EmbraceRace

Parenting for Equity in St. Louis After #Ferguson

three children smiling and embracing, each is a different race
webinar graphic of Parenting for Equity in St. Louis After #Ferguson


In the four years since the Michael Brown shooting, the St. Louis region has seen seasons of protest as well as many initiatives focused on advancing regional racial equity. Against this backdrop we take a closer look at two initiatives from the region that operating at the intersection of children, families, and the push for racial equity. Andrew and Melissa of EmbraceRace speak with Dr. Kira Hudson Banks who started the video series Raising Equity to make research and scholarship on race accessible for parents, teachers and individuals to support their intentional interactions and interventions with children on matters of equity. We also speak with Laura Horwitz and Adelaide Lancaster of We Stories, an organization that focuses explicitly on the education and activation of (mostly white) parents who have historically been missing from regional racial-equity efforts. 

This conversation happened on July 24th, 2018. Watch the (sorry! very glitchy) video and check out the related tip sheets from our guests below. An edited transcript follows, starting with the framing conversation, and then to community Q&A further down the page. 

EmbraceRace: First of all thank you all. Kira, Adelaide and Laura for being here. We’re guessing that for each of you, the work you’re doing in St. Louis started or was affected in part in the aftermath of Michael Brown's death. But can you give us a little bit of detail on what that meant for you and how his death, his murder, impacted you and your work? Let's start with Laura and Adelaide …

Laura: For me, I have a very personal connection to that date. It was actually the day that my family moved back to St. Louis after living away for many years. I decided to move home so we could raise our kids closer to their grandparents. That was my second chapter of life in St. Louis and there was never a moment in that second chapter that race wasn't front and center to what I was thinking about it. It was a very catalyzing moment that shaped my community here and my professional and personal work.

It was also my first experience of shaping for my kids this idea of like what home is going to look like. To land in that moment gave me a lot to think about as a parent.

EmbraceRace: Adelaide?

Adelaide: So my family moved to St. Louis from Philadelphia. I grew up there and spent a lot of time in Philadelphia and in New York and was doing a lot of work around racial identity development. That's what my graduate work was in. I, it was a part of the way that I looked at things there but it felt really different because the way that you share public space in a more diverse, urban setting in both of those cities for example is really different from how life is lived in St. Louis for lots of factors. Although certainly racism exists everywhere. Segregation exists everywhere.

So we moved here in 2012. I had little itty bitty ones, and we aren't going to stay here forever and I haven't quite figured out how attached to this community I was going to become. Michael Brown's death was a catalyst for me, too. I came to the realization pretty immediately that these 10 years that we live here will shape how my children look at the world,  will define their normal. And if I do nothing then they just inherit the patterns that they see. So even though we know we're not here forever, it felt really incumbent on me to immediately shift the way that I was talking about narrating our experience and being intentional and in the choices that I was making as a parent. So absolutely it was a very, very important moment that has changed my life and certainly my children's and many other families' also.

EmbraceRace: Thank you. What about you, Kira?

Kira: Yeah. So we were actually in Paris when Michael Brown was killed. And so I often talk about the odd juxtaposition. We were taking a family vacation, a European vacation and watching everything unfold in St. Louis via Twitter and livestream as we got back from The Louvre and going other places. And so it was this really tough juxtaposition. And I remember even having pictures of the boys at the Eiffel Tower.

So is was this very odd time of where we were sitting in our privilege as educated Black Americans on this European jaunt with our kids and St. Louis is literally, literally shifting. For me, thinking about race and racism and racial identity and other systems of oppression has been my life's work. But it made me think very clearly about how I translate what's happening to my children so that they can grow up with that analysis and not internalize the oppression, the anti-blackness, and all of the hate that we have for black people, and black boys in particular because I have black boys. And so for me it was a real moment of pushing me to say, "OK, how are you going to use this privilege? How are you going to leverage it?".

EmbraceRace: So, so let me go back to you, Laura. And we're talking about, and so you've put it very nicely. You made this personal connection. Michael Brown's death and what it meant for you personally. Could you say a little bit about how We Stories in particular came to be? How did you identify that need and decide how to meet that need?

Laura: Well that was really the power of meeting someone else who was wrestling with the same questions. So the events of Ferguson were a really catalyzing moment across our region and engendered a lot of in the street protests, a lot of at the dinner table conversation, a lot of headline news. And depending on how you related to that event in your racial identity for sure, what the time scale of those interactions look like, I think was somewhat different.

So for me personally I was very brand smack new in town. Adelaide was one of the folks I met early on to whom I could say, I'm thinking quite a bit about this. I think it impacts me as a white parent a lot. I think there's a lot of things I need to take into consideration about the priorities I'm setting for my kids, where we go, how we make community and friends, how we speak up in public space, and these are all rolling around my head and I know I'll be a lot more effective if I'm doing it with other people. And this was that plus a hugely important issue that was affecting our region, our future, and our kids. And both of us were really turning to the simplicity of what we did everyday with our kids and how we shaped other ideas that we wanted to introduce into their home, which was reading children's books to them. So that was the first spark.

EmbraceRace: I want to take advantage of the fact that Kira is very familiar with We Stories' work. Kira, I'd love to know how you see your work with Raising Equity complementing, connecting with We Stories?

Cover of Why are all the Black Kids Sitting Together in the Cafeteria? by Beverly Daniel Tatum, PhD

Kira: Yeah well, so in undergrad I work with Beverly Tatum who wrote, Why Are All the Black Kids Sitting Together in the Cafeteria? And part of the reason why she talks about writing, why she wrote the book, I remember when she was going on retreats and getting it written and looking at drafts was because she couldn't be everywhere at once. And there were so many parents and principals and people who had these questions that she felt like, "Well, let me put it in a book and, and help them that way." And so I think We Stories is doing such important work and is able to reach parents. They're able to reach parents in a way that seminars, classes, the books can't. It's so intimate. And the fact that it's led by two white women doing this work in St. Louis I think is key because we have so much polarization. I just think it's wonderful because it's grounded in racial identity theory - Adelaide and I have that background in common. They're touching families in a way that is novel and really important.

Laura: Can I just cut in to say - that means so much to us. Thank you.

Kira: Of course! 

​I'm all about applying psychological knowledge. And so my work has been around understanding how discrimination impacts mental health. We have decades of research that show it does. But when I was starting graduate school, we weren't really believing it. It was cutting edge to ask the question, "So what are the underlying mechanisms?" but not yet to just ask the question, "Is it a bad thing?" So my work was always been two-pronged. One: let's understand what we need to foster and cultivate in people, in young people and in adults, to help them decrease the negative effects of discrimination. And then two: what can we do in terms of societies and structures and institutions to stop discriminating?

EmbraceRace: So it occurs to me in hearing your backstories, and not for the first time, but people are in a place of privilege when they can step back and look at their parenting and really think deeply about that aspect instead of so many other things many have to worry about in Ferguson and in many other places. We’ve been reading about the bail bond issue in St. Louis and the not just awful but extreme discrepancy in whose lives are being policed in your region. So it has to be said that this is a privileged conversation.

I am wondering about the urgency in St. Louis because of Ferguson and what the result of that has been? What are you seeing since Michael Brown's death – positive changes, problems that seem more intractable? Both? Adelaide, how about you?

Adelaide: Yeah, this is actually a very frequent conversation here - how special is St. Louis? We know that we are not the only place facing these issues. Every other city or municipality or region in the U.S. has some sort of shade or variation on what's happening here. I do think that there are a couple of things that are really unique and important to kind of recognize about where we are and what we're positioned to see.

Before making two quick points, I need to say that this catalyzing moment that happened in Ferguson and the way that we have been positioned to do our work and the momentum that we've been able to harness is not a result of our work. There are so many scholars and leaders of color who have been doing amazing, nationally renowned, ground breaking work in this region for a long time. And the amount of education that has already gone in and been invested in our community to help us understand, what are the root causes and systemic challenges, all of that groundwork was already laid and continues. So that’s what we’re stepping into

Two quick points on the response in St. Louis in particular.

One: our city is a really reasonable size. Things are accessible in a way that they aren't in larger metropolitan areas, which makes our disparity and our segregation all the more mind blowing. And the cognitive dissonance that goes into maintaining that is really challenging. For example, you can experience very different worlds by traveling literally five miles or less. In New York, traveling five miles takes an hour or two. Here, it takes literally five minutes. And so the fact that we have such difference and such disparity in such a close proximity to each other, and that it's stuck for so long is really important. And that gives us both a unique advantage, and it also is incredibly painful.

In terms of our work at We Stories, the thing that's been unique about our work or the way that we've intersected with other groups doing racial equity work is here that we have focused on people who didn't see themselves as part of the problem or the solution. They felt like this was happening over there. It was not necessarily connected to them. They couldn't find their way or their role into it. And the easiest way to deal with that was really kind of putting up a blinder and not engaging, really colluding with that cognitive dissonance and saying, "Yeah, it's just crazy, but what are you going to do about it?" After Ferguson, we were able to really look for that intersection of interest and seize on parents angst around, "What does this actually mean for me and what are the confines of this bubble that I'm living in? It actually doesn't feel good." We were able to harness some of that angst and turn it into momentum.

But it’s possible in other places, too - the engagement of people who aren't typically a part of these conversations - primarily white parents - and helping them understand the power that they have to influence and shift the political will in a positive direction. But, again, we benefit from the racial justice research and work that’s been done in St. Louis for generations and that is happening alongside our work today.

EmbraceRace: So, give us some basics. How many people are you engaging through We Stories? And how do you get those particular families that you engage, how do they know about you and so on? Laura?

Laura: So we've work directly with 700 families to date. And at this point we welcome up to 100 families at a time three times a year. We started with a pilot in November of 2015 with 80 families who heard about our work from word of mouth and through a series of focus groups that we had done. And when families come to us, their initial motivation is often simply, like, "I don't want my kids to be a jerk. And I want to handle this really important topic. I don't want to do the wrong thing."

So what we then do is take that like really core motivation that I think is really shared amongst all parents to want to make the world better for your kids, to really want to do right by your kids. And we tap into that back and forth between parents and children as an opportunity to really connect adults with their own learning journey. I think your early parenting years are one of the most fruitful times in adult development to think about who you are. And I think there are a few other programs like ours that use that as an opportunity then to ask people to look deeper at their racial identity and how they live out systemic racism and what their role is in that.

What we do concretely is we provide families with diverse children's books that feature protagonists of color. They address skin color and other phenotypic differences in age appropriate language for kids. And we ask them to get started having these conversations and provide some resources to do that, some discussion resources. We bring this group together several times, in large part to help burst this feeling of isolation so that you see pretty instantly that this is not a concern rattling around in your own head uniquely. It’s shared, and it has something to do with how we're socialized as white folks. And, what would we need to do differently for our kids?

And we form a peer learning community amongst the participants through a closed Facebook group and ongoing discussions. And we have like a 12-week learning program with more books, more resources for parents, more community. At which point, once that conversation is well-seeded and going inside people's hearts, like they pretty much feel like they want to do more. They might want to take those conversations up with their neighbors or with their extended families or in their schools. And our alumni, who are the folks who have already been through the program, we basically focus on organizing them to be advocates across our region in the local municipalities that they're part of in their schools. And that's really what we're focused on building now, that we're about several hundred strong and several years into this. So we have current alumni who are running for local elected office. We have folks who are really active in their school communities. We have had several occasions where our community has really turned out for huge in the street protests.

Kira: Can I jump in there?

EmbraceRace: Definitely, please come in. I'd love you to say what you're going to say and to talk about the scope of your own work. But I also wonder if you could speak to, in light of, obviously you've collectively laid out some really some big challenges facing St. Louis, facing the country. Clearly many that we consider intractable in the context of race. But your work, both groups, is gaining traction. Now I wonder if you could say something about what would we see that would tell us that things are getting better? How do you know in your work? In three years or in five years or whatever timeframe you think is appropriate, when do we know that we've really been doing, our effort has contributed to movement in the right direction?

Kira: I have a couple of thoughts about that.

I think one is in St. Louis something that we've seen since Mike Brown was killed, we have heard people say the words "racism" and say the words "white supremacy" and not to get run out of the room. And that is different. That's different than what was happening in 2012 when I moved back here. And so I think one thing that we would see when there's success is some shared language. And it's not that everyone, everyone has a shared language, but that a good majority of people understand racism and white supremacy are systems that are operating and that we have pushed enough people out of the individual racism only framework, that we're having different conversations.

Kira: And I think an example of that speaks to one of the recent string of events in our society but in our city, where there were 10 young black children who were just starting at Washington University. They were leaving IHop and were stopped by police because IHop had gotten a call that there was a, IHop had had called the police that there was a dine and dash. These children showed, some of them showed the police their receipts and the police forced them to walk back to the IHop where the manager said, "Well no they're not the ones." There's been this outcry in Clayton, which is the neighborhood that surrounds this very elite university, and I believe just two years ago we would not have a rally, a protest happening in Clayton, Missouri tomorrow night organized by several We Stories Families and other organizations. We wouldn't have that in Clayton. We might have had it in St. Louis.

And then today a black woman was kicked at the local gas station -- it happened this morning. People went and blocked the doors and the gas pumps until the police came and arrested the man, the manager of the store, who kicked this black woman. I think those are examples of how things are working and I'm not one to be Pollyanna and say, "Oh yeah our work is done," in any way but I feel like that is a sign of change. And so in my work, and in Raising Equity in particular, I try to share some of my thoughts and how I have these conversations with my kids because I think that with the little very ones we often, it feels like we can protect them more and read them books and frame how things might be. But with these older kids, they're getting called racial slurs. They're having to hear about these incidents that are happening in the city and to navigate it. And so I feel my work is attempting to make transparent some of those tough conversations that parents of older kids are having to have because of the nature of race and racism. 

Dr. Kira Hudson Banks on Raising Equity

EmbraceRace: I do want everyone to check out Kira’s Raising Equity YouTube videos. They're really fantastic and very accessible.

Kira: Thanks.

EmbraceRace: I love the glass of wine, also.

Kira: Prayer and wine. When I first had children I said that's how I'm going to make it through - prayer and wine.

EmbraceRace: Ha! And you make a great point about how the conversation for many white people is shifting. It's not, "Are you racist or not racist?" It's more, "This is a system that we play a part in. What are we going to do about it? Are we anti-racist?” You can’t be a passive anti-racist. And being “not racist” just isn’t a thing. I appreciate that answer.

Laura and Adelaide, did you want to chime in to what Kira said or to respond her? I think I saw you wanting to break in ...

Adelaide: I would just echo to say that I think the examples that Kira just gave demonstrate a readiness for action and a lot of coordination that wasn't always present. Continuing to build towards that and knowing people are there to back each other up is incredibly important. So in response to the incident that Kira was talking about, there were many calls for her to weigh in on Facebook and actually do a video. They're like, "Help us understand the big questions that we should be asking here. Kira, can you please address this?" So I think that speaks really well to using the resources and developing that shared language and analysis and understanding and actually leveraging the talent that we have in our region to solve the problems that we're facing.

​EmbraceRace: Nice!

EmbraceRace Community Q&A

EmbraceRace: OK, so I'm starting with a question from Meghan who asks: how does We Stories handle the tension between the desire of white middle class folks to feel good and comfortable and the need to challenge white fragility and white supremacy with radical authenticity?

Laura: First, I think it's important to explain that we work with a racial caucusing model [often called racial affinity groups or intra group work]. And we do that because of the analysis that Adelaide shared about what was already happening in our region and what was missing. And it felt to us that given the strength of the movement in the streets, the clear policy recommendations, the really robust diversity and inclusion community, that what was missing was leveraging political will amongst more white folks. So our approach is to develop a culture of invitation. So we kind of assume that most people want to be in conversation with us and invite them in. So we might not start by talking to them about white supremacy, but we're going to use those words and we say, "Yes, come for the books. But this is about more than books. This is about where we sit in our region and the very known problem we face of racial inequity." And so we always start there. So people don't always meet us there. They start out like, "Well, I just want the perfect book recommendation and I'm not sure if I'm ready to talk about this." But what we found is in building a community of people who are journeying together that folks bring each other along and it's much easier to move further in that journey once other people who are already demonstrating that radical authenticity. And you see that a lot in our community and I know it's moved each of us that people will say, "Well I feel like I'm not sure if my reactions to this event is really what's getting centered at the moment," and talk about those sorts of things and other people be like, "I really have no idea what you're talking about." And that holding together of space happens. So that that's how we handle that.

EmbraceRace: So I'll direct this one to Adelaide, a related question. Has We Stories gotten pushback about being all white?

Adelaide: So we are not an all-white community. We are very clear that our goal is to build up political will and mobilize an untapped group of parents and families to weigh in and care about policy towards racial equity. Our work is steeped in racial identity development. And it's also steeped in understanding whiteness and how that gets in the way and how that's unnamed and unacknowledged for most of us. We, anybody who wants to participate can participate. About 15 percent of our community are multiracial families, and that includes a variety of different kinds of family constellations. And of course we do have some families of color in parts of the state as well. Getting involved with our organization is as simple as, "I don't know how to talk about race with my children and I would like a community in which I can explore that and we can learn together, and I want some tools." Everybody's invited to that experience. But we are clearly saying, "We're coming from a place of socialization in which where I was brought up, the way I was brought up was this was not talked about. And in fact it was bad to talk about it." And that is mostly ascribed to many white families, that's true for them. And we base much of what we do on research to say that we know that's true for white families across the region. So I think we're clear in our purpose. I know that racial caucusing is confusing to folks. There are scores of literature and scholarship on this and there's a lot to point to in terms of the efficacy of the approach. But yeah I think, Kira, I'd be curious how you talk about racial caucusing or the value of it in terms of this kind of work.

Kira:Yeah I do point people to the research that says that within-group work can increase people's confidence and competence to have the across group interactions. And I also remind people that it's developmentally appropriate. So we don't talk about all the football players sitting together at the cafeteria or all the cheerleaders wanting to hang out those. So why do we get so frustrated and upset when people want to talk within group around these social constructs, race being one of them? So I try to push back and say there's lots of ways that we allow people to congregate, Sunday mornings – you know church, religion - we allow that and we respect it. Why do we push back when it happens with race? I think we push back because we're uncomfortable and we don't trust each other in these conversations. So when people say, "Why are we having these segregated conversations? Isn't what we want the opposite of that?" Yes. And … within-group work is necessary to get us there.

EmbraceRace: Thanks, Kira. Let's stay with you for this next question from Allison. She is in a clergy family which means that she travels a lot, her family moves a lot. Kira, much of the work you do is, as you said, is grounded in community, is place-based. Laura and Adelaide also talk about how there are some pieces, some principles that are transferable but there work is also really grounded in a particular place with a particular history and particular dynamics. Allison wants to know, since she won't be in any given place long-term, what should she do. She asks: “do I simply focus on my son and his awareness as opposed to engaging community outside the family?”

Kira: Hmm. Interesting question. So I'm going to assume that this moving is within the United States. If it's within the United States I think there's a common narrative and history: the myth of meritocracy, the ways in which we've written race into how we do citizenship, and all sorts of things. So one thing I'd say is that there's that common thread no matter where you are in terms of teaching your son and helping him frame what's happening, the patterning that you see around place and education. So housing and education and access to education, that can be mapped across our country in metropolitan regions. And so I'd say as you learn more about the different systems, education is a really great one, especially with kids because they're going to be in it, to not hesitate to engage in the community where you are as a as a site of learning. I think about Adelaide's story in particular knowing, she's like, "I know this is not my forever place and this is going to be formative for my kids. And there are lessons to be learned."

So I would say, yes, focus on your child and use wherever you are as a as a learning platform. Use the history of where you are and you can always relay those larger themes about “meritocracy,” the patterns of education and segregation, deep culturalization - you can look for them almost like a scavenger hunt wherever you land.

Cover of Can We Talk about Race by Beverly Daniel Tatum, Ph.D.

EmbraceRace: Beautiful. So here's a question we received about books. “Can you suggest a good book for a parent book club to discuss the topic of how to raise our children to be race conscious and advocate for a more just world?” There are a lot of books! And there's a lot of research out there that is new. So the Internet might be the best place, but I wonder if you guys would have recommendations for places to start? Adelaide?

Adelaide: Yeah I think that there are an increasing number of books that are addressing this and focusing on the parenting angle. There's Can we Talk About Race? by Beverly Daniel Tatum who Kira was talking to you about earlier. And I think there's a series of new titles that we hear about often in our community. I recommend using children's books like the ones we use and working through them with children. I'm more willing to suggest that then getting another parenting book that's talking about how-to.
Yeah I think that there are an increasing number of books that are addressing this and focusing on the parenting angle. 

Cover of Heart and Soul by Kadir Nelson

So the way that I've chosen to nurture my own journey is do my own learning and think about adult resources and history that I've been missing and then as it relates to parenting, find places where I can engage in conversation with my kids. And for me a lot of that has been around history. So there's a wonderful book by Kadir Nelson that's called Heart and Soul. And I feel like it should be coffee table book on every on every family's coffee table or in their home or next to their bedside table. It has so much history. The artwork is beautiful. And I think that working through that as a family and exploring the questions that come up and seeing where that takes you is really effective. (See video below.)

Adelaide: White parents love a how-to book! We really want like all of our steps and I want to do it exactly right. What I've learned from our community is that just starting conversation and making the learning journey shared before you have all your ducks in a row is a lot more effective.

EmbraceRace: Kira, do you want to add to that?

Cover of A Different Mirror for Young People by Ronald Takaki

Kira: I don't know that I, yeah. So I was going to say what you said -  there's so much new research coming out that the Internet is a great place to start. But I wouldn't be able to name just one book. I liked, Adelaide, what you said in terms of delving into the literature that our children are reading and learning in that way. One of the things that I've done is found things like there's a History of US series that my son uses in his middle school class. And so it's like history from a more multicultural perspective. And so I've found reading those in pieces sometimes ahead of him or sometimes if I know what units they are going to be working on, I can spark up conversations. Or A Different Mirror which is a multicultural history book. So having my kids, kids who are a little bit older, I try to have stories and people that I can weave into stuff that's happening in our lives or topics. Like colorism is one that's gotten a lot of attention recently. And so trying to think about people that they might know or talk about skin color in our family and how different people are treated. I'm really a fan of trying to use what's around us and not make it too much like extra education like, "I need to teach you this!"

EmbraceRace: One of the things that we love about what all three of you are doing is that you are encouraging and supporting people to hold themselves accountable. If we think, gosh, there's a lot of racial inequity, it's really easy to point to people who have all kinds of institutional power as the ones who are responsible. Laura said earlier, "Yeah, we engage a lot of people who at first don't see ourselves as responsible either for the problem or for its solution," which is, I mean, I think that's the rule.

Laura: Right.

EmbraceRace: So do you think this concern, the concerns that you're bringing and the ways to approach and remedy those concerns, is that being institutionalized? Is that going to survive four years, eight years from now? Will people be doing this work? Has it gotten that kind of traction?

Kira: OK. I would say that I feel like the work that I've done is institutionalized in a school that I've worked with. So I started working with a Montessori charter school in 2012. They now have up and down throughout their infrastructure antibias, antiracism framing in their board and their staff, with the parents, with the curriculum and with the children. And so that's one place where I feel really proud, like my work had impact there and it helped to create an infrastructure. And I didn't do all that work but I helped them to frame what it looks like to make this last. So that it goes beyond an individual. So it goes beyond me. It goes beyond who's the head of school. So I think when we can go back and forth between the individual accountability, being in community and acting, and transforming systems, we can do that work and think in all of those different ways. But we are always looking for opportunities to institutionalize this. How will this outlive me? How can it outlive me, because it must if we're going to make longstanding change. The Kellogg Foundation estimates that it takes a generation – that’s 25 years needed to see change. So that means we've got to be at it for a long time and I don't know if I can make it for 25 years. It's exhausting. So I need to institutionalize it so other people can pick up the mantle.

Adelaide: And I think that the related link there is the power of socialization practices and the power of culture. Culture seeps across institutions and kind of flavors the environment. So I think the other thing about parents especially. Parents don't necessarily see themselves as part of an institution. But the work that they're doing as parents and the messages that they're giving to their kids, unless they're taking a ton of direction from school or maybe a faith community, they are almost figuring it out on their own and they're resorting to what they knew or what they learned in order to recreate that with their own kids.

So where our work really intersects is to think about, how are we shifting the culture of socialization? I really believe that the kids that are growing up in St. Louis today, right now, they will have a really fundamentally different experience. I think it will be very hard for them to not be touched by all the work that's happening – just like the work that Kira is talking about very specifically at the school she worked with, where it's been institutionalized – that work with that one school is having an impact on the region. It's serving as a leadership model to other schools and to other groups of parents. It's shifting where people want to live. It's shifting the kinds of neighborhoods that they're creating and other schools are looking to that school as a model. And so that culture and those practices are bleeding into lots of other places. So I think that we can think about it institution by institution but also just creating a shared practice and shared work together sort of goes across those boundaries too.

Laura: Yeah I would just add that, as Andrew was saying earlier about holding two truths at once. When you have the opportunity to do the kind of work we're doing where we really see hundreds of families who really own this thing that we're doing. It means a lot to them and to me that helps me know that this is sustainable in lots and lots of ways. We've touched a lot of lives and that feels so important. And you know when I measure my hope-o-meter, that always gives it a kick.

At the same time, our challenges are huge! And I mean our region, like the country at large, everyday gives us a new reason to think like there is no will for this to change. This is really deeply entrenched. All those things. So I think it's also about how you hold struggle and having a broader community that holds that together and works together to keep going. Even when it's not clear if we're going to be able to make the lasting change that we dream of but we're kind of doing it together. That feels real here. 

Kira: I agree. And I also feel like there's a way in which many people of color have felt this sort of dire and the direness and the threat. And it's a lot of white folks who are waking up to be like, "Wait this is really bad." I mean it's still really bad for people of color. I think about Nia [Wilson], a young woman who was killed in San Francisco on the BART. And I'm traveling to San Francisco in a couple weeks and I use the BART. So I'm not trying to minimize but I feel a little bit like it's if you play Spades or Euchre or something where it's like bring them out. Like you lead with this suit so that everyone has to show their hand and where I feel like we're at a time in our country where a lot is being shown that many of us knew was going on and was deep-seeded and continues. And so yeah like, "Yep that's what it is. Oh yeah look at that. Oh yeah that's popped up again." And so what's awesome to me is that we're able to cross racial lines in a way that we weren't able to do just a few years ago - to be able to talk about it and name it. And yes it's scary. And … we're able to kind of come together and say it's scary not just be in our corners, if that makes sense.

Laura: Absolutely. The Euchre analogy is a big hit with Midwestern crowd. Great job, Kira.

EmbraceRace: And that’s a great note to end on. Thanks so much!

Kira: Thank you.

Adelaide: Thanks for having us.

EmbraceRace: Hopefully we'll see each other in person sometime.

Laura: Come to St. Louis. We would love to have you!

Resources Mentioned

For more about our guests and their organizations:

​We Stories
Raising Equity
Dr. Kira’s website

Books for Parents/Caregivers

Why are all the Black kids sitting together in the cafeteria? By Beverly Daniel Tatum
Can we talk about race? By Beverly Daniel Tatum

Children and Family Books

Heart and Soul by Kadir Nelson
A Different Mirror for Young Readers by Ronald Takaki

More about racial caucusing/ racial affinity groups

Racial Equity Tools
Crossroads
OAR Alliance
Roots of Justice Training:  POC CaucusingWhite Caucusing

Dr. Kira Hudson Banks

Dr. Kira Hudson Banks has been working to support individuals and groups to understand themselves, others and systems of oppression for over 20 years. Kira enjoys facilitating difficult dialogues and has been described as making complex and controversial topics accessible and intergroup interactions more understandable. She has done so in schools, communities, institutions of higher education and international corporations. Currently, Dr. Banks is an Associate Professor in the Department of Psychology at Saint Louis University, where she teaches and conducts research. She also serves in a consulting capacity to many organizations and regional initiatives such as the Ferguson Commission. Recently Kira launched a YouTube Channel to translate psychological concepts for lay people. One series on the channel is Raising Equity, which explores ways to intentionally raise children with the knowledge and understanding of systemic inequities and to equip them with the skills to create an equitable society rather than accept the status quo. She is a long-time St. Louis resident and mother of two. Find out more about Kira at her website.
Dr. Kira Hudson Banks

We Stories

Laura Horwitz and Adelaide Lancaster are co-founders of We Stories, a St. Louis-based non-profit that engages white families in the work of racial justice, seeking to both enhance our region's will for change and lessen our community's racial disparities. Our flagship program uses children's books to help white families start and strengthen their conversations about racism, creatively leveraging the best available research on racial bias formation and habit change. We then employ systems thinking to produce powerful ripple effects and region-wide impact through community building and community organizing efforts. We Stories has engaged more than 700 families in 2.5 years.

Laura Horwitz

Laura Horwitz, Executive Director and mom of two, returned to St. Louis in 2014 bringing with her expertise in non-profit management, organizational development, program design, and community organizing. She's a strong leader and systems thinker who can appreciate the complexity of factors, forces, and dynamics that keep us stuck in patterns that hurt us all.

Adelaide Lancaster

Adelaide Lancaster, Director of Community and Collaboration and mom of three, first moved to St. Louis in 2012 after earning her community-building stripes working with women entrepreneurs in NYC for 12 years. She's a creative force who loves to convene and mobilize people. Adelaide is passionate about doing her part to dismantle racism and is captivated by the role parenting plays in racial socialization.


  • Share
  • facebook
  • twitter