Experts in conversation with parents and educators
This very first EmbraceRace live conversation happened in July of 2016 in the immediate aftermath of the murders of Alton Sterling, Philando Castile and 5 Dallas police officers. We convened by phone and over 700 people joined the call. For that conversation, EmbraceRace co-founders Andrew Grant-Thomas and Melissa Giraud frame and moderate this discussion between child psychologist Dr. Allison Briscoe-Smith, educator Dr. Sandra “Chap” Chapman, and a group of parents, teachers, and other caregivers concerned about black and brown children. Listen to the full conversation or read an edited transcript below.
Spanish is not only our language, it’s how we express our love for each other.
My four-year-old daughter, Yuvasi, knows she’s different. She speaks two languages, Spanish at home and English when we step outside the door, although there are precious moments when she gets to use her Spanish with other bilingual kids and parents, as well as with people who want to practice the few phrases they learned in high school.
My daughter knows being bilingual is super special, and she’ll tell you so. We have taught her she’s special to be able to speak two languages, and that mom and dad understand four or five. It is our way of trying desperately to ingrain our ancestors’ language in her identity because, for our Latino family, language is everything. It’s more important than our arroz con pollo, and that’s saying a lot!
While being a person of multiracial or “mixed” background can be highly idiosyncratic, there are some common themes across our experiences. I’d like to share some of these commonalities as a way to support parents, family members, teachers and others who want to understand what mixed kids in a racially obsessed society might go through.
These examples are drawn from my life and from my conversations with other racially mixed people over the years.
A mother reflects on homeschooling amazing brown boys
According to the National Home Education Research Institute, about 2.3 million kids are homeschooled in the United States, as many as 1-in-3 of them kids of color. The 1-in-3 figure is smaller than the slightly more than half of K-12 students who are nonwhite, but, if close to accurate, still points to much greater racial and ethnic diversity in the homeschooled population than many of us suppose.
This much we know: the number of homeschoolers is growing and becoming more racially and ethnically diverse. We also know that many parents and guardians who choose to homeschool their kids of color do so, at least in part, for reasons related to race.
EmbraceRace asked a few such parents to take no more than 1,000 words to reflect on how their child’s (children’s) racial identity shaped either the decision to homeschool or how they homeschool.
Prejudice finds my brown-skinned 5 year-old girl.
About three years ago, I signed up for a weekly evening class called “Watching the Nighttime Sky” at a local college with my first-born, Lola. Lola was 5, a crazy-voracious reader, way into learning about the solar system and the universe. Little girl could name Jupiter’s four visible moons (Io, Europa, Ganymede, Callisto), modeled the solar system in our living room — I sing thee, planet model! — and could tell you why Pluto is no longer a planet (“Daddy, I feel bad for Pluto!”).
The class was taught by a retired professor, an elderly white guy. On clear nights we peered at the sky through a telescope; on cloudy nights, we heard a lecture on the history and science of astronomy.
Fun subject, daddy-daughter bonding, what could be better?
I remember sitting in Mrs. McKenna’s fourth-grade class when our history lesson turned to America’s enslavement of Black people. While I don’t remember exactly how the lesson went, I do know that the history I learned about slavery in elementary school was minimal and ended with Abraham Lincoln “freeing” the slaves. It was a narrative with a lot of holes, but the most critical one was about Black people’s efforts to free ourselves.
My teachers’ mistake was to talk about the enslavement of Black people without talking about our resistance. Anytime we are sharing the realities of oppression, we must include the ways in which people experiencing oppression fight back.
What’s so funny? Left out of the joke between my Asian American son and his African American mentor — and that’s just fine
“We’ll meet you in the parking lot,” my son texted me.
I stood at the post office, keeping my eyes open for the large green pickup my son told me was “the kind of truck I want when I get my license.”
They pulled in, laughing, my son’s smile wide with the kind of REAL laugh he reserved for the people he trusted.
I looked at them, shrugging with a quizzical look as if to say, “what’s so funny?” They doubled over in laughter again, sharing a moment that was not meant for THE MOM.