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.
An Embrace race community conversation
In this hour-long conversation, featured guests Sarah Hannah Gómez and Megan Dowd Lambert share expertise and experience on 1) how to guide children to and through picture books with positive racial representations; and 2) how to support children in resisting or reading against problematic, racist content. They also take questions and comments. Access the video, resources and slides above. An edited transcript to the whole conversation follows. The Q & A starts towards the end of the transcript, HERE. And at the very end find a resource filled addendum to the Q & A, our guests' short responses to questions we ran out of time to answer live. Enjoy!
EmbraceRace: Welcome to this month's community conversation. We're thrilled to introduce you two our two guests. After a brief intro they will present for about 20 minutes and then we'll take questions.
Check out this archived EmbraceRace Community Conversation with leaders of IntergrateNYC4Me. In New York City, home to among the most segregated schools in the country, IntegrateNYC4Me, this student-led effort, is pushing back hard against educational segregation and the inequities it represents in their city and across the country. Find out how, why, and what difference its made so far – both to the cause and to the student leaders themselves.
EmbraceRace's Andrew and Melissa facilitate a community conversation with IntegrateNYC4Me co-founder Sarah Camiscoli and with student leaders Matt Diaz and Hebh Jamal. An edited transcript and more resources follow.
Update: This booklist has been updated and added to since its initial publication.
Research from Harvard University suggests that children as young as three years old, when exposed to racism and prejudice, tend to embrace and accept it, even though they might not understand the feelings. By age 5, white children are strongly biased towards whiteness. To counter this bias, experts recommend acknowledging and naming race and racism with children as early and as often as possible. Children’s books are one of the most effective and practical tools for initiating these critical conversations; and they can also be used to model what it means to resist and dismantle oppression.
What a white boy taught this black woman about resistance
Our homeschool coop tried a version of the blue eyes/brown eyes exercise in the 6- to 10-year-olds’ history class. I knew it would be interesting, so I settled in to watch, not guessing how much I would learn.
The two parent teachers had cookies, but only the brown-eyed children were allowed to have them. The blue-eyed children sat empty-handed while the brown-eyed children enjoyed their cookies. Most of the blue-eyed children waited patiently, with hurt and confusion evident on their faces.
“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?”
A liberal college professor discovers the alternative right
“Straight out of Central Casting — I’m the liberal college professor, elbow patches included.” I make this crack to my U.S. Government students the first day of every semester. I am actually an Obama centrist. Dewey and Niebuhr, these are my heroes. I never felt the Bern. Institutions, for better or worse, are all we have. The perfect is the enemy of the good. Better is always better than worse — and then you die.
You get all kinds at the two-year college where I teach in New England: city kids from our blighted urban areas; blue collar suburban kids; middle-class kids looking to score their first 60 credits at a discount; and rural kids from our remaining farm towns. It is not uncommon to have gang members and militia kids sitting side by side. Hey, at least they agree on the Second Amendment….
This is the beginning of an intricate text conversation I had a few mornings ago with my cousin, who is a wife, mom of two, and an award-winning educator.
How to teach kids they do not belong… and how to teach them they do
The class erupted into a familiar but tired applause while my classmate blushed, looking down at her feet as she returned to her seat. As the energy of the room dissipated, our teacher, with one hand fixed on her reading glasses and her eyes focused on finding the next name on her list, calmly rose her voice above the sounds of the middle school classroom and declared, “Andrew, you’re up!”
I nervously shuffled the necessary papers into my hand as I stood up, hyper aware of the few eyes watching me make my way up to the front of the room. As a fairly shy student, I could feel my face turning red as I stood in front of what seemed like a vast sea of classmates, my heart racing as I searched for the start of a presentation I could call my own.
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.