circumstances?
Special note: Usually EmbraceRace's Andrew Grant-Thomas and Melissa Giraud co-facilitate Talking Race & Kids conversations and the guests differ each month. But for this discussion, we changed it up and had Melissa join as a guest.
Watch the video conversation to hear discussion and insights from folks who, in one way or another, have lived this reality, and a certain someone who's also done some research in this area. The lightly edited transcript follows. We start with a panelist conversation, followed by community questions and comments. Jump ahead to related resources here or simply find them (and suggest others) at the end of the transcript.
My 6 and 4-year-old climbed into our car and buckled themselves into their seats. By all accounts, this was a typical pick-up from school and they eagerly ripped into the gummy fruit snacks I brought them, cheeks flushed from the end-of-day running with their friends.
Instead of turning on The Best of The Talking Heads, our current musical obsession, I took a deep breath and said, “Hey kiddos, I have something really important to tell you both. I’m not sure if you’ve heard the adults around you talking about it, but I wanted you to hear it from me directly. I was arrested at a protest where we were asking our leaders to count every vote and make sure the election was fair."