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We're happy to announce the launch of the EmbraceRace Podcast!

Season Finale! Friends reflect on their race and kids journeys as caregivers

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Welcome to this season of the EmbraceRace podcast, How Kids ACTUALLY Learn About Race.

On this last episode of Season 1, hosts Melissa Giraud and Andrew Grant-Thomas go back to where it all began. They invite a few friends and neighbors over - all parents, and one educator among them - to talk about and compare their learning journeys as caregivers trying to guide children around race. Andrew and Melissa started EmbraceRace in early 2016. What have they all learned? How has parenting and caregiver changed in the intervening years? They gather with Farah Ameen, Khama Ennis and Dana Kadish (read more about them below!). 

We hope this episode inspires you to start your own kids and race support group and have included resources to help you do that. Listen to the episode and find all the links and related info below.

Listen below or on your favorite podcatcher.

Get more out of the episode by following the steps below!

1. Reflect

  • Think back on your experience navigating race with kids, whether as a parent, educator, aunt, therapist, school bus driver - whatever your role in the lives of kids. 
    • When did your race and kids journey start (could be today, could be decades) and what was the event that kickstarted that journey?  
    • If you've been on this journey for a while, how have you changed and what have you learned?  
    • If you've just started the journey, what are you wanting to learn and how are you hoping to grow?
  • Having community to learn from and be supported by is critical to developing our capacity to guide kids when it comes to race and other challenging issues. And the connection and joy such community gives over time is "magic!"
    • Take some time to reflect on the community you have around you. Who are the people that have walked this race and kids journey with you?  Where are some places in your life that you could use some support? Who are some people who could be by your side and how can you invite them to be part of your community?  
  • After listening to this episode, we’d love for you to take the next step by gathering people and having a discussion about the episodes or about another race and kid topic. See the resources below for support doing just that.

2. Start your own race and kids discussion group

  • Make it easy on yourself. There are challenges around bringing people together for regular discussion - ask any parent of a young child!
    • Think about how to make these gatherings fit into your life enough that you actually continue to have them. Can you get away for coffee or a drink with other caregivers without kids around? Or is it only doable to have conversations on the playground with kids or on Zoom? Might a school or community center be able to lend you space for kids to play and caregivers to rotate who's watching them and who's participating in discussion? Maybe all you have bandwidth for to start is to pair up with a single friend you have occasion to see or can make regular phone dates with. 
    • Don’t wait to create the “perfect” group! You might start with a small group of people currently in your life who are thinking about similar issues or might be open to doing so  –  whether they are people you know from the playground, the bus stop, a professional group, your extended family, etc. Issues like segregation, inequality, a lack social supports will impact who can come when. Start where you are. 
  • What if you don’t have people near you to talk to? Some of us don't have people in our lives who are friendly to conversations about race. In that case, you might:

3. How to host a gathering

  • It doesn’t have to be formal – just find a time and date to gather!
  • Food and drink always help. Provide some nibbles and some drinks, ask people to bring something potluck-style, or meet at a cafe or coffee shop.
  • If people don’t know each other well, start with an icebreaker and introductions.
  • Being in a community means that sometimes we disagree, make mistakes, or even hurt each other’s feelings. Use our Community Agreements to help the group know how to respond – apologize when appropriate, honor each other’s stories and experiences. Don’t expect perfection from others or from yourself.  
  • Don’t know what questions to ask?  Start with the reflection questions we have created for each podcast episode. Feel free to add your own, and let conversation flow naturally.
  • If your meeting includes kids, plan for the kids. Having activities for the kids that also engage race is ideal but not always possible depending on the ages and needs of the kids. Movies, books, and art activities (like Drawing Differences) can work.

4. Content and tools for hosting gatherings

  • Choose an EmbraceRace podcast episode for people to listen to before you meet (if they can!). Then use the episode reflection questions and resources to spark your conversation. We suggest starting with Episode 1 for your first meeting. 
  • EmbraceRace also has many other resources and topic areas that could focus or spark your conversation. 
  • The EmbraceRace Early Childhood groups uses various exercises for caregivers that could focus your caregiver meetup. Here are two: 
    • Diversity in Children's Social Worlds - this activity asks adults to reflect on the racial diversity or not of our networks and those of the children in our lives and sparks important conversation. 
    • 6 Building Blocks - for discussion, helpful language or “building blocks” to help break down concepts about race and racism into ideas that young children are familiar with and capable of understanding

[laughing] [door squeaks open]

Guest: Hey! Hello! 

Melissa Giraud: Oh, my goodness. Hi, guys!

Andrew Grant-Thomas: How are you? Nice to see you. Thanks for coming over!

[laughing fades]

Andrew Grant-Thomas: For the final episode of the season, we wanted to do something a little bit different. So back in Episode 1, we explained that we were inspired to start EmbraceRace in the first place because of experiences we had at our kids’ preschool. We were both on the school’s diversity committee. And while the committee would meet about policy and school events, we always found the side conversations we were having about race and kids, especially helpful, and we wanted to make space for them. That’s how we came to form EmbraceRace.

Melissa Giraud: But about the same time that we were launching EmbraceRace in 2016, we started having a group of friends who also had young kids over to our house to talk about how race was playing out in our lives and in our parenting. It was amazing. But then COVID hit, and we couldn’t get together. Eight years later, we have community around race and raising kids with parents, teachers, and other caregivers across the country. 

But the conversations and community we’ve built locally have been so vital to our parenting that we decided to end this season there, where we started.

Andrew Grant-Thomas: Welcome to the EmbraceRace Podcast! 

Melissa Giraud: A show about how to raise kids who are thoughtful, informed, and brave about race.

Andrew Grant-Thomas: I'm Andrew Grant-Thomas, a Black man born in Jamaica on the 4th of July. I am also a co-founder of EmbraceRace and a dad raising two kids.

Melissa Giraud: I'm Melissa Giraud, a Black and white multiracial mom to those same two kids. I was born to a mom from Quebec and a dad from Dominica and co-founded EmbraceRace with Andrew.  

Andrew Grant-Thomas: For this episode, we are sitting down with some really good friends and neighbors who’ve been on the EmbraceRace journey with us! They are all parents, one of them is also an educator, and we’re having an unfiltered conversation about our efforts to guide kids around race.

Melissa Giraud: You’ll hear lots of kids and race stories. We’re going to talk about our parent and educator wins and fails – what we’ve learned and what we’re still trying to figure out. We share what gives us hope about today’s kids! And we invite you to join us and have your own get-togethers.


Melissa Giraud: Hi, everybody. 

Dana Kadish: Hi. 

Khama Ennis: Hey. 

Melissa Giraud: So glad you're here and we brought all of you together because…

Khama Ennis: We're fun! 

Melissa Giraud:Because you're fun!

Andrew Grant-Thomas: So, before we jump into our conversation, some introductions. Sitting in our living room, we have three dear friends. To my immediate left, we have… 

Dana Kadish: Yeah, my name is Dana Kadish, and I identify as a Jewish white woman, and I've been in early childhood education for the last, gosh, like 28 years… 

Melissa Giraud: We’ve known Dana for 12 years. She was the Admissions Director where we sent our kids to preschool. She has since become the co-head of that school. And it was there that we started having the group conversations that inspired us to create EmbraceRace. 

Dana Kadish: I'm co-head of school for a small independent school that serves children ages three to 12. And the essence of our mission is based on social and environmental justice. And that's where I met you. 

Andrew Grant-Thomas: We know it well. 

Melissa Giraud: Yeah, and very early on what we loved about the school and about Dana, in particular, introducing us to the school, was we asked, “What are you guys doing around race and identity?” And Dana said, “We're working on it. We have a lot to do. Come join us and do it.” Which wasn't what everybody said…

Dana Kadish: Mhm.

Melissa Giraud: A lot of people said, “Well, we got that,” or “What do you mean? There are no issues!” Right, so the humility really mattered. 

Dana Kadish: What's interesting is it's what, 12 years later? 11 years later, and we're still working on it. We're still working on it. So that's just worth noting. 

Melissa Giraud: Of course. Yeah.

Andrew Grant-Thomas: And to Dana’s left, we have Khama… 

Khama Ennis: My name is Khama Ennis. I am a friend. We met at a little shindig that another friend when y’all first moved to the area. And I remember one of my first things was like, “Oh my gosh, this is great. There's another Jamaican person here.” I'm a Jamaican American immigrant. Though I grew up outside of Philadelphia, I still sort of claim all the cultures that I've had the privilege of being part of. However I did have some strong feelings when I learned that our younger daughters had the same name and I thought I had claimed the name Lena for Amherst. But you know, it's okay. 

Andrew Grant-Thomas: Not only are they both Lena’s, but both Beans. 

Khama Ennis: Both Beans, right? 

Melissa Giraud: And the same age. 

Dana Kadish: What? 

Khama Ennis: Same age. Same grade. Yep. 

Melissa Giraud: And now they go to the same regional middle school. 

Andrew Grant-Thomas: Two beans. There was a little tension to begin with, but we worked through it. 

Khama Ennis: We worked through it. It was worth it too. 

Melissa Giraud: It was hard between us. But the kids liked each other. 

Khama Ennis: They did. And they still do. My work has been in healthcare and medicine for the better part of forever as a physician in this community and currently still a physician in this community, though no longer in the emergency department, which was my home for about 15, 20 years.

But now, working in a different clinical area and also working on a project called Faces of Medicine to, you know, share the stories of Black female physicians and hopefully increase our numbers so that we can have an impact on health equity outcomes, which are not okay. 

Andrew Grant-Thomas: And I do want to say, Khama mentioned, fellow Jamaican. So, we were both born in Jamaica and both came to this country at an early age and that moves my spirit. Right. That's like, that's my people right there. The cultural hybridity, all of that stuff. 

Dana Kadish: Khama, how old were you? 

Khama Ennis: Mm, I was, almost three. 

Dana Kadish: Okay. Little. 

Khama Ennis: Very little, but it's a huge extended family in Jamaica. My mom is one of 11, my dad is one of 12. So, I still have tons of cousins there and aunts and uncles and, you know, we went back every year or two when I was a kid. So, I very much feel like that's part of me and my kids do as well, which has been really, pretty awesome to see them develop that connection and own that place.

Andrew Grant-Thomas: And then last, but definitely not least, to Khama’s left, we have Farah.

Farah Ameen: I can't believe you didn't call me your people too, Andrew.

Andrew Grant-Thomas: You are my people. Come on now!

Farah Ameen: [laughs] My name is Farah Ameen, and I am Bangladeshi American. I was born in Pakistan, grew up in India, lived in Bangladesh for a year and a half, and then came to the States when I was 22 or 23. And I've been here ever since. But I somehow still call myself Bangladeshi.

How did I meet you guys? I met you actually, even though we had kids at Crocker Farm, the elementary school, I met you through my husband, John, who's white. And I say that for a reason because we're going to talk about race. When he was a trustee at the library, and you came and there was an issue about the Tintin comics at the library… 

Andrew Grant-Thomas: Yes.

Farah Ameen: …which are now on a higher shelf. And then I guess, we connected at the school and at the pool in the summer. 

Melissa Giraud: And I started doing political work with Farah a little later.

Farah Ameen: 2016.

Melissa Giraud: 2016, around a school integration project.

Andrew Grant-Thomas: Farah is a writer and editor. She’s also a trustee for our public library, which is an elected position. We’d love to know, who are the kids you're likely to have in mind as we have this conversation?

Dana Kadish: In my case, I've got 110 students that I have in mind day to day. But I also have all children in mind. But it's also interesting because I'm thinking, even though I was just saying to Farah, I have young adults as children now, I'm still thinking about it with them. 

Andrew Grant-Thomas: Sure.

Dana Kadish: And I'm still in conversation with them. I have a 19-year-old and I have a 22-year-old. So, you know, I'm in a really different place at this point in terms of parenting. I'm an empty nester and yet, I mean, you all know this, like the parenting is still daily. So, I'm still spending a lot of time engaged in important conversations with my kids around race. Yeah. 

Khama Ennis: Yeah. I mean, my kids are 15 and 12, both girls and they're both Black Biracial. My ex-husband, with whom I have a really great co-parenting relationship, is white. And when I say white, I don't mean just white. I mean like Mayflower white.

Andrew Grant-Thomas: [laughs]

Khama Ennis: On both sides. Like both of his parents go to the Mayflower. So, he's got like, they've got that, and then they've got the Jamaican immigrant experience. 

And so they have this combination of ancestries to reconcile. So, we talk about things very openly. We talk about things in a way that, you know, my parents and I didn't necessarily have these conversations because as immigrants that wasn't necessarily on the table. And the transition into being in the U.S. came from their perspective as immigrants who grew up in a predominantly Black country where Black people held all roles.

Andrew Grant-Thomas: 90% Black.

Khama Ennis: Yeah. And so, they raised us, my sister and I, in a certain way, but without necessarily having conversations that they didn't think applied to us. And so, I found out about things more experientially say [laughs] and I wanted to be really transparent with my kids about where they are, what their background is, and how they're growing up, and how they are perceived as light-skinned Black girls essentially. And what that means in this country, in this culture. So, I'm thinking about them, and I'm thinking about all the other kids who have these multitudes of contributions to who they are and how they present and have to integrate all of that. 

Andrew Grant-Thomas: It's funny, you know, I hadn't really thought as we were assembling this group. I hadn't put together that, yeah, there's a lot of multiracial family dynamics happening here. Farah.

Farah Ameen: So, my daughter is 14, she's Bangladeshi and she's dark-skinned. And it's strange because growing up in India, I didn’t really, like, I don't think I was as, I almost want to say, obsessed with race until I moved to the U.S. It became all-consuming once I became a parent. But India's different, and Bangladesh, I mean, there still is this thing about color, right? if you're lighter-skinned, you're beautiful. 

Khama Ennis: Colorism. Everywhere.

Farah Ameen: Everywhere. And it's like, you know, you see someone who's darker skinned or something and someone will say, “She's a little dark. But you know, if she were lighter…” Whatever. The funny part was when we adopted Sophia, when we brought her home, there were people sometimes making ridiculous remarks. Like, “Once she moves to the U.S., she might get lighter.” 

Khama Ennis: Seriously? Ouch. 

Farah Ameen: Yeah, or, “She’s cute, but she’s dark.” All this stuff. And sometimes I wouldn't tell my husband because I knew it would make him really angry. And I think when Sophia was really little, I noticed racism on the playground. And I've talked to, you know, Melissa and Andrew a lot about this when she was younger. But now I think, I have talked so much about it, that she just doesn't want to talk about race. I mean now she has a more mixed group.

But there were a lot of times when she was the only Brown kid, especially in elementary school in a group of four or five white girls. You know, it just made me uncomfortable because I didn't feel like the other kids had the same stuff going. You know, they were all prepubescent at that point. I mean, you are dealing with that and you're dealing with race and as she grows older, like things like going in a store. Because she would talk about things like, “This friend of mine stole something from the store.” And I'd say, “You really have to be careful.” 13-year-old kids. “Because you are the Brown kid and everyone else around you is white.” So, you know, I don't want to think like that, but I think about it all the time.

Andrew Grant-Thomas: Melissa, hopefully folks know a bit about our kids because we talk about them a fair bit, but do you want to say something about our kids?

Melissa Giraud: Yeah. First of all, Andrew identifies as Black. Right? 

Andrew Grant-Thomas: [laughs] Yes. It's true. Yes, I do! 

[others laugh along]

Melissa Giraud: Jamaican American, but really identifies as African American. I identify as multiracial, Black, white. I am often perceived as white or mixed race.

Our kids are, I would say light and medium brown skinned.13-year-old and 15-year-old. And just the other day, Khama, we were talking about colorism at the middle school, about these boys saying, “I prefer light-skinned girls.” And just the way people kind of put out their standard. As a light-skinned or medium-skinned person, and as girls (Lena identifies as a girl), you have to be careful not to feelyou know, validated by that. [laughs] You know what I mean?

Andrew Grant-Thomas: It is amazing. Farah, you're talking about back home and how people might talk about your daughter and, you know, “She's beautiful, but she's dark. That's too bad.” It is amazing, right? I mean, whereas with race and racism, at least a lot of people feel they need to be really cautious in expressing that stuff, right? But colorism, not just in South Asian American communities.

Melissa Giraud: Yeah, it's okay.

Andrew Grant-Thomas: …or South Asian communities, but Black, I mean all of them. 

Khama Ennis: Yeah. In Jamaica, my girls would be called browning which puts them in a different potential social category, which is just absurd, because I'm still their mom. 

Melissa Giraud: They can work at the bank in the front. Exactly. Exactly. 

Andrew Grant-Thomas: I have extended family members who said very freely, “Oh, I wouldn't date a dark-skinned boy.” 

Khama Ennis: Absolutely. 

Andrew Grant-Thomas: Straight up. So, as you know, we started EmbraceRace in 2016 when our kids were five and eight, more or less, right? They're two and a half years apart. How old were your own kids? To what extent was race on your radar? What your kids were learning about race? Your own sense of responsibility for how to teach them about race, ethnicity related things. What were you thinking?

Khama Ennis: So, 2016 of course was an election year. 


Donald Trump: I humbly and gratefully accept the nomination for the presidency of the United States. [crowd cheers]

Newscaster: He called this woman “Missy piggy.” Then he called her, “Miss Housekeeping” because she was Latina.

Donald Trump: Wrong. Wrong. 

Newscaster: That is absolutely proved over and over again.


Khama Ennis: And when those election returns came in, my kids were about the same age as yours around, five and eight I think at the time. And I woke up saying, “I'm going to go to work late today because I have to be the person who tells my kids about this election.”


Newscaster: Donald J. Trump will become the 45th President of the United States, defeating Hillary Clinton in a campaign unlike anything we’ve ever seen in our lifetime. 


Khama Ennis: And I have to tell them a lot of words that they're going to hear, or that they will be more likely to hear, now than they would have had the election gone differently. And we sat in the car, and I went through a list of, honestly, every racial slur I could think of for all different races and ethnic categories. Like, the first time I heard racial slurs directed towards me, I was in second grade, and I didn't know what they were. I didn't recognize the words. I hadn't heard them before. So, I went home and I said, “What does this word mean?”

And I wanted my kids to understand one, what it would mean if somebody said those words to or about them. And also, if somebody said those words to or about somebody else in their presence so that they could call it out. Because I didn't want them to hear another slur and tolerate it and think that it was okay.

It triggered a lot in terms of having conversations earlier than I thought I was going to have to, given where we live, which is, you know, perceived as a relatively open, safe place. But yeah, that's kind of how 2016 shifted my conversations with them, or just accelerated my conversations with them.

Andrew Grant-Thomas: You said an interesting thing, Khama at the end there, which was, you know, first you refer to it as a shift that the dynamics around the 2016 election and you know, what was being said shifted your thinking about what your kids would need to be prepared for. And then you said, “Well, no, maybe it accelerated your approach.” 

Khama Ennis: Yeah. 

Andrew Grant-Thomas: So, I want to bring that to you, Dana, and you Farah. It did all the stuff, whatever it is that you associate with the election of 2016, and we know that it was super racialized and overt and all of that, but did that kind of shift the work you thought you needed to do?


Farah Ameen: I think the thing about 2016 Trump, I was terrified, I mean, not even about having a Brown kid or being a Brown person, but the whole thing about his anti-Muslim agenda. Because the one thing that I kept thinking was like, my mother's never going to be able to get a visa to come here. And that shifted everything for me. And I was hyper-aware of being Muslim more than anything because I had gone through so many years of being pulled aside because I didn't have an American passport till 2010, I think. And I had been in the country 20 years or something.

You know, we listened to NPR all the time when Sophia was little and there had been that story about Trump saying that he was going to go around shooting people on Madison Avenue. I don’t know how if you remember that.

Andrew Grant-Thomas: Yeah, that if he did that, that would be okay. He’d get away with it. 

Farah Ameen: Yeah. And Sophia, she had no context. She was six. And we said something like, “Don't talk about it in school.” Because we were like, “Oh, should we not have been listening to this with our 6-year-old?” Because it's not funny because if Trump is elected Nanu, my mom, will not be able to visit us.

And Sophia went to school. And how that translated for her was she was talking to a friend who was Mexican American. I got a call from school and the teacher said, “This incident happened.” And it turned out she was talking to her friend, and she said, “If Trump is elected, your family's going to go back home.”

Sophia had no idea what she was talking about. The kids started crying. It was just like this whole picture, like, oh my goodness, you know, now we have to worry about race, we have to worry about religion.

Dana Kadish: I have all these different threads running through my head because I remember actually distinctly the impact on the school, right? So, I remember having a special meeting where we brought teachers together to sort of try and get our heads on straight around like we have our work cut out for us. And also, to just hold how upset everybody was and perhaps naive we had been, right? 

I'm thinking about the work you had to do, Khama, and I had to do sort of slightly, of course, different work, which was first I had to break it to my kids that we didn't have the first woman president, which I naively really thought was going to happen. So that felt really hard. But then for us, I think the conversation became more complex around our privilege and what it meant to have that privilege and what our responsibility was around that privilege, and how we couldn't be complacent because of the responsibility that we held.

And then the other key thing was talking to my white son about when he snuck out, we caught him sneaking out. But the best part was we were tracking him on our phones. He had no idea. So, we were like, “Sam, where are you?” And he's like, “Oh, we're just walking around the neighborhood!” We could literally see them booking it back from downtown Amherst, right?

Andrew Grant-Thomas: That's sweet! 

Dana Kadish: In like middle of the night. It's like 2:00 AM and they're running back from Amherst and lying the whole way. 

Khama Ennis: That's hilarious. 

Dana Kadish: It was hilarious, and my husband and I are like watching this unfold and like laughing, not laughing. But then later was like, “So Sam. You went downtown with yourself and several kids of color and your Black best friend. And I just want to say the impact of being downtown in the middle of the night and being mischievous could be completely different for your best friend than it is for you.” And then we proceeded to have a whole series of conversations when kids are on JOL, when they have their learners' permits, their junior license.

I don't even know what the acronym is. But anyway, where they're allowed to drive, but they can't drive their friends. They broke this rule all the time and would sneak around doing this. And I kept saying, “You realize that the impact of you breaking that rule versus potentially a Black boy breaking that rule can be completely different. And even here in sunny Amherst, safe Amherst. I need you to take this into consideration.” So anyways, I'm having all these memories of all these different moments where I was trying to provide that scaffolding.

Andrew Grant-Thomas: Did Sam get that, or did he resist that?

Dana Kadish: No, he did get it, but they teased me about it. “You're being overprotective. You're being a neurotic mom. Calm down! It's fine.” I mean, he really did get it, don't get me wrong. He was very attuned to it. But he and his friend would laugh me off a little and I'm imagining, and I imagine then, that it was like too much!

Khama Ennis: Yeah. Because you don't want it to be real. 

Dana Kadish: No one wants that to be real. So, it's easier to just say, “Okay, mom. We got it!” But yes, they got it. They did get it.

Melissa Giraud: But what was so interesting, just hearing all of your conversations about 2016 or about that presidential election, was this question of privilege and of how different people are treated really came up with our oldest right when they were seven and it was 2015, before Trump was elected. And we really didn't think he was a viable candidate. And they were talking about it at school and Rio came home and couldn't sleep at night because they were very nervous that Trump was going to put up a wall and our family was going to be separated by the color of our skin.

And we sort of thought, “Well, oh, come on…” At first, I literally said, “He's not going to be president.” But then I said, “What if he is?” 

Andrew Grant-Thomas: And to be clear, you alluded to this before, but there are four of us and four different skin tones. Four different shades of browns, as it were.

Melissa Giraud: Yeah. So, I said, “Well, what if he is? Let's play this out. Like, who are people really targeting with the wall? And who are your people and how do we organize to be safe?” And then we had to have a conversation about documentation and who was being targeted with the wall, and it was not us, right, with that particular thing. And we had this privilege, right, among other privileges where we had to stand up for people who were being targeted. And it did become, because he was saying so many things at the time that it felt like, who is safe?! We really have to band together, people of very different identities, and understand we're positioned differently and sometimes we have privilege and sometimes we don't. And we have to be aware of that and stick up for each other. 

So, I wonder, just looking back on the growth or the environment. I think, what you guys would say about how your parenting or your teaching, your curriculum, has changed since Floyd and certainly the election of Donald Trump before that, and so many other incidents.

Andrew Grant-Thomas: And Dana, when we met you, you were Director of Admissions. 

Dana Kadish: Mhm.

Andrew Grant-Thomas: Now, for the last several years you’ve been co-head of school. And the school itself has been ona very thoughtful journey digging deeper and deeper into this work of how to help kids engage with this in a healthy way. 

Melissa Giraud: Where are you now?

Dana Kadish: I mean, this is like a whole story, and it would take so much time to really unpack it fully, but I would say we've changed significantly. I think that is a fair statement, and we are unapologetic about our mission and very explicit about the work we do with young children.

And that is a key distinction. So, when we first started on the journey, not everyone was on the same page. So, one of the big pieces of my work that I shifted was every family I meet, as I had referenced earlier, I am naming precisely what their children are going to be learning about. And I make it clear that if you're not on board with that particular approach to education and early racial learning, this probably isn't the school for you.

And so, what's great is that there was a time where there was a tremendous tension around being that explicit for so many reasons, but also the fear that we would lose families, right? I mean, the bottom line is, it's an independent school. It's not a classic private school. It's not a wealthy school. And we are not typical in that way. However, we're powered by tuition. So, if you have a mass exodus of families, you're in trouble, right? Yeah. It's political, right? And you're constantly having to try and be diplomatic. At one point I finally said to a colleague, “Well, if we go down, we go down with integrity.” And I meant it.

Khama Ennis: Absolutely. 

Dana Kadish: I meant it. And I was like, we're going to do this. And we are. And the cool thing is enrollment is way back up. And I think part of that is that clarity and that commitment, but also being so thoughtful, right? There's so much learning that had to happen. And Andrew, I know you and Melissa with EmbraceRace, one of the key things that you have said that I have repeated to numerous families is, “If we don't teach it, children are going to make their own assumptions because of the water we swim in the greater world. And so, we have a job to do, and this is what we're doing here at the school.” 

Couple other key things that I think are worth noting. Our school is represented by 47% kids of color. And one thing I feel sheepish saying it, is that when I started to work very intentionally on diversifying the school, we put the cart before the horse. And what I mean by that is that we were not yet learning enough about what it would mean to then have a truly diverse community in this greater community. And so, we've had to do a lot of work. We've had to do a lot of learning, and we've had to think really carefully about every aspect of our program. And we've done that. 

I had some really hard conversations about what it truly means to belong. What does it feel like? What do we need to do as a community to create a sense of belonging? How are affinity groups valuable in an institution? Why do we press for those, even though some families have felt excluded from them through time? The curriculum, the content itself, talking about race with three-year-old’s, creating social stories to talk about race, to talk about oppression and fairness with three-year-old’s. So, we're building that foundation, right? So then as children move through the school, we can grow more sophisticated in our thinking.

I think also though, here's a tricky one. There was a lot of emphasis in teaching hard history, but in doing so, are you eradicating Black joy? Are you eradicating all the amazing people who have made incredible progress in the world who are people of color? Like what are we focused on? It's not that we didn't do both, but it became imbalanced. How do we put that back in balance? Right. We don't want to just have a narrative of only oppression. That would be detrimental as well. So those are just a couple of examples. Yeah. But it's ongoing. 

Andrew Grant-Thomas: Sounds easy. 

Dana Kadish: Yeah. So easy.

Melissa Giraud: That also goes back to what Farah was saying about what are the supports, you know? I mean, that's what we're trying to do with EmbraceRace is create supports that we need, that other people need, and knit the resources together. But what I have found, and, and Farah, you were saying this as well, there has been sort of progress in some areas that really helps the work. Like there are more books. You know, there are more movies you could use. There are more TV shows. There are more people who think that this work's important, who explicitly think it's important. I mean, there's also pushback. 

Khama, how have things changed for you then and now in terms of how you're parenting, how you're feeling supported or not around race? 

Khama Ennis: Well, I would say that, you know, compared with eight years ago, I guess it's now, I don't like that math. [laughs] It feels like the number is a little too high. I think the conversations have evolved, right? I mean, the kids can handle different levels of content, different levels of challenge. If they say something, they repeat something that they heard in school, I can dig into that a bit with them. If they don't acknowledge their own privilege in certain aspects. So, I can dig into that. When they come with me to Jamaica, because we still go every couple of years, or when they go with their father to a beautiful part of the country that has very little diversity, when he goes back to where he grew up, they have to reconcile with that as well.

And so, we talk about all of these things, I think really explicitly. And they are not afraid of the conversation, which makes me really happy. And they can see things when they talk about like different hair textures and hair colors. And you know, one, one of my kids, when she was in preschool, at one point came up to me and said, “Mama, I wish I had straight yellow hair.”

And I first died a little inside. And then had to talk about like why her wonderful curly hair was wonderful. And like, “Mama's hair is even curlier than yours. And it's in this particular style.” I've got locks. And so, what does that mean? And what is different hair and how does different hair come about? Because all of the hair of their cousins on one side is blonde. And all of the hair of the cousins on the other side is multiple textures, multiple colors. But I think at this point they see a lot of it. A lot of that early foundational work in just having plain conversations, I think has paid off. And so, they point things out to me when we're at different places. They, for better or for worse, like when I was a kid, my mom. One of the lessons I did get when I was a kid, was when I was a teenager, catalogs would come to the house because it was the eighties and that's how that went.

And we would go through like the catalogs. I'm like, “Oh, I like that.” Or “I like that!” And she'd say, “Look at the people in these photos. Do you see anybody Black in any of these photos?” And I would flip through, and I would see nobody. And she'd say, “Thenthey don't want our business.” And so, we wouldn't get anything from that catalog. And so, when I related that story to my kids multiple times, and so now they go into a space and they see where they are welcome. They see where they're not. They can call it out and they don't personalize this.

They see it as a systemic flaw. They understand that they're like the bomb. They don't internalize that, which I think is huge. It's one less burden for them to work through. They still have to work through the crap, but they don't have to work through whether or not any of it is because of who they are, truly who they are. 

Andrew Grant-Thomas: Mhm. Farah, I'm wondering how much of what Khama just said is resonating with you.

Farah Ameen: I keep thinking about the one thing that's at the back of my head and that I've been trying not to think about, and now I'm mad at you guys because now I'm thinking about it. So, when Sophia was little she hated the color of her skin. Like when she was really little, she wrote a letter to Obama because one day she asked my husband John and said, “So Dad, President Obama is Black, right?” And John was like, “Yeah.” She must have been probably five or six. And she said, “Well, I'm darker than him, aren't I?” And he said, “Yes.” And she said, “Well then how come I'm not Black?” So, John said, “Why don't we send him an email or a letter?” And they crafted this letter and sent it to him about how she was thinking this. 

Andrew Grant-Thomas: John is so “can do.”

Farah Ameen: Yeah. And there was a letter back from the White House. It was sort of more, you know, from Obama, but about how, “It’s kids like you who are changing the world…” I mean, it didn't address the fact…  

Melissa Giraud: I'm sure he penned it [laughed].

Farah Ameen: Of course he did. All that to say is she doesn't like the color of her skin as she's been growing older. One of the things she's pushed against for many years is being South Asian, and it's partly to do with how she's being raised. We're raising a confident young woman, I'm hoping. But it still bothers me because she pushes against that. 

Andrew Grant-Thomas: And that's bothersome, but what about the skin color issue? 

Farah Ameen: It's so funny because you said foundation and I was thinking about makeup because one of the struggles has been, no makeup until you're 13. Then we realized it was a losing battle because she was getting makeup from friends who were white girls. And with these, I'm sorry to say, but these horrendous colors that did not work with her skin tone at all. And then I had to give in and sometimes John, my husband and I would talk about it, and you know, sometimes she'd find some kind of highlight or whatever. And one day I looked at her skin and I was just like, “What'd you put on your skin?” Because it just looked lighter. And so, John and I were talking about it, and I think that still there's some of that going on, that she's partly maybe trying to cover up the blemishes, you know, young kid hormones, eating crap all the time. But, um, I haven't been thinking about that for a while because I'm talking about sex and boys now all the time. But that's still there. 

Andrew Grant-Thomas: I'm so sorry. 


Farah Ameen: Yeah, no, I know. It's just like, why do I have to have these conversations? My mother never had these conversations with me. Which is why I am having these conversations. 

Others: Exactly! 

Andrew Grant-Thomas: Look how you turned out. 

Farah Ameen: “Yes! We're going to talk about this!” And you know, I'm dying because I don't want to look at her while I'm talking about all this stuff, but I'm doing it. Because I'm so close to it, and I would get into these battles with her. So, I would have John talk about it, you know, with her about being, “You're Bangladeshi American.” I don't know how to approach it right now. There are so many battles you're fighting with teenagers and you just want to be on their good side, right? 

Andrew Grant-Thomas: Yeah.

Khama Ennis: Mhm.

Melissa Giraud: And rounding up this conversation and really just wondering, it sounds cheesy, but what are the things that give you hope in terms of this generation that we're raising and the many generations that you're raising and that EmbraceRacers are raising and how they'll approach race in the future? What are the things, what are the stories that you can tell that make you think, “Oh they’re going to be okay! They’re preparing for a future that is different from our present, and they’re going to be okay?”

Dana Kadish: I could weep over it because the kids set me straight every day. The thing is the kids are okay. It's the grownups. The kids were raising right now doing this work. They're amazing. Like EmbraceRace gives me hope, my school gives me hope. Khama, your project gives me hope. Like there's great work happening right now. I do legitimately feel optimistic when I hear you engage with your children in the way that you are,Farah. But the kids are okay. We just, we can't let up. We just have to keep pushing the work forward and we have to stay in conversation, and we have to keep going. And I will say the work can be really exhausting, right? It's hard work.

Melissa Giraud: And doing it in community. 

Dana Kadish: And doing it in community. I'm so glad you said that because that's everything. I don't know if you folks know Loretta Ross, but she's an amazing professor and she talks a lot about calling people in rather than calling people out. And I'm a huge fan of hers because I'm like, you can spend all the time you want calling people out, but it may not get them to the table. I want people at the table, right? So, I think a lot about her work and calling it in. And the other thing Loretta Ross talks about is you got to find a way to do it in community. And you got to find a way to find joy in the work because if you don't, it's not sustainable. So, this, what we're doing right now, this is good. This is finding joy in the work. Being with your people and having these conversations and feeling inspired. That's good stuff. Yeah.

Khama Ennis: I think that’s super encouraging and inspiring.

Andrew Grant-Thomas: And Dana, you know, I wonder how you feel about going even a bit more broad than find the joy. You know, find the solidarity. Certainly, joy is part of that. And a lot of it is hard and it's different when it's hard together. It's hard for me. It's hard for you. We can talk about that. You know, sometimes we really can shed tears together. We can laugh together. Sometimes it's hard.But it's different when it feels like there are a whole bunch of us on a very similar journey supporting each other through it. [Rather] then, “Oh, I'm isolated. This is my own. Am I the only one out here feeling this way?” And what we find is, yeah, we certainly do the workwe do. 

Just to give you a very quick example, back in December of 2022, we had a national survey of parents of kids 13 and younger. And one of the amazing takeaways from that is literally four in five parents said, “We need to do this work.”

if we took our cues only from what news media tell us. It's images and headlines about angry parents storming school board meetings and saying, “No, we can't talk about gays and lesbians and LGBTQ people in general. We can't talk about race. We can't talk about all these things.” And saying it in the name of “parents' rights” which implies that lots of parents feel this way, but actually the vast majority of parents don't feel this way. And they want their schools to be able to talk. I mean, there's a range of opinions to be sure.

It's not that there's one side and everyone is just chomping at the bit, waiting for an opportunity. But a lot of people would much rather see us do this work than not do this work. 

Melissa Giraud: And that survey was not EmbraceRacers. 

Andrew Grant-Thomas: It was a nationally representative survey. 

Melissa Giraud: Some of them knew EmbraceRace, but most of them didn't.

Khama Ennis: I mean, the fact that you all started EmbraceRace in 2016 and not knowing how it would go, not knowing if there would be support, if there would be interest. And that it has just grown as it has is amazing and wonderful. People are invested in learning and want to do better for the next generation of kids.

They want to go to that uncomfortable place and do the work so that it can be better down the line. I am inspired by my kids, by their friends. When I hear them interact with each other, it's hilarious. They're just able to feel comfort in conversations that I didn't, and when I read some of the things that they put together for school, I'm like, girl, you're deep! [laughs] Like, I didn't, I didn't know you got that, but you know, you’re here, let's do this.

I think that, I love finding joy in the work because it is hard. But I think that it's, obviously, it's necessary still. And the thing that I try to enforce for my kids is holding two truths simultaneously. Like people think and do horrible things. And most of them aren't horrible people. [laughs] They've just grown up with very different influences. Very different exposures that you have. I'm a sort of assume best intentions, but take notes. 

Dana Kadish: Collect that data. 

Khama Ennis: I think that they have some of that in them as well, though. They can sometimes be a little like, “Eh, they suck.” Like, “Yes. And…” Like, “Let's figure out how to bring it back a bit,” which is painful and hard sometimes.

Melissa Giraud: I mean holding the nuance. Adults have a hard time with it. But that's just the thing. How can we hold the nuance? Yeah. 

Khama Ennis: But they're in it and they're doing what they can. And I think that's super encouraging and inspiring. 

Melissa Giraud: Hope, Farah Hope. You're always the person I turn to for hope. 

Farah Ameen: For hope because, you know, I'm sort of raising my kid as, you know, expect the worst! You'll be surprised. She actually said that the other day and I felt like, oh my goodness, I never said that to her. Has she just like absorbed that from living with me?

Hope… I feel in some ways that we're lucky that we live where we live, though I feel for all of this town, you know, we don't see color. People see color all the time, and it's not just color, it's socioeconomic. And we've talked about this a lot. I am impressed that Khama's daughter is letting her read what she writes because I get a lot of, “No, you can't. I don't want to show you this.” Part of it is because being an editor, I spend a lot of time saying, “Oh, maybe you want to fix that spelling.” But I feel like they talk about so many different things at school these days. Though last night, I was getting complaints about, “How's it going to help me in the world to know how the colonies were formed?” So there is that as well, right?

I just feel like as a parent, I can give my kid the tools. I know she's strong. The world is not an easy place. And I have to say that I spend quite some time letting her know that. We don't bubble-wrap her. I'm just hoping that we can keep talking, you know, and I just resent the fact, Andrew, that you haven't brought us here for conversations in a long time cause I miss this. Is it Covid? You guys don't like us anymore? [laughs] 

Andrew Grant-Thomas: That’s a whole different conversation. Yes, I know. 


Andrew Grant-Thomas: Melissa. 

Melissa Giraud: Yeah.

Andrew Grant-Thomas: What gives you hope?

Melissa Giraud: You know, having a strong community, knowing that to have authentic relationships, we really need to not expect Joy! Joy! Happy! Happy! But like we have to get through and know each other. And that authentic closeness with people like you, with people not like you is really worth it. 

I'm really impressed with our kids. Dana, you were saying that the kids teach you every day. And I feel that way about our kids and particularly about intersectionality or even our own things. You know, if very early I used to say about colorism, I'd say, “The Blacker the berry, the sweeter the juice.” And they would both say, “Oh yeah, you hate yourself, Mom? You're pretty light.” 

Or Lena would say, “Yeah, you know, post Floyd, you can't really say something openly racist at school, but you can still say you run like a girl,” you know? So, things like that, they really do just push you, push you, push you in great ways. And they're having, because they're having the conversations, they're just really sophisticated about them. They're so sophisticated. It makes me really hopeful as does being in contact with you guys and with just a lot of people through EmbraceRace, who I'm learning a lot from, who are doing amazing things. I mean, it's hard not to be hopeful when you have so many people doing amazing work. 

Andrew Grant-Thomas: Yeah. That is to me, I mean, both with EmbraceRace and with all the sort of race work I've done over a long period of time, that's one of the best parts, right. It puts you into contact with people who are smart and passionate and care every bit as much as you do about this stuff and are doing things about it.

If you weren't doing the work, you'd have no reason to know that they're out there, that they're working so hard. And so that starts from other parents and educators and folks. Here's a thing that I think there's no reason a lot of people would know, but we do because of the work we do.

There are a lot of psychologists, an increasing number of pediatricians, there are a lot of researchers, social science researchers, parents, educators, children's media people who are thinking, how can we do this better? Philanthropy folks, journalists. Think about 10 years ago now, after every typically horrible thing that happens around race in this country that's high profile, there's a spate of articles right around how you talk to your kid. That wasn't true 10 years ago, certainly not 15 years ago. That's a sign, right? There’s a demand for this. It's seen as important. We created this collectively, and we can create something different! And more and more people, I think, are sort of bending to the task of let's create something different and better, that we feel really good about our kids inheriting and our kids in turn will take it further and farther.

So, just the possibility alone of doing better is more than enough to get us out of bed and feeling hopeful.

Melissa Giraud: Thank you so much you guys for this conversation and for coming over. We have to do it more. So great.

Khama Ennis: It’s an honor to be a part of this.

Melissa Giraud: You just heard from our friends and neighbors Farah Ameen, Khama Ennis, and Dana Kadish.


Melissa Giraud: Andrew, that felt great. 

Andrew Grant-Thomas: It really did! And that’s why community building is at the heart of the work we do at EmbraceRace. 

Melissa Giraud: Mhm. 

Andrew Grant-Thomas: Sitting and talking with super thoughtful people who’re also trying to do this kids and race work is so helpful.

Melissa Giraud: It’s magic. It’s not that we solve the world’s problems or always get solutions to our own problems in these conversations. It’s more that we feel seen, accompanied, and inspired. And I think you could hear the joy and connection we felt in that conversation, too. 

Andrew Grant-Thomas: Yep. And we would love to have more people feel that same joy and connection, too. If you’ve been following this first season of the EmbraceRace podcast, you know that in previous episodes we pushed back against some big myths about race and kids by digging into how kids ACTUALLY learn about race. 

And we shared strategies for how to do the work of raising kids who are thoughtful, informed, and brave about race. But what you might not know is that for each episode we shared some really good reflection questions and resources. We encourage you to listen to the episodes, to get your friends/family to listen, and then really important- get together to talk it through. Check out the show notes for resources that’ll help you host your own conversations.

Melissa Giraud: The best way to stay in touch with all our offerings and happenings at EmbraceRace - including our plans for Season 2 - is by subscribing to our newsletter. We have a lot going on! Go to, scroll to the bottom of the page to sign up.


Andrew Grant-Thomas: The EmbraceRace podcast is hosted by me, Andrew Grant-Thomas.

Melissa Giraud: And by me, Melissa Giraud. Our Senior Producer is John Asante. Our Editor is Megan Tan.

Andrew Grant-Thomas: Our Engineer and Sound Designer is Enrico Benjamin. Our Consulting Producer is Graham Griffith. Graham believed in this podcast early on and that’s a big reason why it came to be.

Melissa Giraud: Special thanks to Team Embrace Race, Robin Deutsch Edwards, Andrea Huang, Tamara Montes de Oca, Christina Rucinski, and Maryam Zahid.

Andrew Grant-Thomas: And a huge thank you to our two kids who motivated us to make this podcast, and to the EmbraceRace community.

Melissa Giraud: Subscribe, rate, and review our show on Apple Podcasts or your favorite podcatcher. That really helps us.

Andrew Grant-Thomas: And for more resources related to today’s show and other topics about race and kids, please visit us at 

Melissa Giraud: Thanks for listening! We’d love your feedback as we plan for Season 2. Send that to our email,

Andrew Grant-Thomas: Thank you!

Farah Ameen

Farah Ameen is a Bangladeshi-American editor/writer, soccer mom, and crossword & scrabble nerd. More about Farah >
Farah Ameen 360 x 360 px

Khama Ennis

Khama Ennis is the mother of two bright, spirited and courageous girls. She is also a writer and an emergency physician practicing in Western Massachusetts. More about Khama >
Khama Ennis

Dana Kadish

Dana Kadish has been an early childhood educator for almost 30 years. More about Dana >
Dana Kadish