Supporting Kids Of Color Amid Racialized Violence: Part Two
Our guests take your questions.
EmbraceRace co-founders, Andrew Grant-Thomas and Melissa Giraud, brought questions submitted by you all — the EmbraceRace community — to child psychologist Dr. Allison Briscoe-Smith and educator Dr. Sandra “Chap” Chapman.
Listen to the full conversation or read an edited transcript below. The resources recommended in this conversation are listed at the end of the transcript. Hear our previous, related conversation with Allison and Chap here: Part 1.
EmbraceRace: We got so many fantastic questions which we grouped into categories. The first category of question is about preschoolers.
What’s appropriate to tell preschoolers about race, especially preschoolers of color?
An educator had this very specific question about children of color and police. She says: “I am white and work with preschool teachers as a consultant. I advise them to speak about police as being helpers of young children. Very young children are so black-and-white in their thinking and I wouldn’t want a very young child to not ask for help. Do you have ideas about being honest with young children and also not putting too much work on them to figure out how to interact with police?”
Chap: One of the resources that I fall back on time and time again when thinking about my work with really young children is from Stacy York. She wrote Roots and Wings, Affirming Culture in Early Childhood Programs.
She created a list of general themes that are appropriate for kids to be really thinking about. And teachers can find ways of incorporating these conversations for really young children. Things like: everyone is worthy; everyone is equal; everyone deserves respect; people are similar and they are different; there are specific characteristics that people come with in terms of their facial features and skin tone and differences.
So a basic understanding of human diversity, from the pre-school perspective, gets to affirming really young children, which is an important component to this conversation of racial socialization and then addressing the bigger issues around racial stress and school situations.
I think a lot of people are trying to figure out, how do I teach them everything right now? And my answer to that is … don’t teach them everything right now!
Dr. Allison Briscoe-Smith
EmbraceRace: Allison did you want to get in on that?
Allison: Sure. As I read and understand the questions, a lot of people have questions about when and how to do these things and how to do so in a developmentally appropriate way. I like the framing of that and what Chap is offering is a developmentally tailored opportunity to talk to and work with and be with your kids around issues of race.
I think a lot of people are trying to figure out, how do I teach them everything right now? And my answer to that is: don’t teach them everything right now!
Hopefully we’re going to have a long relationship with our children — and teachers will and schools will — such that this conversation builds over time. So let’s think about the foundation.
What should we tell young children about police?
Allison: In terms of police, in particular, Mr. Rogers has that quote:
“When I was a boy and I would see scary things in the news, my mother would say to me, ‘Look for the helpers. You will always find people who are helping.”
So what if we actually teach our kids to identify helpers? How would you know who is a helper? How could you tell? How would you feel if someone was helping you? Those are things that we can do pretty early that move the conversation beyond just police. And just think about, well, how do I tell when someone is helping me? And of course that’s complicated. But we can begin that conversation really early.
How to fortify kids, especially kids of color, against racism without freaking them out?
Dr. Allison Briscoe-Smith is a child psychologist specializing in trauma and ethnic minority mental health at the Wright Institute in SF. She identifies as Black.
EmbraceRace: The next set of questions is around supporting kids without freaking them out. So this is clearly related to the preschool question. But of course we have the same concern, maybe not the same level to the same degree, with older children.
Isolda says, for example, and I’m quoting, “Our son understands racism intellectually but is still only 12 emotionally. Well-meaning teachers discussing the election in class forget this is no regular election and that topics like police brutality and immigration have a direct impact on us and our loved ones.”
Sandra asks a broader version of the same question: “How do we prepare children for discussions on racialized violence without instilling fear or priming them to be fearful? [How do we] empower them rather than scare them?”
Allison: I think actually Chap set the foundation for this which is the focus on being affirming. So before reacting to a bad event, can we actually begin and have a foundation with our kids that’s affirming?
So what are the ways in which we’re actually connecting our kids with cultural pride, ethnic pride, and feeling good about oneself, about one’s body, one’s hair — all of those kinds of things. Pointing out and identifying people of our cultural group, people of color that are doing good things in the world, really beginning with the examples and the affirmations that are going to help build up, build us out. So I think we have to begin on the plus side of the equation.
Secondly, I like to work with parents as a therapist to think about what is it that we’re afraid of. Oftentimes when people are saying, I don’t want my kids to be afraid, we’re actually saying I’m scared too. So we have to do the work upfront with ourselves to figure out if I, as a grown person, am scared, why wouldn’t my child be scared too? It’s realistic. I don’t know how to talk about police brutality with kids such that it’s not scary because it is scary.
But I do know how to titrate information in a developmentally appropriate way that’s combined with affirmations and with how we want to parent our kids in general that can help them navigate. It doesn’t mean they’re not stressed out, it doesn’t mean that they don’t have big feelings about it. We have to be clear that our goal isn’t necessarily to make sure that kids don’t have big feelings about messed-up things. So I’d like to have people think a little bit more about that and perhaps ask themselves the question, what am I afraid of? What do I think I can do and offer for my child? And how would I like to be supportive?
There is a relationship between what parents are doing to positively socialize their children, help them become aware of racial bias but also instilling that sense, as Allison said, of racial pride, and how schools can do similar work.
How can schools support healthy racial identity development?
Chap: Agreed. I also think it’s important for us to remember that racial socialization happens both at home and at school. So the comments that are made in school — whether it’s for the tween years, or the early childhood years, upper elementary or the high school years — around race socializes children as much as it happens at home. And that there is a relationship between what parents are doing to positively socialize their children, help them become aware of racial bias but also instilling that sense, as Allison said, of racial pride, and how schools can do similar work.
A recent conversation that our Head of School at our school had with our middle school students — fifth through eighth grade students — included asking them point blank, what are the current topics being discussed in today’s debate? And they listed racial profiling, immigration, Islamophobia police brutality, equal pay for women, LGBTQ rights.
The list went on and these were fifth through eighth graders who are very aware what the media is talking about, are watching the debates with family members, perhaps even without, are taking in information that their peers are sharing, and then are also hearing from their families and hearing from their school.
If we want them — we being the adults that care for them — want them to have support around those conversations, we have to engage them where they are, have them ask the questions that are relevant for them. What questions are they asking and how do we answer them honestly, but also developmentally? What information do we know that they’re coming with, and how do we add on to that? How do we demystify this idea that talking about race is a bad thing. Obviously it isn’t, if it’s informing our children’s lives and informing their sense of self as well.
How to support kids who are already traumatized due to their experience as part of a targeted group?
EmbraceRace: We’ve gotten a lot of questions from all over the spectrum about supporting kids who have already been racially traumatized. So comments and questions like how to help Latino immigrant children who’ve been traumatized. How to help kids who are carrying a huge amounts of stress over the murder of peers relatives friends. Comments about Native Americans and trauma.
A women who adopted transracially — a white mother who adopted a black daughter — says, “My daughter, age 11, is personally traumatized each time she hears of yet another black person being killed by a white officer.” We also have a question from a mother dealing with the death of her partner by police. She has a four-year-old son and a 10-year-old daughter and is not sure how to help them because the news just triggers it for them again.
So that’s a lot. Pretty incredible the range of questions here, the range of contexts. How do we help kids who’ve already been traumatized deeply?
Allison: What I’d rather do is point people to resources because it would take a lot of time individually to address all those very important and painful questions. But the first thing I want to say, and I know that Chap and I agree on this, is that there are resources available. I want people to know that there is help out there.
In the context of the intersection of trauma and violence, for example for the family that dealing with the loss of a parent with young children, I would point to the Child Trauma Research Project that puts forth research on the child-parent psychotherapy model, specifically for grief and loss.
I would also point people who are interested in learning more about the actual therapies or resources available for trauma and racialized violence to the National Child Traumatic Stress Network. They have a ton of resources that help people think about this, including webinars and links to therapies that work.
And I saw a number of questions raised around the transracial adoptive experience. And I would point people to another organization called PACT which also specializes in adoption of kids of color and has lots of resources including a week-long camp where kids get to come together and do a lot of healing and talking. And parents get a lot of support. So there is help out there for addressing trauma that is at this intersection of oppression and racialized violence.
There are many resources for educators to start to become aware of how racialized violence is manifesting itself in children’s bodies and in their behavior.
Dr. Sandra "Chap" Chapman
Dr. Sandra “Chap” Chapman is the Director of Equity and Community at the Little Red School House and Elizabeth Irwin High School in New York City. She identifies as Latina.
EmbraceRace: Chap, I do want to come to you with a follow up specifically about the school context and what teachers and other educators can do, how they might recognize the signs of trauma.
We also have some questions from parents who are concerned about or have the experience of teachers not being aware, and speaking, they felt, blithely about what’s happening in the world without appreciating that some of the students in their classes might actually have a very different experience, or that it might land very differently with those students. Presumably those teachers weren’t able to recognize the possibility of trauma or even the signs of trauma where they might exist.
Is there anything you can say to teachers who might be listening about how they might recognize the signs of trauma in students?
Chap: Yes. I’m going to add another resource, which is the Child Mind Institute. They lift by age group — two to five-year-olds, six to eleven-year-olds. What are the signs of trauma? Behavioral issues. Moodiness. Repeating the incident over and over again to anyone who will listen. Or avoiding a particular traumatic experience as if it had never actually happened even though you as a teacher are clearly aware that it has. Either avoiding social interactions or engaging very aggressively with social peers.
So I think that there are, again, as Allison said so clearly and strongly, many resources for educators to start to become aware of how racialized violence is manifesting itself in children’s bodies and in their behavior. For the older students, it’s this inability to access academic information for the test coming up or for the assignment because their mind is preoccupied with other things that are happening to their neighbors, their friends, themselves, their family members.
The other thing that I wanted to point out, and again it’s from the Child Mind Institute — they talk about how important it is for the adults to take care of themselves. And whether that’s the school providing a forum for parents to come and talk about racialized violence and its impact on them as well as their children with other adults in the school, or recommendations that the school can make for the family member to get some help, to have a resource available.
I think it’s really important, in order for us to do our best to take care of our children we also need to take care that these things are traumatic for us as well as adults.
How to help racially traumatized, stressed and anxious kids in a school setting?
EmbraceRace: I’m going to go on to another set of questions around supporting kids in the school context. But it encompasses a broader set of concerns than the trauma one.
And you’ve begun to speak to some of these certainly, but Tirzah asks, “What skills do teachers need in order to support children who are experiencing anxiety or toxic stress due to witnessing or hearing about racialized violence? What do teachers need to know about social emotional well-being and psychology in order to support their students in these situations? And would developing these skills look different for teachers who are white versus people of color?”
Chap: Ali Michael wrote Raising Race Questions and she’s a white educator. She wrote this book for white educators to really think about their racial socialization, their racial identity, whiteness, and its role in educating children of all racial backgrounds. And one of the things she advocates is that ALL educators really understand themselves as racial beings.
How do I know about, and where do I learn more about my own racial socialization, from a historical context, from a personal context? What questions do I have that will help me learn more about myself as a racial being?
And while that work is happening it’s also very important to begin to understand the racial makeup of the children in the class, in the school in general. That foundation of racial identity is being talked about and written about over and over and over again. There are lots of resources that we will share absolutely after this talk. But these are entry point for teachers to begin to think about this work from that foundational level.
Another great resource is Teaching Tolerance’s AntiBias Framework and they again start with supporting and affirming individual children’s identities in the classroom, to understanding and respecting the diversity of different people.
Recognizing that there are stereotypes, there is power and privilege, unfairness does happen and that there is a level from the preschool through the 12th grader and beyond to take action to develop a sense of personal responsibility and then collective action.
The Teaching Tolerance Anti-bias Framework really lays out all four of those components — identity, affirmation, justice, and action — from the preschool to the 12th grade level. And that’s a way in which teachers can support kids of color and school kids of all racial backgrounds with a framework because this work isn’t easy and it’s easier when you can rely on some work that’s been done that’s been researched and followed by many other educators.
That racial anxiety that families of color, or a parent raising a child of color, have, it’s because they want to make sure that in the many hours that child was in the school context in the school setting that they will be affirmed and supported and validated and heard. And that’s not always the case.
Dr. Sandra "Chap" Chapman
How should parents approach teachers (and vice versa) about racial dynamics and biases at school?
EmbraceRace: We got a question from a white teacher about a lack of trust that minority parents have with white teachers who are trying to support kids racially — “they don’t necessarily want to have the conversation” is what this white teacher wrote.
And in the other direction as well: how do I support my kids in a school context when racism is so institutionalized? How do I talk to counselors and administrators about Islamophobia when they don’t understand that a 9/11 commemoration conflates Islam and terrorism and has a lot of backlash for Muslim students? I wonder whether in your role that’s been an issue — trust between teachers and parents on race?
Chap: Absolutely. And this is where I fall back on some of the research on implicit bias, racial anxiety, and stereotype threat in school settings. There are reasons why families of color, or families raising children of color, have concerns about a white teacher’s ability to be able to navigate these conversations and do so well and with some level of proficiency.
And that the anxiety that families of color, or a parent raising a child of color, have, is because they want to make sure that in the many hours that child is in the school setting that they will be affirmed and supported and validated and heard. And that’s not always the case.
Research has shown that white teachers can be racially anxious around interracial conversations and navigating racial violence — and that anxiety has an impact on them.
The research is showing that teachers will stumble, make less eye contact, forget what points they’re trying to make. They’ll brush over huge concepts around race and racism, internalized racism, power and privilege because they’re worried about how to deliver the information with either an all- white class or a mixed-race class, or worry about the aftermath when the children of color go home and share it with their families.
One of the golden nuggets I’ve learned from the Perception Institute is that when we are less racially anxious it actually leads to greater and longer racial interactions and dialogue and conversation.
So learning that research, understanding the role that implicit bias has on our own psyche and how racial anxiety is playing out in these classroom situations, can lead teachers into longer conversations with the families, bringing them onboard, hearing the questions and concerns that families have, and directly asking, too: This is what I’m thinking about. Do you have some thoughts to share? What’s the story behind your experience? And really bringing them vividly into the classroom with storytelling.
Allison: There’s another great resource that supports the ideas that Chap has laid out about racial stress and why racial dialogues fall apart.
I refer folks who are really interested in this to Howard Stevenson’s work. I also heard one of the questions was how do I work with my teachers or how do I work with the school? He’s actually done a bunch of work about how it is that parents of color make decisions about where their kids go to school.
He’s got a book that I find particularly useful called Promoting Racial Literacy in the Classroom. There’s also a specific kind of guide around how he supports kids of color to negotiate predominantly white spaces. But it lays down good premises for how to help support kids in negotiating race and racism. But I think, lastly, it also helps parents think about how could they frame this conversation with their child’s teacher.
EmbraceRace: So we’re not supposed to wait until we feel great about the conversation to have it.
Allison: No. Before we got on the call, we were talking about the idea of scripting. Actually spending time thinking about what would you like to say? How would you like the conversation to go? What’s your hope for outcomes? What is it that you worry about happening? I think it’s great to do that level of preparation in groups, with other peers, other parents, other folks that you’re connected with that can help you think it through.
And the idea is not to go in with the perfect script, but rather having an opportunity to feel supported in what you’re saying in what is going to be a difficult conversation. And Howard Stevenson points to some ideas about scripting and role playing that I think are quite helpful in terms of addressing racial anxiety.
Chap: Ali Michael also talks about how important it is for white colleagues to “call in” white colleagues as opposed to “calling them out.” It can be a very supportive environment when white colleagues are looking to their white colleagues for support around this work.
A phrase she uses is “racial micro-proficiencies,” everyday practices that white teachers can engage in to help create proficiencies around racial conversations and racial dialogue.
And having safe spaces within white affinity spaces where you’re asking your colleagues to check on a syllabus that you have, on a reading list, a script you might have, to check on a conversation you had with a parent. But also to receive the questions that you got from parents as a way into the conversation as opposed to a moment to get called out.
It’s OK to begin having a conversation with kids about allyship. You might use a different language about what it means to be kind or what it means to be a friend. In our family we talk specifically about what is an ally, how could you tell if you were being an ally?
Dr. Allison Briscoe-Smith
How to help kids of color and all kids be allies to others who are positioned differently from them?
EmbraceRace: Allison and Chap, you’ve both heard this story. We [Andrew and Melissa] have an 8-year old. And this question gets to how we support our kids to be supportive of other kids who are going through difficulties. Because we’ve talked already in this short conversation about a lot of different groups of kids who presumably have different sensitivities to various bits of news in their immediate worlds or literally on national news.
So our story is about our 8 year old who came out of her room one night in tears. Turns out she was worried about Donald Trump possibly becoming president. So our question was, what specifically is so upsetting about the prospect of Donald Trump becoming president? And she said, because if he becomes president he’s going to build a wall and his wall is literally going to separate our family of four in half — with the two darker-skinned people on one side and the two lighter-skinned people on the other side. And so we had a conversation with her.
But one thing that came up in that conversation is that we are all U.S. citizens. This issue of the wall and of the immigrant deportation force Donald Trump talks about, which our daughter had a vague idea about, of course is of the greatest, most immediate concern to immigrant families, to undocumented immigrants, to their kids who might be born here but have parents or aunts, uncles who are here and undocumented.
And for those families and communities it is a very, very live issue. So for us or others the question is: how do we talk about the Wall with our daughter without only saying, don’t worry about it. You know that’s not going to happen to you because you aren’t in that threatened category of people.
And more affirmatively, how do we encourage her to be empathetic to those children for whom it is a very live possibility?
Allison: Thank you for sharing that. We know that this story is unfolding in many households. Southern Poverty Law Center did a study that found that rates of anxiety for kids of color are going up, and rates of anti-immigrant bullying are going up. And I would think about a couple of different things.
Even as I remember you telling the story, there was a way that you were beginning to frame or continuing to frame allyship. And I think it’s okay to begin having a conversation with kids about allyship.
You might use a different language about what it means to be kind or what it means to be a friend. In our family we talk specifically about what is an ally, how could you tell if you were being an ally?
As was true for the questions asked before, it’s important to titrate the information for what you know about her, her temperament and her development, and also the immediate need at that moment — to help to calm her down so she can get back to sleep. So you could get to sleep! You don’t have to do everything all at once in that moment. But perhaps first she needed comfort and to know it’s OK, we’re going to stay safe.
But perhaps the next layer of the conversation — the next morning, the next day, or even perhaps as things were calm … But you know, there are some kids that are worried about this and that might be real for them. Can we think about what that might be like? Do you remember what it felt like, drawing on the parallels inher experience that will actually help her to empathize. And then using your own family language about allyship, whether it’s being a friend, or being loyal, or being a good person. And to go back to: what would it mean for you to be an ally? What are some things that we could do to be better allies?
I wrote a piece about how to talk to kids about Donald Trump, in part inspired by both your story and another story that was very similar. But we listed concrete things that people could do to help kids develop in their allyship. Like writing a letter or going to the voting place with you, things like that. And there are ways to do that that are respectful of everyone’s political beliefs, about how it is that we want to show and be kind and respectful and part of a global community as well.
But I really respect the ways that you were framing this idea of privilege, which I think is something we can do with kids really early. Kids get fair and not fair right off the bat.
We have had a long history with parent affinity groups … It’s not divisive. In fact, it strengthens our community and has continued to strengthen our community because parents really believe that they have a voice and that they have a forum for their concerns to be heard.
Dr. Sandra "Chap" Chapman
What are examples of structures schools use successfully to involve parents and guardians in creating anti-racist schools communities?
EmbraceRace: So I want to go back to the school context. We got a lot of questions about how parents can work with teachers to counter institutionalized racism. Are there good examples at your school of forums for parents and teachers to get together and talk through these issues in a group?
Chap: Yes. There are two forums and two ways that our school has done it. One is in our parent affinity groups. So we have a very active parents association and our parent affinity groups range from parents of children of color, parents in adoptive families, parents in Asian families, and each of those monthly meetings have safe spaces within the school.
First thing in the morning, families who are touched by that particular identity can come and get support from other members of the community, talk about the issues as they relate to raising their children. And then a key component to our parent affinity groups is that there is an advocacy and an educational piece.
The school cannot assume that they know what every child of racial/ethnic/ cultural differences needs. And our school is a predominantly white school. So we absolutely don’t want to pretend we know what every child needs. And so those forums, those safe spaces, provide information for the school community.
And there are channels of communication, so it’s not every family going to every teacher and saying I need this or I need that, but a real direct connection to the people in power to be able to communicate what’s happening for those particular families. And then the other forums are more crossracial conversations. So the other conversation our parent association runs is what we call “Courageous Conversations Around Race.”
Those specific affinity groups will meet up with the multicultural committee and hold a conversation that is relevant to all families within the community whether you are touched by that identity or touched by that particular conversation, or your children are friends with someone within that affinity group. Those are open to all within the community. Both of those serve different purposes.
Ultimately the goal is getting parents involved and communication between school and home, so that we as educators and administrators get a better sense of what’s happening for all the constituents within our school.
EmbraceRace: So for that to happen there has to be real leadership at the top?
Chap: Yes. We have had a long history with parent affinity groups. They started about 20 years ago with a group of families raising children of color saying that they needed to be able to talk with each other. An opportunity to come together to grapple with, what are the issues that are really core for our children? And how do we get support? And they wanted support from each other, they weren’t necessarily asking for support within the school.
I know of many schools that are at the beginning stages of this work, as well as schools that had been having affinity groups for a very long time. And a key component of that is that the senior administrative team, the heads of school, the directors of the program, are really aware of the role that affinity work plays in school situations, whether it’s student groups or parent affinity groups, or faculty affinity groups for that matter.
And then there’s this comfort level that a group of parents coming together to have a conversation around race or racism or culture and cultural differences is not in and of itself a bad thing. It doesn’t disrupt this community. It’s not divisive. In fact, it strengthens our community and has continued to strengthen our community because parents really believe that they have a voice and that they have a forum for their concerns to be heard.
What happens is the bully picks up the arms of the oppressor. And that is through heterosexism, racism, sexism, and body shaming, all the different ways and you can think about how oppression exists, those are the tools that bullies are often arming themselves with.
What can guardians and schools do about race-based bullying at school?
EmbraceRace: Now I want to ask about what one parent writing in called racial bullying. The several questions we got on this don’t really go into much detail about those particular circumstances. But I assume we’re talking about the bullying of one or more children by children with different racial identities — and maybe there’s certainty that race is a big part of the reason for the bullying.
The little complication I want to introduce is this realization that in general folks in the progressive community are much more comfortable talking about white/non-white instances of tension. But the truth is that in many places and in many schools, the tension among different communities of color is more salient than tension between whites and people of color.
I think of a friend whose Asian-American son was bullied by Latino kids. Of course that needed to stop — and she was going to advocate for her son. But she also well aware of racialized disciplinary issues.
She was aware that the school’s inclination might be to suspend or expel the boys who were bullying her son and she felt stuck. That’s not an outcome she wanted to precipitate with her intervention, yet an intervention was needed. So do you have any general advice? Racial bullying of course is an instance of racial violence, although probably not the kind of violence most people on this call had in mind when you joined in.
Allison: So bullying, period, takes the form of the obvious way that people can put each other down. The highest rates of bullying are typically around being gender non-conforming or using negative epithets around being LGBTQ. So that is wave one.
But then it’s physical appearance and physical appearance overlaps with race. I would say that bullying is bad, period. And then this is the form that it takes by race, by gender, by physical appearance. Anything that’s going to make people feel upset, that’s how bullying works. I think from that, to take the tenets we know about how to address bullying and then to apply it. I wouldn’t necessarily call it a special category around race. It’s troubling, it’s a problem.
And I think you’re also tapping into why would we see that between minorities?
Well, because we as minorities are especially sophisticated in knowing what that type of bullying or oppression is like. We know the words that people call us and we know how to use that against each other. So I think it’s the language that we have to kind of cause hurt amongst others because we know how we’ve been hurt there.
I think, you know, the idea that this woman that you mentioned is grappling with is, how can I protect my son and have some consequences, but also knowing that this kid, the Latino kid, might be disproportionately impacted by discipline.
I would really point to the role of restorative justice — if the schools are already using restorative practices or could be invited to do so. And the idea is that the goal isn’t to punish someone and kick them out, but to actually have the person who’s been harmed be heard and have behavior stop. We’ve been using a lot of those techniques within our schools in Oakland. And it has helped reduce our problematic discipline rate. It’s still a problem but less of one.
And so I’d really point to restorative justice as a mechanism for doing that. And also in thinking about why bullying happens in particular ways, to know that what happens is the bully picks up the arms of the oppressor. And that is through heterosexism, racism, sexism, and body shaming, all the different ways that oppression exists, those are the tools that bullies are often arming themselves with.
How can guardians and schools support multiracial kids in this conversation?
EmbraceRace: So I think it’s going to be the last question before we wrap up here. We’ve got a bunch of questions about multiracial kids, biracial kids and how they understand their experience, how they’re internalizing the racism they see that’s directed mostly, perhaps, towards one parent and not another parent. And possibly towards themselves, possibly not. Wondering how to help those kids understand their own identities, their own place in this, and how to feel proud of who they are and who their parents are?
Chap: A scholar that I really do love on this is Dr. Maria Root — she wrote the Multiracial Bill of Rights. And one of the things she talks about is how important it is to help children — biracial and multi-racial children — navigate their racial identity through the moment that they’re feeling, “I’m connected to one particular race in this moment,” then connected to the other race in a different moment. So there’s that piece of recognizing when the child is moving from one racial identity that they belong to the other.
EmbraceRace: Another resource. There’s a fabulous EmbraceRace blogger [shout out to Sara Momii Roberts!] who is herself biracial and has multiracial children. She wrote about Dr. Root’s Bill of Rights and did an exercise with her son who was eight at the time in which they amended the Bill of Rights from the perspective of the child and made it his own, which I thought was a really wonderful and affirming experience.
Chap: One other thought about how this is showing up at my school. A recent Latino heritage assembly where we had biracial half-white, half-Latino students talking about skin privilege, talking about the role of whiteness in their awareness of themselves as Latino beings, as racial beings. It’s important to give context to that and opportunities for reflective writing around skin differences and how that impacts a multi-racial, biracial child’s space and place in the world.
Allison: Dr. Root’s Bill of Rights is quite helpful. I think it’s something that would be great to read with children and help support children in feeling really affirmed around multiple identities, and that we really have to get more sophisticated as a nation in terms of being able to pay attention to the lived experiences of mixed heritage folks. Forcing people into a binary isn’t realistic and isn’t really their lived experiences.
I still struggle with it. We actually don’t have enough books about this. And that’s what I appreciate EmbraceRace for, having opportunities to think about how folks are helping to support their mixed heritage, multiracial kids to think through these issues. So I end with a plug back to the work that you all, that we all are doing. I think it’s an opportunity for us to think about how to support those kids.
EmbraceRace: Fantastic thank you. We’re at the end here. We are so honored to have all of you here. Chap and Allison, thanks again as usual for your fantastic contributions.
Resources mentioned in this conversation
- Roots and Wings: Affirming Culture in Early Childhood Programs by Stacy York.
- The National Child Traumatic Stress Network has extensive resources specifically to help families deal with the aftermath of trauma.
- The Child Trauma Research Program trains therapists around the country and may be able to connect you to face-to-face resources where you live.
- The Child Mind Institute also has trauma resources for differently aged kids.
- Raising Race Questions: Whiteness and Inquiry in Education by Ali Michael.
- Teaching Tolerance Anti-bias Framework
- Promoting Racial Literacy in Schools: Differences That Make a Difference by Howard Stevenson
- How to talk to your kids about Donald Trump by Allison Briscoe-Smith
- The Bill of Rights for Mixed Race People by Dr. Maria Root
- 5 things to know if you love a mixed-race kid by Sara-Momii Roberts
Dr. Sandra "Chap" Chapman
Dr. Allison Briscoe-Smith