Why and How Parents & Caregivers Can Nurture Friendships Between Kids of Color
Conversations about race and race relations in the US still are often framed in terms of how “White vs. Black” or “White vs. non-White” people interact and experience the world. But children growing up in our multicultural democracy increasingly interact across many different racial and ethnic lines. When relationships among communities of color do draw attention, the focus is typically on the tensions among them. Which is important, but far from the whole picture.
Let’s flip the script.
Watch this conversation about why and how parents and caregivers can nurture friendships and solidarity among children of color. We’re excited to be joined by EmbraceRace regulars Drs. Allison Briscoe-Smith and Anatasia Kim.
Also check out the related action guide.
EmbraceRace: We're excited to have this conversation with a couple guests that hopefully you've seen before.
We wanted to note upfront is that we've invited Allison and Anatasia to have a conversation that has some uneasy dimensions to it. This is about why and how parents and caregivers can nurture friendships between and among kids of color. To have that conversation, you also need to engage some of the obstacles to doing that.
One such obstacle is a reality in some cases, of tensions among communities of color, between even children of color, let's say, in schools in some cases. It's difficult for people of color in particular to pull back the curtain on those relationships. On one hand, we're doing it because we think it's really important. On the other hand, we also know, and Allison and Anatasia are well aware, that historically, and in the present day, those tensions, which again, of course exist to some degree, have also been exacerbated. They've been fueled. They've been weaponized by different people in groups, disproportionately White, disproportionately powerful, for reasons of exploitation, right?
Certainly if you've been with us the last webinar or two, heard us and heard our guests talk about the "divide-and-conquer" strategy. I lifted up the example of a study done by Janelle S. Wong, a Professor at University of Maryland, who, using the best available data, found that more than 75% of anti-Asian hate crimes are committed by White identified people. You would never get that understanding by looking at the images of violent words and violent deeds directed against Asian Americans. In fact, Black Americans are disproportionately represented in media images of crimes against Asians and Asian Americans. Why is that? Well, unfortunately it seems to be more of the same.
So, there's always a concern about whether or not the kind of insights and observations our guests will doubtless make tonight, might be used in a way which is certainly against, not aligned with what they're talking about, and how they want their insights supported and used. So, we want to put that out there. We want to thank, again Allison and Anatasia for being willing to participate in this conversation.
Dr. Allison Briscoe-Smith, who is fabulous and literally has been on as a guest for us more than any other, because she is fabulous, and we love her so. And, she keeps taking our calls. Allison is a clinical child psychologist who specializes in trauma and issues of race. She combines her love of teaching and advocacy by serving as an educator, consultant, and author. You can learn more, and there's much more to know and learn about Dr. Briscoe-Smith, at drbriscoesmith.com.
Allison also introduced us to our second guest, and we're really delighted that she did.
Dr. Anatasia Kim is a Professor at The Wright Institute in Berkeley, California, and a cognitive-behavioral therapist whose primary areas of interest are child, adolescent and family development and minority mental health. Anatasia is the lead author of It's Time to Talk (and Listen): How to Have Constructive Conversations About Race, Class, Sexuality, Ability, and Gender in a Polarized World, which came out in 2019. You can learn more about her on her website.
We are delighted to have you both. Thanks for joining us again, Allison and Anatasia.
Allison, I'd love to start with you where we typically start. How did you come to this work?
Allison Briscoe-Smith: Great. Hello, everybody. It's really, really good to be here. I'm Allison. I'll follow the model that you all used. I use she/her pronouns. I identify as Black, Blackety-Black, multi-racially Black, Black. So, that's my identification.
I also want to locate. I am from and for Hawaii. In terms of how do I get here, it comes definitely in part from my experiences growing up as one of a very small population of Black folks in Hawaii, which provided me an opportunity for community, learning, reflection, and curiosity that I shoehorned into education and became a child clinical psychologist, always interested in these ideas.
I'm really fascinated. I need to go back at the other times I've talked with you and see what I've said. Is it consistent? I think it changes every time, but very much have been thinking a lot and ruminating a lot on this, in terms of like, what's my purpose and my goal? It's to make things a little less terrible for kids. Plain and simple, to work to move on something in the world to make it a little bit less terrible for kids. I think kids have it really hard. I think I'm most familiar with the contours and shapes of oppressions as it shows up for kids of color, and I'm definitely here to learn, and be in community, and to think about what we can do to make things just a little less sucky for kids who have it quite rough.
The last piece I'll just mention is I'm also a mom of multiracial kids. So, that also is what brings me to this conversation. Yeah.
EmbraceRace: Anatasia, how do you show up to this work?
Anatasia Kim: Hi. Hello everyone. I'm Anatasia. What a pleasure it is to be on with EmbraceRace again, and full disclosure, Allison and I know each other well, and we're good friends. So, an opportunity to have a conversation with Allison is amazing. So, very happy to be here.
I identify as she/her, cisgender female, and I am Korean American, actually was born in Seoul. My family is from Jeju Island at the tip of the Korean peninsula and I came to this country in 1980 at the ripe old age of eight.
I also have a few kids, and they are also multiracial. So, my husband is Black and White. So, my kids are really very, very multiracial. I hail from Oakland, California, and I teach at The Wright Institute as a Professor.
I think for me, just like for many of us, I very much bring both my personal and professional experiences to this work. In many ways, as Allison mentioned, they're one and the same for me. My early racial experiences as an immigrant kid growing up in Southern California was immensely influential to becoming a psychologist. So, it's no surprise that in many ways I have dedicated my work as a clinical child psychologist to working with BIPOC, Black, Indigenous, people of color communities, especially kids, teens, and their families.
So, much of my childhood experience influenced this. I think growing up in very diverse communities that were predominantly communities of color, and although I knew we were clearly very different in many ways, from language to appearance, it was also apparent how much we had in common, my friends and neighbors. In the neighborhood where I grew up, most of us were poor. They were working class. Our parents didn't have college degrees. Some actually barely had any formal education. Many of my immigrant friends actually had families who had similarly survived war and trauma in their countries of origin, like my own family had.
Beyond all of this, I also found that through my friendships with other Asian, Black, Indigenous, Hispanic, Latinx friends, that we were also very similar. We shared similar cultural values of collectivism, respect for elders and tradition, joy of food, even family drama. I don't want to stereotype, but that was my experience. Then, the other thing I believe we had in common was our shared experiences of feeling left out and pushed out and disrespected. In many ways, I think that also bonded us. All of this left a really indelible impression in my young mind that very much planted the seed of what I would do in the future.
So, professionally, I, very much like Allison, I teach, I train, I consult. I write about having conversations in particular on race and racism, and other diversity topics. I currently run a program for high school students of color who are also first generation college-bound. It's a psychology internship and mentorship program for teens of color led by my undergrad and graduate students of color. In this program, one of our primary goals is to foster BIPOC friendships in which these young people of color can experience deep validation, solidarity, love, and a sense of family, and community lifelong. I feel like that's really one of my main takeaway messages here, to be able to develop those strong bonds of solidarity and empowerment.
EmbraceRace: Thank you. We're talking to the right people. Yeah, so, it's interesting that both of you talk about people who you grew up around who were different and similar. Most people don't have that experience in the US. Increasingly, we were having a conversation the other day about how, as neighborhoods are diversifying, schools are getting more and more segregated.
Before asking how are people knitting kids together across racial groups, are you seeing parents talking to their kids about race, just generally? How sophisticated a conversation is it? I don't know if people are getting so far as to nurture solidarity.
Anatasia Kim: Yeah. So much of this is also geography and where we live. And so, as I mentioned earlier, I am in the larger San Francisco Bay Area in Oakland, and there's a lot of ethnic and racial diversity here, and I think for my own kids who are multiracial, opportunities to connect with. So first and foremost, just being able to have the opportunity for connection is in and of itself a privilege and an opportunity. And so I think what I might be observing here professionally and personally might be very different than what other folks in different parts of the country and in the world are experiencing.
I think that said, on the whole, I still find that even in areas such as this, conversations about race are still very much White versus people of color. Rare I think are occasions in which conversations are between and for communities of color, which is why I thought this topic was brilliant and wonderful and a breath of fresh air, because rarely do we not talk about race without the perspective of being White and the White experience. So in professional spaces, at least the spaces in which I work, I think more conversations are centering BIPOC experiences and highlighting the relationship between and among people of color. And of course, for kids, two obvious places to support these conversations that we would see, and we would want to see, are at home and at school. Certainly I'm seeing a lot more energy towards books, and organizations such as Embrace Race are providing caregivers and educators ready access to book recommendations, and having something to begin the process of conversation, begin the process of connection, is really, really central.
I just participated in the Bay Area Book Fair, and to have so many authors of color, and there was also an organization that my daughter is part of, Cinnamongirl (shout out to Cinnamongirl!), which is a local organization here for young BIPOC girls of color, 12 to 18. The fact that they were able to collectively produce an anthology that privileged and honored their voices was really powerful. And the fact that local book festivals are really providing stage front and center to amplify those voices are really encouraging. So definitely seeing some of it, we could certainly see more. And I hope that in some small part this offers some opportunities to that end.
Allison Briscoe-Smith: I'm seeing and experiencing very similar pieces to what Anatasia has talked about. I think about it in terms of clinically, the majority of the kids and families I serve are kids and families of color where the conversation about race and racial identity is very present and needed because of survival, frankly. And I've recently moved up to the Pacific Northwest, I see a bunch of folks in the chat here are also there. And there are many similarities and also some different iterations, but I'm also in a community that has a lot of diversity available to it. And I think one of the main kind of issues here is where we're making choices as much as possible to be with our children, and what opportunities are there for our kids in terms of their school or their community or their neighborhood, that those kind of choices are particularly complex for kids and families of color.
So if the question is how are people talking, are people talking about it? I'm curious, at an empirical kind of level, I think there's a politicized conversation that wants to make us think that people aren't talking about it or only talking about it in particular ways. But there's some emerging information, there's an NPR survey that came out that actually indicates that parents are mostly talking about it and mostly fine, and that there's only a small, very active on-fire group that's actually pushing the politicization that is actually not where most of us as parents really are.
We're often kind of oriented towards dealing with Whiteness. And so dealing with the Whiteness as a threat, dealing with Whiteness in terms of how we'll be perceived, and preparing our kids to deal with Whiteness. The rich opportunity here is to both understand and frame that, and also think about, well, what do we have to say to each other, and how are we doing?... Can we beef a little bit, and can we be engaged a little bit, and can we do that without always having to reference ourselves to Whiteness?
Dr. Allison Briscoe-Smith
EmbraceRace: Are you seeing, what Anatasia says as well, about even among communities of color, the main through line is sort of White, non-White?
Allison Briscoe-Smith: I mean, I think we're often kind of oriented towards dealing with Whiteness. And so dealing with the Whiteness as a threat, dealing with Whiteness in terms of how we'll be perceived, and preparing our kids to deal with Whiteness. The rich opportunity here is to both understand and frame that, and also think about, well, what do we have to say to each other, and how are we doing? And then as we've talked about behind the curtain a little bit, we have stuff to say to each other, as a complicated, rich, nuanced community that has differences. And it's great to have an opportunity like, can we beef a little bit, and can we be engaged a little bit, and can we do that without always having to reference ourselves to Whiteness? But we also do need to invoke and frame, the majority of the conversation that is out there or politicized falls into this frankly false dichotomy, if that makes sense.
EmbraceRace: So you both wear so many hats that are relevant, you're both parents of multiracial kids, as you said. You both have clinical practices, and Alison, I know you spent a lot of time in schools in the Bay Area in general, maybe you have too, Anatasia. I'm mindful about in many, many places, we know that our public schools are significantly segregated in almost every place in the country, and that therefore that kids of color, let's say Black and Brown kids for example, are very often going to school together. So for better or worse, or in all the complexity of those dynamics, that actually is where a lot of the interracial, inter-ethnic action might be. So it's not like it's not there for them.
What might some of the kids of color that you've both known say if they knew that we were having this conversation? What insights do you have from the kid perspective?
Anatasia Kim: Yeah. I mean, I think you hit the nail on the head in terms of what we're trying to foster. Now, the program that I mentioned is high school. So a little bit older than the age group that is being targeted here with the EmbraceRace. That said, the focus really is on relationship, because to be clear, just because I am in physical proximity with somebody who is different, and just because I have an interaction, including going to class, even living, doesn't necessarily mean I have the quality and the depth of interaction and connection with that person for us to together, individually, move the needle on systemic racism and internalized racism. And what that requires is not just proximity, not just contact, not just superficial interactions, but an opportunity to really, really connect at a deep level. So this is why for me, relationships, mentorship, and friendships are really critical.
And it's hard for kids, really young kids in particular. And the reason why it's hard on kids, it's because they don't have models in adults, among the parents and amongst the broader society, to be able to... The most powerful means of kids learning and internalizing is when they are shown, when they could see other people doing it versus simply being instructed and told to do so. And so we are talking about kids and we should privilege kids, but in order for us to amplify impact for the kids, everyone around it; adults, caregivers, parents, and educators; must be able to take an audacious, brave dive into doing an audit of our own relationships. So being able to show our kids. So I think our kids, I don't know, the kids that I know personally, and I mean, my own kids would say, "Are you talking to Allison again about that race stuff?" That would be their immediate, "Are you talking to Allison?" Something like that, because their mom is just constantly talking about this same stuff.
EmbraceRace: We get that too. "Do we have to embrace race at the dinner table?"
Anatasia Kim: Yeah. But I think the kids would, if we were to sit down and do a deep dive with them, I don't think they would say something too differently than what I'm saying now. And I base that based on the conversations that I hear from the BIPOC kids that are the teenagers that are in my program. So this year, we happen to have all amazing young women, and they are Black and Muslim and Asian and Hispanic and all mixed. And some of them are from the same school, but they didn't even really know each other. They knew each other because that was somebody in class, but when they came together to be able to develop and have shared activity and opportunities for a deeper dive, then the connection, the quality of the connection really deepened in ways that were really meaningful.
And to me, I feel like that's where the heart of this work must really be. Not just proximity, not just contact, not just interaction. "My neighbor's Black. My kids go to school with Asian kids. Well, I live in the Bay Area." I know all kinds of people who live in the Bay Area who don't have any friends of color, White or BIPOC. So I think that the kids would say the same answer, which is like, "Well, my friends and my classmates are," but if we did a deep dive, "Who are your best friends? Who do you feel like you could confide to?" I don't think we would be very surprised.
EmbraceRace: Great. There was someone who wrote in with a comment in registration that said, just to your point, Christina said, "I would love it if my children had more diversity in their friends, but because I don't have much diversity in my group of friends, I have no clue how to nurture it." I mean, that's really important, really important to be doing it yourself and to have the opportunity. Depending on where you live, you might not have it.
Allison Briscoe-Smith: Yeah, I mean, I agree, and I'm seeing, and I'm also looking at the chat too, because I'm seeing these kind of conversations come up; have to agree that we have to be able to model it within ourselves. So that's where they're looking, it's their first modeling, early childhood. And so we have to take a look at how are we interacting and getting along with other folks of color? So there's that.
Number two is, I hear a question as well around "legitimate" or "authentic" relationships. And I want to kind of think about this in another way too. When I listen to kids and what kids are saying about this kind of topic is they're noticing, "Oh, it turns out that many of the kids I hang out with are also mixed or are also Latinx or are also... Huh." And noticing that. That is developmentally appropriate. It is not a pathology and it's not a sign that these kids don't know how to get along across racial lines. So there's a fantastic book called Why Are All the Black Kids Sitting Together in the Cafeteria? And Other Conversations about Race by Beverly Tatum that I highly recommend everyone reads.
So the first piece is that, while I hear people think about how do we promote cross relationship, you have to have a safe base first. And within BIPOC communities, it's okay for affinity spaces! And in fact, developmentally, we need places to push, because our kids need to kind of fight with each other and tease each other and play with each other. And sometimes it's harmful about like, who's Blacker than who, but that is developmentally what kids need to be able to do. And I hear so often parents getting worried about some sort of sign or issue that that is a problem. So I just want to start there.
Let them have an affinity group. I think Anatasia's model is one that we've tried to replicate at the school where we both teach, and so I've taken her ideas and tried to replicate it for graduate students. So we have a group of BIPOC graduate students across multiple dimensions and multiple races, but we have a shared goal in mind, which is supporting the school. And then they get to form friendships. The research is super consistent that when you bring people together for superordinate goals or values, then you can connect. And Anatasia does this in the context of bringing folks together around psychology.
But there's other ways of bringing folks together. And one of the common ways that we and kids are coming together around or across our racial differences within BIPOC communities is honestly to talk about oppression, and to talk about how to manage racialized violence and how to be allies to each other. So that I think is challenging and not necessarily the funnest way that we want people to come together, perhaps would be better over soccer or food, but we can think that kids will come together and are coming together to talk about how to manage racial oppression.
While I hear people think about how do we promote cross-racial relationships, you have to have a safe base first. And within BIPOC communities, it's okay to have affinity spaces!
Dr. Allison Briscoe-Smith
EmbraceRace: Yeah. That's really true. Yeah, we see that as well. And I mean, I think you referenced Beverly Daniel Tatum's book. And it does make me think of, she does talk about creating affinities, not just racial affinities, but that educators in that case don't often enough make connections between kids who are of different races, and we could say in this case, among BIPOC races. Like you're a hip-hop fan, and so, and so, or whatever. You both like this author and just sort of trying the ways of trying to connect around something else, which I think is an interest that you all were talking about would seem to be a good way.
Are there places with younger kids that are nurturing solidarity and to what effect? How are they doing it, and what that has meant for them or for those kids, those communities, those programs? What kinds of examples do you see examples with younger kids?
Allison Briscoe-Smith: I think Anastasia mentioned a group kind of like this, but I think about within Oakland, The Radical Monarchs, kind of a model of bringing kids together and kids of color together to learn about things like solidarity and activism. I think kind of all the way up a little bit older, I also again kind of see within Oakland kids coming together around climate change. Really mobilizing folks of color on these large issues. But I also see that the opportunities with young kids are the opportunities that we think about, like a dance class or an after-school activity. And we often kind of think about how we can support our kids in these extracurricular, but we can also be thoughtful about how do we construct something that is also affirming for our kids.
So I know that the other piece for us to just think about and you know, kind of preaching to the converted here, is that the choices that parents of color have to make about where their kids engage in those activities are complicated by things like, "I really want my child to be comfortable with their body and learn ballet and do it in a place that actually affirms that they can wear brown tights, or that they don't have to have their hair in a bun." So these are just additional places. But the question I hear you asking, "Are there spaces that are affirming and supportive of young children," and I think the answer is yes. And they're most often constructed by parents with a will and with a need.
It's also just I think another place to think about the added burden of parenting while a parent of color, the added challenge. And it's also something I think, if we want to get kind of concrete, that there is an opportunity for us as parents to narrate to our children. To not be like, "I'm so burdened by trying to find you this." But rather, "It's really important for us as a family that you get a chance to hang out with kids who are different than you and who are similar to you. We're going all the way across town for this jiujitsu lesson, because we think it's really important that you have a teacher who looks like you." There's a way that we can narrate that to our kids, and especially for young kids, that can be really affirming and also help make transparent some of the things that we're doing.
EmbraceRace: And they certainly respond when you go across town to find the teacher that looks like them. It's like you pretty quickly get affirmation that it was a good choice.
Anatasia Kim: I see supports that are both ones that are preexisting and requires us as parents and educators to go digging and sometimes to go digging hard and deep because they can typically be few and far between. But again, I think I feel grateful for the community that I'm living in which there's some richness of resources here. So I have noticed both professionally and personally, some of the organizations that I have found for my clients, as well as the one that I have enlisted my own children in, are organizations actually that are founded by parents.
So I'm going to say two things. One is, looking for organizations that are preexisting and is it coincidence, or maybe not, that these organizations were ones that were developed by parents themselves. So that is the message here, if it doesn't exist, we as parents and caregivers make awesome entrepreneurs because we are motivated! Look at Melissa and Andrew. We are motivated and invested for very intimate and personal reasons. So I don't think it's coincidence that the organizations that I have found that I want to recommend to clients and that I also want to enlist my own children in, are ones that were spearheaded by bold audacious parents who are like, "Well, if it doesn't exist, then I guess I best build it for my kids and their friends."
And I mentioned one organization, the Cinnamongirl, which is awesome. I'm trying to sign myself up to get involved professionally. I'm telling my daughter, "Okay. All right. Move over. Now mommy's going to go because I want to do some work with Miss Renee." So organizations like that that are for young girls of color and under the shared experience and mission of helping to grow a generation of girls who are leaders, and powerhouses, and bosses. They do that through business. They do that through writing. They do that through travel. And in those experiences, Melissa, you mentioned especially for children, whether they're super young or even teens, having a shared set of activities, interests, or hobbies is really the golden ticket to genuine interests and connections that could be fostered.
The other organization that I have really just been incredibly impressed by is Heirs to Our Oceans, which is not local to the Bay Area, but it is nationwide, actually it's global. A teacher of color recommended it for my kids and I've been really, really impressed. It's about climate justice. And we know that with the younger generation, one of the areas that they are most anxious and concerned about is climate change and climate justice across all racial groups actually. So this is a group of powerful young people who are advocating for climate justice that are represented across multiple continents, so The United States, North America, South America, Asia, and also Africa, and opportunities to have a shared vision and goal where they're working together. And the byproduct is lifelong friendships. So that's been really beautiful, and that was also started by a parent. It was started by a local family. They're a White family, but they really thought about how climate change disproportionately impacts, communities of color world over. So really thinking about how to build a coalition of young leaders across the world.
So looking for preexisting organizations, that's one thing. And then what I said earlier, if it doesn't exist, I don't know. I think we can and we should make it. You know, create it. More recently I told my son who is a jazz musician ... He's like, "Well, I've noticed that from elementary all the way to high school, there are less and less kids of color who are involved in jazz," which is traditionally a Black form of music. He's like, "Mom, I'm the most Black kid, and I don't even look Black because of all my multiracial heritage. I'm the only Black kid in this top jazz." He felt really, I don't know, frustrated and distressed about this. So I said, "Why don't you go and offer something?" So in the last couple of months since the beginning of the calendar year he's gone back to his elementary school, so targeting much younger kids, and offering free electronic music production, which is what he does. It's four BIPOC kids, five BIPOC kids, and so he's having a very sobering reality dealing with seven and eight year old's.
But the idea is I want him to be able to experience. Like don't be just in a state of distress. Let me and Dad help you figure out what you want to do. And even if it is an epic fail for you to just go in and try to build something ... And now the person in the school district is like, "Great, Dexter. Let me sign you up for this, that, and the other." So I don't know, I think cultivating opportunities where we get to put our kids who are so wise, not just our teens, but our little ones who are so wise, and embolden them with values that they can practice and translate in their immediate environment, I think can be fantastic opportunities that we can help curate and help support for our kids.
EmbraceRace: Wonderful stuff. So going back to the women who wrote in previously about not having a diverse circle to model for her kids. Number one, that yeah, diversity doesn't mean friendships. It doesn't mean that, right, you're cultivating the kind of intimate relationships. People tend to conflate the two. We often say diversity is not integration, certainly. And this idea that yeah, as a caregiver, there's a lot of work to do, right? So we do have even at EmbraceRace, where most of the people come to us voluntarily, we do have some folks who I think come with the idea that you can get a checklist.
You can, let's say buy a handful of books or you can do something relatively easy and you've done your work. As opposed to, well you know sometimes it is about the hard work of trying to help create opportunities for your child. It's about the hard work that you have to do on yourself, right? Sort of honest reflection and then acting on the basis of what you find. And I'm also mindful of your having said that both of you grew up in quite diverse environments, which at least gave opportunity to develop the kind of rich relationships it sounds like you both enjoyed and that a lot of people really don't.
How do you respond to this question of how do I do this work if, as an adult, my own circles are certainly not well integrated by race, ethnicity, and so on but I do want to support my child to at least have those opportunities? What can that person do, and others, many others like her?
Allison Briscoe-Smith: You know, the question that's coming to mind for me as you're framing this super important question is whether or not this is a White family asking or whether or not this is a BIPOC family asking. And just, I want to kind of holdout appreciation for our shared humanity and commonalities, and also that those questions feel different to me. Do we know if this is a BIPOC family?
EmbraceRace: We don't know.
Allison Briscoe-Smith: Okay. So I'll also just kind of step into it in this way, which is that the data indicates that White folks tend to have fewer opportunities, or seek out, or not in places to have as many BIPOC friends period. There's a large study about this. 75% of White folks have no Black friends. The issue for folks of color, and I'll again return to Black folks, is that's not as much as an issue. That while even living in segregated places, while even attending predominantly Black schools, that the necessity really is one of having to learn how to interact, and connect, and be friends with White folks. So I'm also kind of collapsing on this dichotomy again. The question to me is a little bit different where it comes from. So let me focus this kind of question for BIPOC folks.
So if the question is for BIPOC folks, "Hey. I'm a Black person and I notice I'm only hanging out with other Black folks, how do I expand my circle to include Koreans, to include other kind of folks?" Then I do think we have to, as Anastasia said, we have to take our inventory about who we're spending time with, what are the circles that kind of create that time, and where can we connect? And I think that things that are available to us are things like, do our children have shared interests? Is there an opportunity for me to kind of connect in terms of advocacy for our children, and to connect on big things like climate change, or to connect in terms of supporting and protecting our trans kids? Can we do that by focusing and connecting with other families of color? Or the other thing that was kind of coming to mind for me was in the pandemic is, how do we construct our pod? I know there's lots of different iterations around that. But I did notice and did see that many of the pods that I saw forming were racialized and were about kind of connecting. So I think it's about bringing a thoughtfulness.
I think in terms of how do we connect across our differences within this context of BIPOC folks, we have to look for shared values. We have to look for shared goals, and we have to be uncomfortable and be willing to do all of those things. There's lots of opportunities to find shared values and shared goals when we talk about in the service of our kids. I don't think it's going to be hard to kind of take that and apply it to White folks. But I do want to center the conversation as you're providing us the opportunity to do so that it can be nuanced and the shape of it look different in the context of folks of color here.
We have to take our inventory about who we're spending time with, what are the circles that kind of create that time, and where can we connect?... I think in terms of how do we connect across our differences within this context of BIPOC folks, we have to look for shared values. We have to look for shared goals, and we have to be uncomfortable and be willing to do all of those things.
Dr. Allison Briscoe-Smith
Anatasia Kim: I definitely agree with everything Allison has said. And this is a topic we've often discussed because BIPOCs communities, the needs, what motivates us, is often secondary in conversations about race. I assumed, that this person asking was a BIPOC parent or an educator looking for spaces, and their immediate availability is rather homogenous. We live in an era of technology, for good or worse. And especially in the last year, it's ushered in our capacity to be connected when we might not otherwise share physical proximity. And so both of these organizations I highlighted are ones that have kids from places outside of the immediate... I mean, even Cinnamon Girls. At the recent book release fair, we met a lovely young lady from from Arizona, shout out to Clover!
And so the fact that the pandemic happened and then, knowing my daughter, my little eccentric socialite of a daughter, she will stay connected with Clover who lives so far away. So if you are really pressed for a lack of availability in your immediate community, so many organizations... And Heirs to Our Oceans, because we're trying to tackle a global epidemic of climate crisis, it really requires some global partnerships of youth leaders. So there might not be maybe physical people who are available, but don't be shy about using the alternative, which are virtual connections. They absolutely can be real. And when our kids grow into adolescence and beyond, that'll be one of the main modalities of connecting anyways. And so not being shy, absolutely, about that.
The other thing I want to say is, and this might be a little bit interesting for me to say, but especially when our kids are young, I think it is okay for us, and in fact almost necessary for us, to be nosy and get involved, especially in the relationships and friendships of younger kids. To use our influence as caregivers. And this is a developmental stage, especially during the elementary school years, when our kids need us. They want us in more obvious ways than is the case in later stages of development. So for us to capitalize on it. I mean, Melissa, you mentioned earlier about advocating on behalf of our kids, but also to help organize, like what was mentioned earlier, play dates. Join playgroup, have play dates with other BIPOC children and families. We can start by asking who your child is already gravitating towards, who they're spending recess time with, lunch time at school. Who might be another kid of color? Maybe suggest a play date. "I notice that you're talking about Melissa a lot. Maybe it would be fun to have Melissa and her dad over to our house for play."
Or maybe your child's friendship circle is not yet diverse. In that case, consider creating, again, opportunities for more contact and exposure, including maybe even virtually for shared interests and hobbies. And so, I don't know, activities that your kid likes. Allison mentioned soccer, Legos, music, Marvel movies. I don't know. Join a soccer group that has diverse BIPOC representation or a local library or a virtual library club or a music class like I think Allison mentioned earlier.
But shared interest and activities are often the most common and easiest ways to connect with other people. And this is true for kids and adults, so I think it's incredibly awkward on the part of the kid. Like, "Why would I want to hang out with so and so just because they're Korean?" I've done this. I'm like, "Yes, because they're Korean we are going to hang out with her! Yes, that's the main reason. Yes, she's a little annoying, but we are going to!" So that often doesn't work that well on the whole, but if you can find commonalities where there's shared interests and hobbies, that's actually a really powerful way and easiest way to develop really authentic and organic connections. And for us, like we said before, for us to be able to model that ourselves.
I've done this. I'm like, 'Yes, because they're Korean we are going to hang out with her! Yes, that's the main reason. Yes, she's a little annoying, but we are going to!' So that often doesn't work that well on the whole, but if you can find commonalities where there's shared interests and hobbies, that's actually a really powerful way and easiest way to develop really authentic and organic connections.
Dr. Anatasia Kim
EmbraceRace: Absolutely. We had some folks on from the Families of Color Seattle group a webinar ago and they were talking a bit about in their parenting groups that there are parents of color who hesitate to identify, just to approach someone because they're a person of color, let's say, in a non-diverse setting. And they're happy to see the other person, but they feel weird about going like, "Hey!" and approaching them. But that's what you should do. And so they teach them, "Yeah, you should do that, because you do need them. And maybe you'll like them and all that." But yeah, just disposing of the idea that that's just weird. Like, "So what if we're the only Black people?" Or whatever. You say hello. You do more than the nod.
Anatasia Kim: Well, I mean, Allison said this earlier about being okay with being uncomfortable. I mean, for better or worse, I am not a shy person or a mother so I embarrass the hell out of my kids all the time. But I am the person who will go up like, "Korean? Are you Korean?" Or like, "Are you blah, blah, blah? My kids are also Blasian." And so I don't think that's brave on my part because I didn't get enough loading on the shy gene, but I think part of this work absolutely is about showing and modeling for our kids it's okay to be uncomfortable. And in fact, that's the definition of being brave, that you do something even if you are uncomfortable. And because you are uncomfortable, you're doing it. That's brave.
I think part of this work absolutely is about showing and modeling for our kids it's okay to be uncomfortable. And in fact, that's the definition of being brave, that you do something even if you are uncomfortable. And because you are uncomfortable, you're doing it. That's brave.
Dr. Anatasia Kim
EmbraceRace: How can we ensure that multiracial students and children feel embraced by both or all of their communities?
Allison Briscoe-Smith: Yeah. So I've spent a lot of time on this question, both in terms of my own kids and then also having opportunity to listen to kids as I worked with Dr. Ralina Joseph to write a book exactly about this issue. And what the kids said is please listen to them. Please listen to them as they identify. And please listen to what they would like to do. And I know that doesn't sound really hard, but we actually heard about the ways in which the world makes it really hard, about how the desire to categorize, place, know, and name comes from within BIPOC communities, without BIPOC communities.
So, I mean, really listen. And that listening might mean I have a multiracial kid that right now really wants to identify as one part of themselves. That's developmentally appropriate and that's okay. And it will move and it will change, but we got to listen. And our previous models have really pathologized that. So I think in short, listen. And the other thing that multiracial kids said a lot of is that they want affinity spaces with other multiracial kids. That came up again and again and again. So how do we support them? Bring them into contact with other kids that are going through pretty similar processes.
Anatasia Kim: I think it's in that same spirit of being able to open our mouths to model for our kids. I mean, we live in an era of so much sensitivity around being politically correct that sometimes it compromises the full capacity to learn, which means putting our foot in our mouths. That's how kids learn to ride a bike and to walk, to do everything. And so giving some opportunities for us to be able to model that for the kids. And absolutely agree with what Allison's research has confirmed, which is having contact. And having contact means, psychologically, the benefits and the gains is, "I feel affirmed. I feel validated. I feel seen. Someone else is bearing witness to the truth of who I am and the complexity of my experiences." And that's a psychological benefit and need that we all have, regardless of who we are.
And that is the byproduct of getting folks of color and kids of color in contact with each other. Because one of the really painful, painful byproducts of racism is that folks of color and communities of color and kids of color have been made to turn on each other. And this is a byproduct of what oppression, including racism, does psychologically. It's integrated into such levels of our psyche that we turn on each other. And what I started off saying in the very beginning, my proximity, my own experience as a young child and thinking we're so different and hearing stereotypes from my own family, my community, and from other BIPOC kids projecting their... But then when I really got proximate and I'm like, "You know what? You guys are no different than us."
And we're very much of a collectivistic based culture. There is some reverence, at least the kids that I was in contact with, reverence for elders. There's tradition. You do this with food, we do this. But the underlying mechanism and a function and meaning is really same. And so I think when we can see each other across these different cultural identities and experiences, then the capacity for us to develop solidarity, the capacity to embolden our empowerment and sense of agency, and the capacity as together with the numbers, if you will, in solidarity in community to be able to address and ultimately dismantle and make more of an impact than our generation has, that is really the ultimate benefit. For us to be able to help our kids imagine and position them and help them to imagine and reimagine a more racially just world and future for them and also for their kids.
When we can see each other across these different cultural identities and experiences, then the capacity for us to develop solidarity, the capacity to embolden our empowerment and sense of agency, and the capacity as together with the numbers, if you will, in solidarity in community to be able to address and ultimately dismantle and make more of an impact than our generation has, that is really the ultimate benefit.
Dr. Anatasia Kim
EmbraceRace: So a question that I want to throw to Allison from Autumn. We see you, Autumn. I happen to know she is a Black mom.
"When young kids reach adolescence, I noticed they gravitate more towards their own kind racially and perhaps as a way of bolstering their own sense of identity. Are there ways to encourage teens and tweens to keep the bonds they've made with friends of other backgrounds when they were younger rather than growing apart? Or should we let them go their own ways and drift back together eventually if it's meant to be?"
Allison Briscoe-Smith: Yeah, I think the part of it is to think about, and I see this also in the chat as well. Part of it is about us managing our own anxiety and our own desires. "I really want them to have these friends. I really want them to..." Okay, let's listen to what they want, right? And let's also listen to what they need and understand that things will change and move, and our role is to be there with them to come back and land and to articulate what we value. You don't have much of a choice. Let them do it, and hopefully they'll come on back to you to be able to do this. So I was putting my finger on my nose. What is our honest option? Is to accompany our children and to be the safe place that they get to return to.
EmbraceRace: So thank you both. We could talk all night, but this was really wonderful, just being with you and being with everyone in the community. Thank you. Not only for what you've shared today, but for the work you do, which is amazing and desperately needed. Not least for young people of color, especially these days. So thank you so much. And thank you always to our interpreters, to Chris behind the scenes helping us go.
You can see this webinar and previous webinars that these two have been on and dropped amazing wisdom on our YouTube channel. It's new to us and we just reached 1,000 subscribers. Yeah, so go subscribe and then you won't miss a thing. Thank you. Bye, everybody. Thank you!
How to nurture friendships between kids of color by Anatasia S. Kim, PhD