When my sister was born she was five-feet-seven-inches tall. By the end of high school, my brother was six-feet-two. On a good day, with the right hat and proper footwear, I tower over them at a whopping five-feet-three inches tall.

2

At first, the differences between being short and tall were subtle and barely worth mentioning. I couldn’t reach the top of the fridge without a step-ladder. If there wasn’t one, jumping a few times would usually do the trick. Most high shelves were a problem. I hated when they stacked Tupperware too far in the back corner.

Pants and dresses were sometimes a problem. The lengths of jackets and coats too.

As kids, we were all active in sports. We played volleyball, basketball, soccer, baseball. We ran track and did field events. I threw shot put and discus in high school and actually made it to the regionals sophomore year. My brother earned a few scholarships to play basketball at a college near El Paso. He was even the team’s MVP for more than a year.

Because I was short I was usually picked for very specific positions, regardless of my skill level. In volleyball I was always middle back. In basketball I was usually the point guard. In track & field I was never sought out for long distance. I was too short. Too stocky.

A few teachers at our high school knew my sister and knew me. They knew I preferred volleyball, and basketball was her love.

“Isn’t that backwards?” They laughed. “You should switch!”

abj

You should talk to your children about race.

I’m not 100% sure how you should do it, or when you should do it, but you should.

You should talk to them whether you’re in the majority or a minority culture.
You should talk to them whether you live in a heterogeneous or homogeneous place.
You should talk to your children about race (unless, of course, you’re racist).

1. When we’re young, we recognize and acknowledge difference.

I’m from Texas, but I consider myself lucky. I grew up in diverse neighborhoods with diverse teaching staff in diverse schools. Throughout my entire educational experiences, I can only count a handful of racist teachers. Throughout my entire schooling experiences, I can only count a handful of racialized incidents with classmates or peers. I was never called any racist names (until years into adulthood surprisingly, and not even in Texas!).

When we’re young, we begin using categories to distinguish between good and bad, right and wrong. We form friendships and alliances using similar categorizations (We hire, fire, and promote using similar categorizations).

We’re concerned with sameness and difference. We’re more likely to associate positive characteristics and feelings with people who look and sound just like us.

My niece is learning three languages in her charter school in Katy, Texas. I couldn’t be prouder!

She’s tall for her age (like her mother was), outgoing, and smart. She’s assertive and likes to take on leadership roles. Her teachers usually put her in charge of whatever there is to be put in charge of. She’s popular.

A few weeks ago she came to my sister in tears. Another little girl at school made fun of her hair, and asked why it wouldn’t lie flat like hers did. After the tears subsided, my niece asked if we could straighten her hair.

When we’re young, we recognize and acknowledge difference.

2. Justice is important for all of us. Equality and equity should be as well. If we’re color-blind we ignore the lived reality of millions of people of color throughout the world. We ignore the colorism that unjustly relegates darker-skinned people into lower economic classes and isolates lighter-skinned folk away from members of their own cultural group or family.

We ignore the police brutality and killings of unarmed people of color throughout the world. We ignore the economic, research-based, statistical data that demonstrates the ongoing disparities regarding educational levels, wealth, career opportunities, housing, transportation access, childcare, infant mortality rates, complications during childbirth, etc. of people of color around the world.

When we don’t talk to our children about race, we allow them to believe whatever media images they see and hear because we don’t offer an alternative viewpoint. (If you don’t think an alternative viewpoint is needed, perhaps you should start here).

Also:
Puerto Rico (because there’s still no power).
Flint, Michigan (because they still don’t have clean water, and a state of emergency has been declared years after the fact).
Terence Crutcher (because he was unarmed, standing near his vehicle in the middle of the street).
Philando Castile (because it was a “routine” traffic stop, his partner and child were in the car, and where is the NRA support?)
Samuel DuBose
Sandra Bland
Freddie Gray
Walter L. Scott
Akai Gurley
Laquan McDonald
Keith Lamont Scott
Paul O’Neal
Alton B. Sterling
Tamir Rice
Michael Brown
Eric Garner
Rekia Boyd
Trayvon Martin

Also:
Anthony Stephan House and Draylen Mason

And then this:
Emmett Till’s accuser recants.

I could go on, but my blood pressure.

3. They’re going to ask me, or they’re going to make a host of potentially problematic assumptions about people who look like me. 

I’ve worked in education for more than fifteen years. In almost every class I’ve ever tutored or taught, I’ve been someone’s first black teacher. Inevitably, questions about race, ethnicity, and culture abound.

I’m cautious about how I handle these situations because I respect and value your children. I also respect and value your rights, as a parent, to serve on the front lines of these uncomfortable conversations before I even have a chance to.

I don’t get angry when children say something offensive to me about other black people. Children are naturally curious.

Besides, I’ve had racist (and sexist) teachers.
I’ve had racist co-workers.
I’ve had racist supervisors.
I’ve even had racist friends.

When we’re young, we recognize and acknowledge difference.

You should talk to your children about race.

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And if you need more guidance, try these:

And then please read this:
The White Supremacy Flower

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