Your brother routinely makes anti-Semitic comments. Your neighbor uses the N-word in casual conversation. Your co-worker ribs you about your Italian surname, asking if you’re in the mafia. Your classmate insults something by saying, “That’s so gay.”
And you stand there, in silence, thinking, “What can I say in response to that?” Or you laugh along, uncomfortably. Or, frustrated or angry, you walk away without saying anything, thinking later, “I should have said something.”
People spoke about encounters in stores and restaurants, on streets and in schools. They spoke about family, friends, classmates and co-workers. They spoke about what they did or didn’t say — and what they wished they did or didn’t say.
And no matter the location or relationship, the stories echo each other.
Speak Up! is a book that shares love, insight and pain, but also offers “lost words”, practical solutions and hope for a better tomorrow.
Download your free copy of SPEAK UP!
Another great resource offered by Teaching Tolerance.
I have been privileged to do some diversity training with families who have adopted transracially. One activity that I have seen agencies use is called “Your World, My World”. I have seen the activity used with beads that in the shades of people.
Give each family a clear plastic cup. Assign a race to each color of bead (i.e. caucasian/white, african/african american/black, asian/yellow, middle eastern/native american/biracial/brown, etc.).
Ask parents to place a bead of the respective color in the cup for:
- Each family member living in your home
- Each sibling that you have and their partner (if applicable)
- Each grandparent
- Each immediate neighbor surrounding your home
- Your dentist
- Your pediatrician
- Your attorney
- Your spiritual leader
- Your mayor
- Your three closest friends (they visit your home, you visit their home)
- The school principal
- Your veterinarian
Look at your cup and get a clear understanding of the world your child will enter. Understand that you have the opportunity and responsibility to surround your child with a diverse array of positive role models.
At what age should you start talking to your children about race?
Birgitte Vittrup of the Children’s Research Lab at the University of Texas tried to answer that question in her 2006 study. A recent article in Newsweek focused on the results of her study — See Baby Discriminate. Kids as young as 6 months judge other based on skin color. What’s a parent to do? [btw, I hated the title of the article–it begged for a small readership].
While the study was extensive, and I didn’t agree with much of it, it showed that the majority of [white] families simply could not bring themselves to discuss race with their 5-7 year olds. “We don’t want to have these conversations with our child. We don’t want to point out skin color.”
According to Vittrup, hardly any of these white parents had ever talked to their children directly about race. They might have asserted vague principles—like “Everybody’s equal” or “God made all of us” or “Under the skin, we’re all the same”—but they’d almost never called attention to racial differences. They wanted their children to grow up “colorblind”.
The article also mentioned that in homes of people of color, race is discussed much more openly. I can attest to that in our home. I know from a very early age, we have been careful that our children don’t buy what the media sells (i.e. beauty = blond hair + blue eyes + white skin). It is very much apart of our lives on a daily basis. I personally think efforts are misguided if children are raised to be “colorblind”. Color is the very first thing people see and our society and history dictate the inability to be such.
I’m curious to hear what other families have to say, how do you talk to your children about race? at what age do you begin?
Okay, I admit it. I have failed. I was SO excited about starting this blog and was confident about what it was supposed to be. Since then, I have allowed the fear of judgment, expectation and failure to creep in. Thus, I have done nothing with it!
Let me just start and put it all on the table. I’m a perfectionist. If it’s not perfect, I don’t want to do it. I know, I’m working on it. I’m laying it down. I don’t want to worry about this blog being perfect. My grammar might not be correct; there might even be typo’s (eek)! I don’t want to get bogged down with details. I DO want this blog to be a safe place to encourage and edify each other. I want people to feel free to talk about their experiences, both good and bad. I want us to share our feelings today that may shift and mold into a new perspective tomorrow. Here’s some insight on me…my immediate family is still dysfunctional when it comes to dealing with race and racism. I want this to be a safe place for us to “meet at the table”. I want this to be a place of reflection for whatever side of the table you sit on.
Let’s pull up a chair…