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I Love Me! Positive Self-Identity in Young BIPOC Children

One of the questions we most often hear at EmbraceRace is how can we - as parents, family members, and educators - best support the development of positive self-identity in young Black and Indigenous children and all children of color? What everyday actions can we take, what routine conversations can we have, to help BIPOC children learn to love all parts of themselves and engage the world as brave, strong, and resilient people confident in their racial identities?

We're delighted to be joined by pediatric psychologist Sadiqa Cash (a "Scholar, Connector, and Doer for Black Lives") and by former state Head Start administrator and "Head Start dad" Jonathan Gonzales for their well-informed takes on these questions. As always, we take your questions and comments.

EmbraceRace: Let me introduce our guests. We have two and we're excited to have them.

Sadiqa Cash 360 x 360 px

Dr. Sadiqa Cash is a Licensed Clinical Psychologist and Assistant Professor at Baylor College of Medicine and Texas Children's Hospital. In her clinic role, Dr. Cash conducts diagnostic evaluations for children and adolescents with concerns for autism and other developmental disabilities at the Texas Children's Hospital Meyer Center for Developmental Pediatrics and Autism. Dr. Cash also facilitates diversity trainings for improving cultural competence in professional care provider and trainees and is an active member in Texas Children's Hospital Psychology Division's Collaborative on Racial Equity and Inclusion for Black Youth. Sadiqa, Dr. Cash, good to see you. Good to have you here.

Dr. Sadiqa Cash: Thank you. Good to be here.

Jonathon Gonzales 360 x 360 px 1

EmbraceRace: And Jonathon Gonzales, who is currently the State Family Program Director with the Arizona Army National Guard, where he oversees the Family Readiness Support Assistance Center, Work for Warriors and Children and Youth teams. Formerly, Jonathon worked as a State Director of the Arizona Head Start Association to strengthen member agencies and partners who enhance the lives of young children and families by serving as a unified voice of the diverse Head Start, Early Head Start community through advocacy, collaboration, and education. A former Head Start parent himself, Jonathon is married with three children ages 25, 23, and 18. Jonathon, welcome.

Jonathon Gonzales: Hello everyone.

EmbraceRace: Good to see you both. We start where we often do, a question for both of you. Sadiqa, I'll start with you.

Dr. Cash, what do we need to know about you to understand why you came to have this particular interest in identity and racial identity development in BIPOC kids?

Dr. Sadiqa Cash: So growing up, my parents were very, very intentional about representation, about me having a good sense of community. So my toys, the artwork in my room, my books, my grade school that I attended, was a predominantly Black school where we were taught that our race wasn't something that we needed to overcome or something that we should minimize, but that it was a strength in itself. That led me to seek other Black educational spaces like Historically Black Colleges and Universities. All of those experiences have further developed and fostered my own racial identity, which I believe has been a protective factor as I navigate different settings, both personally and professionally.

EmbraceRace: Thank you so much. Jonathon, what do we need to know about you to understand why you came to have this particular interest in identity and racial identity development in BIPOC kids?

Jonathon Gonzales: For me, I think it's very similar. It's always good to hear folks who talk about the development of racial identity and the strength of our communities. I think for myself as well, I grew up in south Phoenix and the west valley of Arizona, the west part of Phoenix. For me, everyone around me was what we call Chicano, or we now have called Latinx, from the mayor to the police chief, to the fire chief. I didn't know any different. I think that for me, it was a really good opportunity to see what the possibilities could be and where I could land in life. Certainly, like others who may have come from low-income communities, faced a real struggle with identity and what does it mean to be pulled into certain directions, whether it's related to gang violence or other stereotypes and some of the negative components of culture that developed.

So for me, identity has always been one of those things that was talked about in the family of your roots, your Indigenous roots, your connection to the southwest. And so, for me, it's just a way of life and who we are here in Arizona. So I definitely have a strong interest in the work and what that means for children and families.

EmbraceRace: Right. Thank you both. So that's really interesting. There are certainly a lot of questions that we'll come to later from people who can't give their kids that environment, their kids are the only, their family's the only. And so, a lot of questions about how you do it in those circumstances.

What does positive identity look like? What are the signs that a child is not developing a positive racial identity?

Jonathon Gonzales: So for me, I think that when I look back in the work with being a Head Start dad and working with Head Start families, we see the negative self-image that's portrayed through stereotypes and media for young children that sit in the background. There's these ideas and concepts that they're intaking, whether it's the Disney channel or whatever it is. And so, when they're very young and when we're talking about BIPOC children, there's a huge exposure around misalignment of their authentic self and what's happening in the family unit and their own story. There's a family story for everyone, whether you're first generation or tenth generation. There's certainly a rich history there.

I think that, for me, the unhealthy pieces show up in classroom environments, in how they interact with other children, how they perceive themselves in comparison. So if they are that only child in the room of a particular culture or race, that you will see that the engagement with other children, the engagement with adults looks very different. I don't mean different bad, but certainly different where they know that they may not fit.

And so, for us, from a caregiver or parental perspective, I always think about the opportunity for us to put yourself, whether it's early childhood, in those early developmental years, or the later developmental years, of really being cognizant of providing positive imagery, storytelling, opportunities to share about race and culture in the classroom or at home with parents and really reinforcing those positive things that. Like Sadiqa said, it's not something that you have to overcome. Race isn't something that you have to hurdle over. It's something that comes with a huge amount of strengths that makes us resilient.

EmbraceRace: Jonathon, I know that you have certainly young people in your family. As we said, we have your own young adult children, but you have people much younger than that. So on either side of that, can you name ... And we know it's super contextual and it's hard to say, "Oh, this is what a problem looks like," or, "This is when it's awesome," but can you think of a particular example, whether to the good or something that you found challenging or concerning? Can you identify something specific that you may have seen in your own younger family members that made you either feel good or made you a bit concerned along these lines?

Jonathon Gonzales: Oh yeah. Definitely. There are so many layers to the work in terms of the intersectionality of everything, of who we are as BIPOC people. But then as BIPOC children, we're developing and trying to figure ourselves out. I think that I could remember a time, not only for myself of, "I look different than," and it's not the comfort level within your own race or community communities of color, because I can feel comfortable knowing I share features or complexions or things. But as we show BIPOC children how to navigate a very dominant White world, whether it's in certain settings or environments, it's giving them the tools to navigate those spaces. You don't know that you're the other until you're put in a place to know that you're the other. You don't know what you don't know.

And so, what I found for younger kids, even in our own family, as they were growing up and we started talking about culture and identity, for Latinx families, we come in every shade and every perspective because of our mixed genealogy. And so, even having conversations with my younger cousins about them being more complected versus some of our other cousins that are more dark complected, and really just embracing the diaspora of who we are as a people, I think, is a much richer dialogue, and the reasons behind it. There's certainly the scientific, but we can have conversations around colonialism and what that means for the French and the Spaniards who came into the southwest.

So as you start to peel back the work and look at the history and the stories that you can tell that go along with it, and obviously you're not going to do that with a three or four-year-old, but as they age, you can tell stories that are appropriate to your life, your family's history, what that looks like. Then as they age, you can share those kinds of rich themes and ideas of where colonialism, manifest destiny has certainly taken over certain parts of this country and shifted what we think are Indigenous or mixed people or BIPOC communities. There's so much there to unpack. You got me going here.

EmbraceRace: Sadiqa, what would you share about what positive racial identity looks like and what it doesn't look like?

Dr. Sadiqa Cash: Yeah. I think in kids, positive things to look for could be things just like speaking positively about, Jonathon mentioned physical features, physical attributes, like your hair texture, your name, your skin complexion, enjoying and seeking out friends or spaces where you're represented, or TV shows or music, and wanting to engage those things. Then on the other hand, making comments about not liking certain features or wanting to, "Oh, I wish I looked like such and such. I wish my hair looked like hers," not wanting toys or items that are representative. Think of the Clark doll study, making negative associations with their Black or Brownness, or internalizing and believing in negative stereotypes.

EmbraceRace: Thank you. It does seem that all kids have these moments of taking what's in the wider culture, and feeling ... I mean you speak a bit, Sadiqa, to whether this is really a journey for kids. It's not that they're always in love with themselves, right?

Dr. Sadiqa Cash: Yeah. And so, I think that's why it's important, I think, for parents, teachers, whomever, to be intentional about things like representation, because depending on your environment, you might be the only one. And so, you might be getting messages or noticing how different you are from others. So for me, the neighborhood that I grew up in was a White neighborhood. We were the only Black family for a while. But my school was a Black school. The things that we had in the home were very racially focused and highlighting that.

And so, because of the spaces that I was in that were affirming to my racial identity and in developing that, it helped me to not feel so other, or it equipped me with tools to protect against that other feeling. And so, I think that that's why it's so important that you might not be able to move, or you might be in a certain neighborhood because there are advantages to that, but you can still have things inside your home that can reinforce that, even though you look different than your classmates, that there's beauty, there's pride, there's strength in your race, and you know that already because of the environment that's created maybe at home.

You might not be able to move, or you might be in a certain neighborhood because there are advantages to that, but you can still have things inside your home that can reinforce that, even though you look different than your classmates, that there's beauty, there's pride, there's strength in your race, and you know that already because of the environment that's created maybe at home.

Dr. Sadiqa Cash

EmbraceRace: You've both started to talk both about where some of the problematic representations might be, what are some of the sources that might undermine the development of healthy racial identity for BIPOC kids. Clearly, representation is an issue. It's funny, we talk all the time about how so often we collectively blame or credit parents. If the kid says something terrible, if the kid does something, we think, "Oh, well, you know where she got that from." But we know that actually, yes, the sources and inputs into how kids see themselves, how they act towards others, et cetera, is much broader, certainly once the kid leaves the home.

Can you elaborate a little bit on what are some of those sources that we need to be aware of that can positively or negatively affect the identity of a child? What are some of the tools and resources that can help bolster that positive identity?

Dr. Sadiqa Cash: Yeah. So it's interesting because the messages are coming from everywhere. You think about commercials and who's in commercials, or billboards or magazines that you may have lying around. And so, then you start to, as a child, notice, like I might still enjoy this show or I might still like these things, but I'm different. I notice that I'm different all the time. Even think about things like how long did it take before we had Band-Aids that were different colors?

And so, it's like insidious and it's in everything. We can't prevent or protect from all of those things because it's everywhere, but I think that, like we mentioned with representation, so for teachers, you can also make sure that diversity is reflected in books, toys in the classroom, media that's being shown. Also with using diverse names in your assignments and your test questions is another helpful way for a child to feel like this is normal, the kind of name that I have is normal, even maybe if there isn't another student in the room that shares that.

I think it's important to create community where you can. So maybe the classroom isn't the place where that is, or your neighborhood. But maybe for Black families, I encourage, go to Black barber shops or Black hair salons. Your extracurricular activities are a place where you can try to increase some of that representation in community, in spaces where your child is able to take a break from being one of the only ones, or have a little bit of a break from those microaggressions that are sure to come.

EmbraceRace: Thank you for that. Jonathon, you already made a reference to your own family, your own upbringing, some of the things that were done there. I imagine much of what Sadiqa just said about Black families resonates with you in the context of Chicano family, Chicanx families.

What would you add to the list of tools, resources, et cetera, that would be helpful for racial identity development? I'm also wondering, is there anything that might differentiate the experiences, broadly speaking, or the construction of Latinx identity versus Black identity that might be relevant to how we bolster healthy identities in both groups?

Jonathon Gonzales: Yeah. I think that for the Latinx community, you have this really interesting phenomenon of an influx of migrant families either through the driving of work in our farming communities, but then you have mixed status families in terms of citizenship status and those kinds of things that are impacting families. The unique thing about Latinx families is that when we look at, like I talked about, the diaspora of who we are as a people and the mixture of races, and the variety of complexions and who we are culturally, makes it really difficult to do a broad brush stroke.

I think that's the hardest part is the Latinx community within itself has a whole host of issues really related to colorism. It's got its own set of issues that have to be unpacked, challenges related to gender roles and language barriers and whether you're first generation or tenth generation. What does that mean for internal discrimination for those immigrant families and those migrant families?

So I think when we look at, in terms of collectively, what can we do to bolster and support children and families in the BIPOC space and the Latinx community, for me, it's really what are the core fundamentals that we can support? For me, it's embracing that positive self-identity, the connection to language. Now whether you're tenth or first generation, there's always a connection to the Spanish language that you can come back to in either storytelling or the richness of the language based on regionalities of it all. Then what I alluded to earlier, which is really embracing and putting those things, like Sadiqa said, in the home that are diverse. So that's books that may be bilingual, dual language. It may be dolls. It may be cultural activities.

I can remember my sister growing up and she had to do folklórico dancing. Folklórico dancing, while it's got some roots indigenously to Mexico and the native communities in Mexico, it also had a huge Spanish influence in terms of dress and some other things. So unpacking that. I remember my sister and my younger cousins hating it. They had to wear that big dress and do this thing. And my grandma, I remember my nana would say to them, "This is part of our culture. You have to understand this is who we are and this is part of our culture. If I don't pass it on to you, who is it going to go to?" So then there's some religious undertones, because then there was some guilt there. And so, when I talk about all these things and we talk about building a positive racial identity and then addressing some of those unhealthy things, those are the things that are difficult in the Latinx communities is to unpack. The journey for children can also be the journey for families.

What I found out as a Head Start dad and other Head Start families and working at Head Start is you may take a family and incubate them like a little baby bird egg and they blossom into a full on chick or whatever beautiful bird you want to name. But we have to remember that we shouldn't put so much emphasis on ideologies and those kinds of things, but embrace a positive journey of learning for families that will bolster those things that help children feel good about themselves, about how they look, the language they speak, and not feel uncomfortable about it.

I can remember as a kid feeling very uncomfortable speaking Spanish sometimes in front of other kids who were not Chicano kids. I grew up in a small town that also included a lot of Mormon families that were predominantly Caucasian. So I was never really sure what was okay to say in front of them and whether to speak Spanish in front of them. So you have all these weird dynamics, and I remember being around seven or eight and certain things. "Do you speak Spanish? Do you not speak Spanish?" Then as adults, we still go through identity things. Is it rude? Some of us were taught that it's rude if you don't translate and incorporate people into a conversation.

EmbraceRace: Certainly, and we know that famously the Latinx community, Asian community are so disparate that it's hard to fit under one word like Latinx. But I think, Sadiqa, I mean I think that a lot of people and kids feel those strains in the Black community as well, in any community, in the many multiracial people among us that were kind of, with kids, isn't it really about just nurturing their identities and letting them be who they are, because there's the Black kid who likes Star Trek and doesn't feel a part of their community, and the list goes on and on and on. So part of it is teaching kids that there are as many ways to be Black as there are Black people, right?

Jonathon Gonzales: Yes. I like that.

EmbraceRace: Yeah.

Jonathon Gonzales: Sorry, I don't mean interrupt. Can I tell a quick story? Is that okay?

EmbraceRace: Yeah.

Jonathon Gonzales: So I went to an all-Catholic, private school. I was blessed because they said, "Hey, we need to meet a quota," and I was fine meeting the quota. I will admit that. I paid very, very little to go to that school. But I was part of a BIPOC group that we supported each other. We call it the minority spot. It's probably not the right thing to say as an adult, but when you're 16 and among a thousand other Caucasian folks and you're the only handful of kids, you had each other's back. But part of that conversation that we had growing up, as we are older men now, was a lot of opportunities to go to Europe in trips that were going to be sponsored by people and to see the world or to explore. What we used to say to each other, which I regret now, I was like, "That's not what Mexicans do from south Phoenix. I'm not going to that," or people would say, "Oh, I don't ski. I don't do that."

As I got older and I started to mentor, what I tell the youth that I talk to now is I call that the ghetto mind state. To me, that was this idea that stereotypes placed on us by media, by this larger world that has said that you have to fit in this box and do these things. I look back and I think about all those missed opportunities to either see the world or to experience something and be that kid... I like Star Wars. So I'm okay saying I like Star Wars. But think about how many other kids who we don't support to pursue these paths into arenas that can really bolster and feel accepted in these worlds. Then to have those things reflected. I think that that was the pressure in the newest versions of Star Wars, that they're more diverse than what we grew up with in the late '70s and early '80s. So I think there's a lot of richness there.

EmbraceRace: Thank you. Sadiqa, what's your thinking?

Dr. Sadiqa Cash: So I'm thinking that, Melissa, I'm glad that you brought this point up, because I think it's important that we highlight and appreciate diversity within a group. Like Jonathon mentioned, in our own groups, we have ideas about what it means to be Black or what Black people do or don't do. And so, I think it's important that in that exposure to representation, I think it's important to try as best as you can to make sure that your kids are able to see and are exposed to other Black children or adults that are engaging in similar interests or that represent diversity in their gender expression or their sexual orientation or disability, just so they don't feel like those intersectional things take a piece away from their race, or they can't be Black and this at the same time. Like you mentioned, their Blackness is what it is to them, and we all have our different versions of that, even though there are certain cultural things that we may share, because part of racial identity too is having a healthy relationship or feeling included in your group and not feeling like those other intersectional pieces about you disqualify or chip away at your race.

EmbraceRace: Thank you both. We're, of course, living at a time when race is on the degree to which it's explicit, and explicitly on the agenda, is obviously high. It's true. It's there to a high degree. So when you think about anti-Asian, Asian American violence, you think about the racialization of COVID. There is sharp racialization there, about voter suppression, Black Lives, police violence against Black and Brown people.

From your perspective as folks especially concerned about the development of healthy racial identity, what does it all mean? What is happening right now? What special challenge, if any, do these phenomena, ongoing, multiple layered, what do they pose to the challenge that those of us who care for BIPOC kids have to face?

Dr. Sadiqa Cash: So I think within the last year or so, specifically with the murder of George Floyd, I think that that was a pivotal event in folks who maybe weren't as interested before in racial and social justice. Companies, folks feeling like they need to at least address race or be able to name these things has become more prominent. And so, I think that in some ways there'll be groups and spaces where folks are being more intentional about increasing their awareness or wanting to engage in these conversations. Then there's also those spaces where children and adults might encounter folks that are maybe just throwing out buzzwords and feeling like there's more of these things being brought up, but not necessarily engaged in a substantial way.

So for kids, I think that it's influenced the level at which race and these things are being talked about more. I think, previously, we thought that we can't have type of conversations. We can't talk about these things in certain settings, or we shouldn't be talking to kids about race. We need to wait until they're older. And so, now I think that folks are talking about these things more, but I also think that that brings more microaggressions and people saying things that maybe aren't the right things to say, or folks are digging or resisting against political correctness. And so, there may be more overt racism where folks may before have felt a little embarrassed to make certain comments or say certain things.

And so, I think in some ways it's helped to push things forward and in other ways, I think it's brought out a more explicit and overt brand of racism and has made those microaggressions be a little more prominent and sometimes more frequent.

EmbraceRace: Thank you, Sadiqa. Jonathon, I want to come to you on this one because I'm thinking about your serving the National Guard. It certainly feels to me like something else goes on when public officials are participating in these explicit racial stereotypes, hatred, antagonism clearly based on race. Shyla made a comment in the chat. She says, "Think about what it means when a member of Congress is referred to as a terrorist, with no desire to reflect on the hateful rhetoric and bigotry." Do you have a sense of what it means when, yes, that kind of rhetoric comes with the imprimatur of the federal government?

Jonathon Gonzales: I'm trying to get at your question. So from my perspective, the work that I do for the National Guard is really serving soldiers and families. We're as diverse as the communities that they get recruited from. So I think that sometimes that the general public doesn't always understand or appreciate that our service members can be low-income Caucasians. It could be middle income African American, Latino, Latinx soldiers.

And so, for us, what we do is really bolster the resilience in the families that we serve and looking at instilling more of those protective factors just like we would the general public, because if people want to point at the military, I always say, "Well, just look at your own communities," because 100%, you will see our formations be reflective and look like most communities, which may sometimes include folks that are racist and may not always be living what we call the army values, and they will not survive in our organization. They always are kicked out or prosecuted or exited out of the organization because those things are not tolerated.

In terms of your larger question around the federal government and what that means for holding accountability. The particular incident, I think, that you're referring to in terms of the terrorism, the more recent one, to me, that's grassroots level advocacy of ownership for that congressperson. It's our job in the BIPOC community to bring awareness and to elevate our level of engagement around voter turnout, countering voter suppression, having real dialogues around importance of holding people accountable.

I really want to tie this back to what Sadiqa was talking about, because there's a lot of buzzwords and there's not a lot of authentic engagement around how change can happen. We all talk about being woke and having different perspectives on things, but when it comes down to actively engaging at a community level, that may mean showing up and showing out for community conversations on race or voter suppression. It may mean that you're online with us right now for this EmbraceRace conversation. So I think that there are real opportunities to hold people in power accountable, but we have to be very intentional ourselves and be very strategic in how we do that. We can't just cancel them on Twitter or Instagram and hope that they go away, because we see it doesn't work.

So I think the best power that we can have as a people is to get people at the voter box, be engaged, advocate, and just really push back. I think that there is certainly a more bolstered and in your face type racism that I had not seen my entire life. I saw it in microaggressions growing up, but I think the boldness is very interesting now. So I hope that answered your question, Andrew.

EmbraceRace: Looking at the questions that came in before we started, there's a great question from Susan. "How can parents encourage/engage their children's teachers in actively supporting the development of positive self-identity in their BIPOC children?"

Dr. Sadiqa Cash: Sure. I think that parents can advocate and push teachers to do things like have assignments or times where students are able to highlight things about their own culture, or do reports, presentations and sharing those cultural, historical facts and accomplishments and things in the classroom. So push for those type of activities to help the other students learn more about the person's culture and for that child to be able to positively highlight and represent themselves. Earlier, I had mentioned things like including diverse names in your assignments and questions and in the artwork and things that are displayed inside the classroom itself.

And so, I think in the same way that parents advocate and push for other services or supports for their kids, I think that you can also bring forth some practical examples or suggestions for those teachers as well. And know that that might not be received and you might need to do it at home. But I think it's good to suggest and to push gently maybe to have those things included in the classroom as well.

EmbraceRace: Right. I love that in early childhood spaces, oftentimes there are these units about the family, like, "My family," which is a great opportunity, especially if you have a diverse classroom and the teachers can bring stuff in as well to really talk about different cultures in a really organic way. A thing we like to say a lot is that you are the expert in your own child. I think another thing related to our previous conversation about how diverse we are between groups and within groups is really trying to bring the child's whole identity into the classroom, what they like, what their temperament's like, as well as the cultural stuff, to try to safeguard teachers from in this moment only thinking of your kid as their race.

Jonathon, would you add to that, to what you've seen in Head Start classrooms regarding how children's teachers can support the development of positive self-identity in their BIPOC children?

Jonathon Gonzales: Yeah, I think all those things that Sadiqa talked about. We in Head Start are, that's how we are in terms of just integral to who we were in terms of programming, of making sure that if you have a dual-language classroom that there's sight words, that there's shared experiences, that, like you talked about Melissa, the early education settings are always very good about engaging around what does my family look like?

The other thing that, before we all kicked this off, Andrew and I talked about was the idea that Head Start used to ... We grow our own, what we call grow our own, which we would recruit parents to become teachers' aides. If they stay with us long enough, sometimes they even turn into teachers and work their way through the program. So we're very proud of that as a history of being Head Start parents and engaging in the program. As a Head Start dad, I will tell you that I learned so much from other parents during those opportunities of sharing story books from different racial groups who were part of our classroom, refugee families, you name it. It was shared in family style dining, which was you get around the table with the little ones and you share a meal or whatever it is, and all those opportunities to live and taste and talk about race of your classmates.

For the little ones to embrace that is very, very life-altering because what we're doing for brain development is all those little things firing up in the brain of brain connections around language. If they're tactile learners, if they're auditory learners, as they taste things, it really changes how children will remember those things growing up. I think that for teachers, if they want to have the authentic opportunity to engage around race, be vulnerable in a way that is going to open you up. It's dangerous to tell a teacher that, and especially, not so much early childhood, because they're little ones. But as they age into first, second, third grade, and later developmental years of childhood, that's when it can really become more challenging for teachers to become vulnerable and to really open up to parents and to their students, to bring those things into the classroom.

Then also you want to arm those teachers with support. I always tell parents, sometimes administrators don't always ... Those politics at the local level related to race right now. You all alluded to that. I think that here in Arizona, we saw it play out in the teaching of Chicano studies at some of our high schools, which has been banned. There was legislation around it. So even understanding your own cultural roots of the southwest here in Arizona has now been put into legislation and banned. So I think that the more that we can do to counter that and supporting teachers who want to pursue conversations around race, integrate storytelling, literature, any of those kinds of components into the classroom, I always tell parents, "Please show up for those teachers willing to be vulnerable on behalf of their students and all of you. Just be there to support them," because they may not always have the support of their principal or their superintendent.

I think that for teachers, if they want to have the authentic opportunity to engage around race, be vulnerable in a way that is going to open you up... Then also you want to arm those teachers with support.

Jonathon Gonzales

EmbraceRace: Thank you for that, Jonathon. At the beginning of this program, we mentioned the Color-Brave early childhood community for caregivers to BIPOC children. So birth through eight years old. We mentioned this specifically in the context of some affinity groups that will be launching in January and for which you can now apply essentially starting now. But the reason I'm raising it now is because last fall, when we were conducting research and engaging people's interest in having such a community focused on that population, one of the things that came up, and this is a little bit of a flip side to what we've been saying. One of the things a lot of parents, BIPOC parents of BIPOC children in particular, said fairly often was, yes, on one hand, we want educators, White and non-White, to have these conversations with our children. On the other hand, we're concerned about the damage that such conversations could do when teachers of any stripe are not prepared to have them.

How do we caution well-meaning allies against jumping into conversations with children that they're not equipped to navigate? Can you speak to the essential competencies that adults should have before trying to do that and possibly doing damage?

Dr. Sadiqa Cash: Sure. So I think it's really important that whether it's educators, parents even, whomever is interested or engaging in these conversations, you also have to do your own internal work. So we need to make sure that outside of those spaces where you are, that you are learning about other cultures, that you are identifying what your own biases are, to learn more about different areas of bias that you might have that may be unconscious.

And so, I think it's important that in order to be able to be effective or to leave a positive impact in having these conversations, you have to increase your own awareness internally. So about yourself and your own stuff that you have going on, but also the way that you educate yourself and expose yourself in your own personal circles and professionally, so that you don't feel yourself like a fraud or phony and having these conversations and that you aren't walking the walk as well.

EmbraceRace: So, Sadiqa, let me actually follow up on that, because I imagine that right now, it's one thing if you're a parent and your main child audience is your own child or your own children. But if you're in the classroom and you're dealing with other people's children, which is also to say that one constituency you have are the parents of those children, some of whom, and we know about the environment we live in now. This so-called anti-CRT backlash, which is largely a backlash against taking race seriously, both in the present and in US history in teaching our children, which is to say then that you know that anything you say, even if you feel quite confident and you're doing a good job, and perhaps we would agree means that you could be confronted by peers, by administrators, by community members, et cetera.

If you're just starting out, you're starting to do that work, and of course even folks who've done the work for a long time and do it well often wish we had done better, "I wish I had said something different."

Dr. Sadiqa Cash: So I think that these conversations have an inherent level of risk. If you're going to engage this work, you are taking on a risk of how that might be perceived or how it might land with other folks or pushback that you might get for doing so. I don't know that there's a time where you feel because... So race is one area, but because diversity and culture are so intersectional, the work has to be ongoing. So there's always going to be maybe populations or different diversity variables that you aren't an expert on. You can't know everything about everything and you're going to make faux pas and mistakes. But I think you have to be honest about where you are with the people that you're speaking with, honest with yourself, and being okay to be the student.

So if someone else has to correct you about a mistake that you made, to be humble and to understand and to communicate that you made that mistake and you're going to make effort to not continue to do that. But I think you have to be, one, honest with yourself, with the people that you're speaking to about where you are, understanding that it's an ongoing process, and that you'll never be in a place where maybe you are completely comfortable all the time, because, again, this stuff is risky and it's controversial no matter the time period. And so, maybe there'll be a time where it gets a little bit less controversial and then there'll be something else. And so, you have to be comfortable with being uncomfortable, I think.

EmbraceRace: I'm going to plug the Color-Brave community again as a relatively safe place to have these conversations and it's understood that we're all there because we are learning and want to get better. Someone is interested in learning why the Color-Brave groups are broken out by color, since I mentioned racial affinity groups. The short answer, maybe a two-part answer, is, one, a lot of people have asked for that. I think it's fair to say that a lot of our members have asked for that. They've asked for that at least in part because in fact the circumstances of different groups. While there's tremendous diversity within the group, as we noted earlier, the circumstances of different group are somewhat different. There are quite a few people who feel more comfortable and feel that there's a tremendous amount to gain speaking with others who are similarly situated, relatively speaking.

I should also note, though, that over time, as we get more and more people, as we expect more and more people to want to engage in these conversations, that racial affinity groups will absolutely not be the only vehicle for having these conversations. We also know that there are people, for example, who want to sit down with others who are not like themselves, which is a thing we don't often get opportunity to do in many spaces in this country. So we hope it will be true over time that there will be more and more spaces differently constituted to meet everyone's needs.

Are there specific resources that you all are using, maybe books or a show you actually like that you're using with kids in your life that you could recommend?

Dr. Sadiqa Cash: Yeah. So we've been talking a lot about media, books that are representative of your race. I think for Black kids, there's lots of books that serve that purpose and incorporate affirmations. So books like I Am... (Positive Affirmations for Brown Boys) by Ayesha Rodriguez. Jasmyn Wright has a book called I'm Gonna Push Through that talks about resilience. Books like Cool Cuts that display or showcase different types of haircuts or My Name is Unique like Me are just a few different books that can all be found on Amazon that can help to improve or bolster that racial identity, but also help to include some of that representation.

EmbraceRace: That's great. We'll make those titles available. We also at EmbraceRace have a lot of titles to suggest as well. I want to make one quick suggestion for older kids, but Colin in Black & White, Ava DuVernay's Netflix series of six. I think great for families, maybe 10 and up, for talking about some of these subtleties of race. Really recommend it.

Jonathon, what resources do you recommend?

Jonathon Gonzales: So I think that there's so many opportunities for the Latinx community. There's lots of books out there. Turning Pages is one of them, What Can You Do with a Paleta? the classic Upstairs, Downstairs, and the work of Gloria Anzaldúa. There's just a whole host of books that are either bilingual or rich in cultural heritage and history of family makeup, multigenerational family stuff.

In terms of newer shows or any of that, I will be honest, I am not a huge consumer of new shows. I am an avid reader and I always recommend to my youth. I will hand them Gloria Anzaldúa's Borderlands book, which is a classic. The forefront of discussions are around intersectionality. And some early bell hooks work as well, because I think those works are easily interpreted and digestible. And that's going to be for your teen years. I'd say like 12 to obviously through college years. But 13 [years old]. I know some of the topics are a little bit dicey depending on content, but if parents really want to start looking at intersectionality and what that means within the Latinx community and gender and some of those kinds of nuanced pieces, those things are critical.

Don't get me started down the road of intersectionality and what that means for the Latinx community. It's been talked about for years. I think that within even the feminist movement, there's been a strong support around that work to really enlighten youth and what that means for us as a Latinx community. I wish I had all night with you all. This was fun.

EmbraceRace: Yeah. We want to thank everyone in the chat who's sharing lots of resources, too. Thank you so much. Always too short. As always, anyone who wasn't able to catch it, any of your friends, colleagues, families who might want to see this, we'll have it freely available very soon. We'll have a transcript. We'll have materials. Jonathon and Sadiqa have both graciously created some action guides that will be supportive of what they're talking about tonight. Thank you both so much, not only for tonight but for the work you do. Thank you.

Jonathon Gonzales: Thank you for hosting us. This was great.

EmbraceRace: Wonderful.

Dr. Sadiqa Cash: Thank you.

Dr. Sadiqa Cash

Dr. Sadiqa Cash is a Licensed Clinical Psychologist & Assistant Professor at Baylor College of Medicine/Texas Children’s Hospital. In her clinical role, she conducts diagnostic evaluations for children and adolescents with concerns for Autism and… More about Dr. Sadiqa >
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Jonathon Gonzales

Jonathon is currently the State Family Program Director with the Arizona Army National Guard where he oversees the Family Readiness Support Assistant, Family Assistance Center, Work for Warriors, and Child and Youth teams. Formerly, Jonathon worked… More about Jonathon >
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