Raising race conscious children: having tough conversations

let's talk about race

I have a new blog obsession, one that was recommended to me by Families for Justice, a local group I started working with to bring conversations about race to our community. The blog is called Raising Race Conscious Children, and is one of the best resources I’ve come across for learning how to talk about race, gender, and sexuality with young children. While I’m not a parent, I do, in a sense, have kids – my kindergarten students, every day for eight hours, all year long. Tough conversations arise when I spend time with my kids, and I’ve started going to this blog for inspiration and advice on how to work through these tough conversations.

The blog authors publish articles on all sorts of topics that arise when you spend time with young children, such as “Momma, why aren’t there more boy teachers?” and “Black is not a bad word: Why I don’t talk in code with my children.

For example, check out this post on what happened when the author’s seven-year-old daughter encountered an act of sexism on her soccer team. A boy cut in front of her in line and said boys should go first. He also later told her it would be embarrassing if a girl beat a boy while playing soccer. Her daughter got upset and told him it wasn’t nice.

On the way home, instead of shying away from the topic, her mom asked her daughter to explain what happened, and told her she was proud of her for standing up for herself. But the mom felt some unease when she realized that she didn’t explain the root cause of this interaction – that the boy wasn’t just being mean, he was being sexist.

So that night, the author “circles back” and brings it up with her daughter again. She does some courageous things in the conversation, including defining the word “sexism” for her daughter, and explaining that this probably won’t be the last time she’ll face a situation like this.

And instead of being fearful or upset, her daughter responds with courage too, and connects it to Rosa Parks standing up for what she believed in.

The author’s experience was a powerful one, and confirms my belief that we need to talk about these issues with our young children, instead of pretending that they’ll go away if we ignore them long enough. The conversations are tough, but necessary, for bringing social justice transformation to our families, classrooms, and communities.

My favorite line from the article:

“I don’t know if I found the right line that day, but I definitely grew. I grew in respect for my daughter and her ability to analyze what’s really going on. And I grew in my clarity that supporting our children in naming the truth of their own experiences isn’t likely to make them small or afraid. It’s much more likely to make large and courageous their capacity to act with agency in the world.”

What happened when I defined sexism for my daughter

Comments

  1. I love this. Thank you for opening up this discussion…I think a lot of people try avoiding heavy topics because they are difficult to articulate. Bentley is starting to realize all of the differences in people….race and gender roles are the biggest topics lately. Sometimes I feel like a hypocrite – when he asks about specific skin colors, I say something broad like, “We treat everyone the way we would want to be treated,” but then I backtrack in my mind because I don’t want him thinking he has to be “colorblind,” every race and nationality has a story and I want him to understand that. I just don’t know what’s politically correct for me to say!! Also, he recently asked if guys can be teachers too – I told him of course. But then….I thought of all the times I’ve also told him, “Oh, that’s something ONLY Dad does” or how he sees only me doing “housework” when Nick obviously does A LOT for our family. I think these parts of parenting are much scarier than bringing a newborn home for the first time…I am totally aware of the fact that we (parents, teachers, caregivers, etc) are cultivating their earliest perceptions and perspectives. You don’t want to mess it up! (sorry for the long story)

    • Thanks for sharing this!! I think it’s really brave of you to spend time thinking about these topics, and how you talk to your kids about them, instead of pretending it’s not there – because it IS tough to talk about! Kids start noticing race at such a young age, but if we make sure they’re not afraid to talk about it, they’re more likely to ask questions and learn more. Then hopefully they will learn that everyone has a story, and each of us are different, like you said. I have a strategy “cheat sheet” I can give you on how to make sure the discussion continues in a meaningful way when topics of race/gender/etc come up. Remind me to give it to you next time I see you!!

  2. Courtney, my name is Sachi and I am the main blogger at Raising Race Conscious Children…just came across this and wanted to thank you for reading/sharing…as well as encourage you to become part of our community of guest bloggers regarding a conversation with your students…http://www.raceconscious.org/submityourstory/ hope to hear from you!

  3. Courtney, my name is Sachi and I am the main blogger at Raising Race Conscious Children…just came across this and wanted to thank you for reading/sharing…as well as encourage you to become part of our community of guest bloggers regarding a conversation with your students…hope to hear from you!

    • Hi Sachi,
      Thanks for your message! I am a huge fan of your blog and often recommend it to teacher and parent friends of mine! I would be honored to submit a story and will do so as soon as I can! Thanks!

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