What are kids learning… when we are not teaching…?

by Lucretia Carter Berry

This is Ali Michael. Listen to her story.

Are you comfortable talking about skin tone and race?

Why or why not?

What were you taught about race in your home? In your school?

How were you taught about race?

Do you have ‘race talk’ anxiety?

My four year old, while watching Family Feud told me that she wanted the brown family to win because they are brown like us. Here is a picture of our family.

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As you can see, we are a multi-ethnic family. We are five different skin tones. The family that she was rooting for was a black family, or from her non-racialized perspective, a family in which everyone’s skin tone looks like mine. I was not bothered that she noticed the families’ skin tone differences. I was baffled by her established connection based on skin tone. I nervously asked myself, “Why is she connecting to the family based on their skin tone? Has she somehow developed prejudices?

Another time and completely unrelated to Family Feud,  I overheard my six year old telling her sisters that the doll with the dark brown skin could not play the role of Elsa (from Frozen) because Elsa has light skin and only dolls with light skin can play the role of Elsa because Elsa has light skin. I politely interjected telling her that the dark brown dolls should have the opportunity to play the role of Elsa because if only the light skin dolls were able to be Elsa then the dark brown dolls would not know the joy of pretending to be Elsa. And if we only see Elsa’s role played by light skin dolls, then we will think that only light skin dolls can play the starring roles.  

You probably have all kinds of thoughts about the skin tone conversations that we are having in our family, but here is the truth. Children are noticing skin tone differences as early as 6-18 months and by age three, children are making decisions to associate with friends who look like them. In Rubbing Off, Allison Briscoe-Smith sheds some light on developmental process of children.

For years, studies have found that children who recognize these [skin tone or racial] differences from an early age show a stronger general ability to identify subtle differences between categories like color, shape, and size—which, in turn, has been linked to higher performance on intelligence tests. …children between the ages of four and seven who show this advanced ability to identify and categorize differences are actually less prejudiced.

It is natural for children to make distinctions and categorize. But parents and teachers who have ascribed to ‘being colorblind’ have little experience talking about skin tone and race without feeling like they are somehow being racist or contributing to race problems.

The scenario is common. Many unprepared parents or teachers—perhaps caught off guard by a child’s inquiry or conversation about skin tone or race—panic and respond with “Shhh…we don’t talk about skin color,” “race doesn’t matter,” “race shouldn’t matter,” “ we are colorblind…we don’t see color.” The problem with that response is that CHILDREN DO SEE COLOR; and we live in a racialized society where race has played a huge role in establishing systems and norms which continue to have a huge impact on shaping lives. So, unfortunately, RACE still DOES MATTER! And intentionally NOT talking and teaching about it does NOT make racism go away!

When we silence our children with attempts to make them colorblind, we rob them of the power and language to have healthy conversations that could contribute to the change we’d love to see in our society. As Ali Micheal (the shero in the video),  points out in What White Children Need to Know About Race, when we don’t talk or teach about race, “we leave unchallenged the racial messages children receive from a number of sociailzing agents, which consistently place whites at the tope of the racial hierarchy” (Michael and Bartoli). Therefore, silence allows our children to be conditioned by the very “racist status quo” from which we wish to absolve them. In our children, we have the opportunity to brandish change. We should not forsake this opportunity with silence.

So, if we want to have ethnically diverse communities in which race does not matter, we need to actually feel free to talk about skin tone and race—give our children the awareness, skills and competencies that can not be acquired through silence.

The benefits of teaching such skills and competencies far exceed the comfort of silence. Teaching

  • undermines the power of racist structures, traditions, ideas and laws
  • provides support for disrupting stereotypes and implicit bias
  • leads to greater understanding
  • increases the ability to recognize and interrupt racial injustice
  • supports conscious and intentional practice
  • exposes counter narratives
  • helps understand connections
  • contributes to change and changing world view 

Teaching does not

  • make racists
  • perpetuate racism
  • create racial tension
  • portray racial groups as inherently bad, ignorant, racist, victims, powerless, hopeless, etc.

It’s important that our children are comfortable having conversations about skin tone and race. They should not be made to feel awkward or inappropriate for asking questions. They should not be made to feel as though talking about someone’s skin tone or race is off limits or a big, intimidating topic. Children should not be made to feel awkward or inappropriate for asking questions. We can begin conversations with them when they are young. If you as a parent or teacher, have ‘race talk’ anxiety and have no idea how to have non-silencing conversations, find helpful resources. I’ve listed a few below. Also, practice —with friends, with other parents and teachers—so you can reduce your anxiety before talking with children.

The history of racism belongs to all of us and and everyone is needed in the healing process. As parents and teachers, instead of silencing our children with colorblindness, let’s make it our goal to be CONSCIOUS, COMPETENT, CONFIDENT and COMFORTABLE

Here are a few resources that can help you move beyond the silencing ‘colorblind’ approach.

  1. What White Children Need to Know About Race
  2. Rubbing Off
  3. 7 Steps Toward Healthy Race Conversations with Kids
  4. Resources for Continued Learning by  We Are ColorBRAVE
  5. Why Color Blindness Will Not End Racism 

Stay tuned as I share specific ways to equip and empower children in this area.

 

“I can swim” Thank you, Simone Manuel!

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by Lucretia Carter Berry

When Simone Manuel won, I heard the beautiful sound of false beliefs being flushed down the drain. I love that sound! And with that sound, more and more the asinine belief system established by race ideology loses it grip. Olympians are made when talent, hard work, perseverance, opportunity and support align. The race caste system has stolen opportunity and support from many people thereby creating a ripple effect of more false beliefs resulting in more lives stolen. But humanity is resilient!

When Simone Manuel won, I felt the death of that conversation I’d had countless summers as an adult. It goes something like this:

Them:  Can you swim?

Me: Yes

Them: Really? Are you sure?

Me: Yes

Them: I thought black women don’t swim. (Or something like that. Some don’t actually say it, but their faces show that they are thinking it.)

I want to answer with this, “It’s not that we don’t…It’s just that for so long we were denied the opportunity and forced to live in places with no pools, and…” But usually, there’s no time for an extensive education on how the race caste system has stolen, killed and destroyed so much for so many. And frustrated that my ‘yes’ is not enough, that my ‘yes’ seems weak against the hard wiring of mis-information and false beliefs, I gently respond, “I grew up with a pool in my yard.

I know that telling them that I grew up with a pool in my yard, though true, makes space for more confusion, but at least it ends me feeling like I am on trial defending myself against their burden of stereotypes. Honestly, I am left a little beat up by their perspective, but simultaneously empowered by the expression of my truth! I can swim!

And there is always an awkward tension that I can’t interpret. Are they embarrassed by their assumption? Are they confused by my response? Are they rewiring their thinking—replacing old information with new revelation? I am always hopeful that they are rewiring—not just for their sakes but for the sake of humanity. If they are re-wiring, if change within is occurring, then the awkward conversation is worth it!

When Simone Manuel won, I felt the weight of that—the history of stolen lives, the burden of correcting false beliefs, that childhood memory of watching white families get out of the resort pool when my black family got in,  the ‘I can swim’ defense along with the emotional and psychological trauma, pain, strength, patience, embarrassment , awkwardness, and empowerment that come with it—LIFT AND BECOME A TRILLION TONS LIGHTER. I sensed a billion eyes opening and minds being set free. I heard the snap of shackles breaking!

When Simone Manuel won, EVERYONE WON! Congratulations!!

Race: Are We So Different? FIELD TRIP

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Join us for our FIRST field trip, Saturday, August 27! (We say first because we have already started planning more). For a limited engagement, the South Carolina State Museum is hosting the blockbuster exhibit, RACE ARE WE SO DIFFERENT?, a project of the American Anthropological Association and funded by the Ford Foundation & National Science Foundation.

As with all Brownicity events, this field trip is family friendly. So bring your kids!—but only if you want to.

We will carpool from Charlotte to Columbia, SC (or you can meet us at the museum), tour the exhibit, engage in a reflection and discussion session led by our own Brownicity leaders, and enjoy a meal together.
$10 per person includes museum admission and admission to the exhibit.

RSVP through the field trip announcement by Friday, August 19, so we can make group reservations and coordinate carpool.

If you have any questions, contact us through the field trip announcement

#Prayer

by Lucretia Carter Berry

They walked with Jesus witnessing him perform many miracles. Out of all the amazing things that the disciples could have asked Jesus to teach them to do, the only thing they requested was to be taught how to pray? Why? Weren’t they entrenched in a culture full of daily prayers–great prayers that they inherited from their forefathers?

Like Jesus’ disciples, I had questions about prayer, too. I used to be really insecure, unsure and clueless about prayer until I understood this one thing:

God offers us His version of creation. All we have to do is want it.

In this talk on prayer, I unpack this idea — how understanding this has allowed me to grow secure and confident in prayer.  I address what the disciples’ request was really about and how their question should be our question: “Lord, teach us to pray just as John taught his disciples.” 

Watch and share.

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For Parents: 7 Steps Toward Healthy Race Conversations with Kids

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This article by Lucretia Carter Berry  was first featured earlier this year in For Every Mom, entitled Your Children See Color—and It’s Beautiful! Here’s Why You Shouldn’t Be Afraid to Talk About It. We thought we’d feature it here as we’ve recently been inundated with questions about how to engage in change. These 7 steps are a good start.

Fear

I accidentally freaked out some of my white friends when I shared the article 7 Reasons Why ‘Colorblindness’ Contributes to Racism Instead of Solves It by Jon Greenberg on our facebook page.

I heard the panic in their private messages and conversations.

‘Wait! I thought being colorblind was good! Now its bad?”

“Well, some of my African-American friends called me colorblind as a compliment. They said I don’t see color. And that’s good. Right?”

“Oh crap! I’ve been telling my children to be colorblind! What do I do, now?”

Because it has been a popular and widely accepted approach for decades, no one should feel guilty for having succumb to the teachings of colorblind ideology—which in most part asserts that seeing color and/or addressing race issues is bad and racist. However, as the article pointed out, ‘colorblindness’ is problematic on multiple levels. (There is no need for me to reiterate, the article is available here).

After learning how the colorblind approach nullified her intentions to raise aware kids, my friend wanted to know what she should do.

“That article was full of DON’Ts,” she said. “I need some DOs. What should I be doing?”

She had a point. With the colorblind approach being so pervasive, we ought not think that folks will automatically know what to do when they learn the error of their ways. So here are some DO’s and a few resources that will get us much further in our pursuit for healing, justice, equality, unity and raising aware kids than the colorblind approach.  Let’s BRING COLOR BACK!

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1. START WITH THE TRUTH. Be honest. You DO see color in skin, hair, eyes, and other physical features like height, size, hair length, etc. It is ok to admit it. Your children are not afraid to talk about skin color and you don’t need to be shy about it either.

Just in our family of five, we have five different skin tones and hair textures. Our conversations include references to melanin, ancestral history, geographic origins, straight, wavy, and curly hair. 

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2. EMBRACE COLOR AS GOOD. There’s nothing wrong with color. There is no shame in color.

In our home, we surround our children with books, media and toys full of color. Also, dolls and action figures reflect many different skin tones. You and your children should access books and media in which people and children of color are central, leading dynamic characters, not only one-dimensional stereotypical characters.

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3. BECOME RACE LITERATE. It is much easier to navigate conversations about race when you have a concrete understanding of what it actually is. For most of us, we’ve inherited what we know about race from polarized opinions, divisive politics, colorblindness and an absence of inclusive representation in our school curriculum and media. Racism transcends acts of meanness and bigotry. So, informed conversations have to go deeper as well. Knowledge is power, so empower yourself. Take a class or a workshop. Read books. Subscribe to a few education websites and Facebook pages. Commit yourself to learning why and how race has become such an issue. Being educated about race, racism and its issues will allow you to get over the discomfort of talking about it and equip you to be a part of the solution of dismantling it.

Recently, our 8 year old was into the Who Is/Was? series. The books on Abraham Lincoln and Martin Luther King, Jr., to name a few, stirred her curiosity and desire to know more about race and racism. Teaching her about the history and legacy of racism does not make her racist, but gives her awareness, understanding, and permission to envision and create a better world.

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4. CONNECT TO OTHER PERSPECTIVES. Develop authentic meaningful relationships with people who’s ethnicity is different than your’s.  Be literal and intentional about eradicating the racial divide and living out change. Build relationships where your children see you caring for and respecting people of color. Community events, school, church, sports, and arts are great places to find common ground—especially child-related—and connect.      

Our children’s lives are richer today because of a woman from India who befriended me in graduate school. She wanted me, a black woman to spend more time with her family—which at that time included a white husband and their two small children—to combat the negative messages about black people that her children were receiving from their white teachers, in a predominantly white school, teaching from a ‘single story’ curriculum. A mom’s intentional connection blossomed into a life long friendship.

Wanting to build a relationship with someone because they are ethnically different than you might feel awkward and risky at first. But remember you probably have much more in common with them than racial divisiveness has allowed you to believe. Furthermore, the life long benefits exceed the initial discomfort and contribute to dismantling division. 

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5. BE CONSCIOUS OF RACIAL INJUSTICES AND DISPARITIES. Doing numbers 3 and 4 will help you be able to more clearly see the universal effects of racism and the role it plays in outcomes.  Be sensitive to this. Be open to hearing people’s experiences of race/racism—especially if these people are your friends. Such stories need to be heard, valued, and then addressed through love and compassion. 

Movies like Glory Road and Hairspray make good discussion prompts for children. The themes are upbeat and relatable—sports in one and music and dancing in the other. And the plot provides some historical context for talking about the legacy of injustice and disparities. 

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6. TALK ABOUT IT.  How can we solve a problem, if we can’t talk about it? Does not talking about cancer heal cancer? When we do steps 1-5, we are equipped and empowered to talk about it. There can be no more insecurity, guilt or shame when talking about something that is such a significant part of the American story. With children, the conversations should be age appropriate. But having informed conversations sets a good example.

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7. ACTIVELY ENGAGE IN DECONSTRUCTING AND DISMANTLING RACE. Remember that race and racism are man-made constructions—a false belief system. Moving forward with different hearts and minds, we can dismantle it.

Racism affects just about every aspect of our lives—education, heath care, housing, opportunities and the justice system. In order to heal and change our communities, we have to address racism outright.

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We encourage our children to move forward in the truth and envision a world where all this nonsense has been abolished. If we can dream it, with God, we can achieve it.

Now to the God who can do so many awe-inspiring things, immeasurable things, things greater than we ever could ask or imagine through the power at work in us,…(Eph 3:20).

Brownicity is our platform for engaging. You are welcome to join us on this journey.

Here are a few helpful resources for ‘bringing color back.’ More resources for helping you become race-literate are listed here. Also, stay connected to attend our classes and sessions. 

  1. Lee & Low Books is a multicultural children’s book publisher whose books emphasize the richness of today’s culture.
  2. Zinn Education Project
  3. Everyday Democracy: Ideas and Tools for Community Challenge
  4. Search your local area for initiatives that offer classes and sessions like Race Matters for Juvenile Justice and Brownicity: The Art & Beauty of Living & Loving Beyond Race.
  5. Raising Race Conscious Children, a resource to support adults who are trying to talk about race with young children.
  6. Raise Up Justice Diverse Books Starter Kit
  7. Be the Bridge to Racial Unity shares resources, vision and skills for racial unity

Resources

Hair is not a race! Hair is not ethnic!

Hair is not a race! Hair is not ethnic! All people have ethnicity! Beauty belongs to everyone!

There is no black hair, white hair, good hair or bad hair. And there is no such thing as ethnic hair or ethnic beauty! The beauty aisles divide us along imaginary lines conceived by an ideology meant to divide, confuse and conquer us. But our hair refuses to cooperate. Our hair is just hair and wants what it needs. Our hair doesn’t  give any consideration to socially and politically constructed racial categories or the beauty industry’s narrow beauty ideals.

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Target and Walmart have not invited me to rearrange their BEAUTY aisles. The beauty industry failed to consult with me about marketing strategies for promoting inclusive beauty attributes. If they had, I would have advised them to reframe from arranging beauty products in a way that is meaningless to our beauty and perpetuates misinformation. Instead, hair products, for example, should be arranged based on hair itself and not the ethnic background of the head its on.

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So here we go  again…changing the narratives we’ve been told in order to equip and empower our children to know and do better than we did. In honor of Loving Day (June 12),  Brownicity hosted Breaking Beauty Barriers! What a perfect day to defy laws of oppression! Moms came with their children, a host of hair products and a multitude of questions. We detangled and combed through twisted race-based hair myths and misinformation. We locked in on our hair types, hair porosity, and regimens. We cleansed our perspectives and conditioned our minds for a beauty paradigm shift.

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Debi, brought her mom and her six year old daughter with her in hopes of demystifying three generations of hair care anxiety. You see, race-based beauty marketing and sales told Debi that she had ‘black’ hair–not the color, the race. Even the sales associate at the beauty supply store told Debi she had ‘black’ hair and then handed her a bunch of ‘black’ hair-care products. Debi’s mom had long given up on figuring out her own hair and masked her hair anxiety with a wig. In a way, many of the moms there could relate to Debi and her mom.  And we no longer wanted to mask our confusion—not just for our sake, but for the sake of our children.

We want to raise children who are secure about their features and whose beauty ideals will not be categorized, defined and labeled by the beauty industry’s use of race-based marketing—which is especially counter-intuitive for multi-ethnic families. We want our children to appreciate and nurture the hair they are fortunate to have. And when they bring home friends whose hair is different, we parents won’t be stifled by a hair care regimen that differs from our’s. And as always with Brownicity, we want to equip and empower our children so that they know better and do better than our generation did.

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In the grand scheme of radically rejecting centuries old race-related ideals, hosting a ‘hair play date’ may seem superficial and trivial. But socially and culturally, hair makes a significant statement. Hair is an expression of identity—what we believe about ourselves. So, talking about hair served nicely as a common sacred space from which to expand our knowledge and break a few barriers. We let our hair down. We exposed our anxieties. We were vulnerable. We were real. We took our proverbial wigs off. We got a lot of joy and fulfillment out of breaking down walls that never should have been erected.

Debi’s mom left ‘Breaking Beauty Barriers’ with her wig off, hair exposed and free to do whatever. Debi abandoned the limited hair definitions she’d been given along with the products that went with them. Afterwards, Debi texted this

You helped 3 generations of my family with knowledge…Thanks for disabusing me of bad information 🙂 Hair ignorance is a burden but knowledge is power

We were all disabused, at least, of the notion that we are so irreconcilably different from each other—that our beauty can be categorized and subcategorized.  We gathered to be set free from lack of knowledge and bad information—one of the many legacies of race and the subsequent bi-product of race-based marketing and beauty industry ideals. It may take a while before the beauty industry reframes from dividing products into ‘beauty’ and ‘ethnic.’ But until then, we can disrupt and rearrange the beauty narrative within. Our children will be so glad we did.

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From ‘Black and White’ to Brownicity: Our story of transcending race.

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We are Nathan and Lucretia Berry, creators of Brownicity: The Art & Beauty of Living & Loving Beyond Race. Brownicity (pronounced like ethnicity) is our platform for disrupting the race narrative! The term, Brownicity is a combination of the words ‘brown,’ as in we are all hues of brown and ‘ethnicity,’ as in that which we have in common.

Brownicity emerged from our desire to equip and empower our children with language and substance that would inform their true identities which exist beyond a social and political construct. Our children bare the image of God. Essentially, they are creators, light, life, beautiful, gifted, talented, kind, loving, forgiving, sensitive, brave…we could go on and on. But unfortunately, in a highly racialized society, the race narrative will try to inform who they are–race will try to dictate their future.

With our first child, we searched for ways to give our then four year old a framework for conversations about skin tone and race that were age appropriate and that met our objectives of not centralizing our identities around race. We needed to be able to talk about daddy’s light skin and black straight hair, mommy’s deep brown skin and infinitely curly hair and her (our daughter’s) slightly tan skin and black big curly hair. One day, she came home from preschool and said, “we are all shades of brown. Daddy is really light brown. I am a little bit brown and mommy is a lot brown.” We loved it! We took that and ran with it. Our four year old understood how melanin works and had deduced a unifying truth from it: We are all shades of brown.

Equipping, empowering, encouraging and inspiring our children to live life outside of the race lie has opened the door for us to do the same for many other multi-ethnic families, people and communities. So, it is truly ironic that before the beginning of ‘us becoming one’ our lives were very ‘black and white.’

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Lucretia.  Born and raised in Winston-Salem, NC in the 70’s, a second generation integrated community had impressed upon me the significance, or rather insignificance, of being black in a white majority. Some of the lies race taught were easy to reject. Other lies were subconsciously internalized. But, the uprooting of the race ideology would soon begin my journey of healing and liberty in of all places, Iowa…talk about a white majority. Iowa State University was my home for several years while I completed my graduate work. I managed to find a black church on campus that seemed to serve as my spiritual and cultural oasis.

The authenticity and kindness of that church resurrected my life. I believe that God guided me all the way to Iowa to experience the growth, encouragement and connection I experienced as a part of that faith community.

One Sunday, the pastor laid out a vision for a multi-ethnic ministry. “We will no longer be a black church,” he said. “We will be a reflection of heaven. We are Becoming Interracially One…BIO!” I wish that I could say that my heart leapt with excitement about BIO. But, the pastor’s words felt like a punch in the face. Betrayal. Those words stung like salt in a 400 year old racial wound!

‘How could he destroy my oasis?’ I lamented. My thoughts turned to how much blackness I’d have to sacrifice, allow to die, in order to welcome white people into my faith community. While my emotions responded to the painful history of racial injustice, my spirit seemed to know that there was a greater work in the making. I aligned myself with the vision of becoming a multi-ethnic church. I opened myself to change. It was complicated and uncomfortable. My emotions and thinking were in constant contention.

But, I did the work of change. Change allowed me to meet Nathan. 

Nathan. I was born and raised in Indianola, Iowa,  a small community known for farming and hot air balloons. Growing up, I knew less than a hand full of people who were not white. As a small child, my father was the pastor of a country church that literally had corn growing on three sides of the building. About the time I finished elementary school we were moving so that my dad could begin pastoring a church in Des Moines that would have a focus on ethnic diversity. At the time, I didn’t know what ethnic or diversity even meant.

In the fall of 1996, I began my freshman year at Iowa State University. My “churched” background required that I attend a campus ministry weekly–even though like most 18 year olds, I had no desire to attend a church service every Sunday morning. Fortunately, I found one that started at noon, so I could recover from the activities of Saturday night and still make it to church on time. I attended this traditionally black church for an entire semester, sat in the back and no one ever spoke to me. By the time my second semester began, the pastor began to engage with me about an idea to create a church that could reach people of any ethnic background. Two things connected me to this idea, the pastor’s passion and he wanted me to help.

Nathan & LucretiaServing together to realize the pastor’s vision demolished all kinds of racial, cultural, and religious barriers in our faith community and within ourselves. The church’s transformation was a chrysalis for personal transformation. Post graduation, our professions took us to two different regions of the country. But, we kept in touch and the rest is history. Striving toward a common goal solidified our friendship and gave us a unique and dynamic foundation–a foundation and a story that continues to speak through our family. On June 15, we celebrate 14 years of marriage and have three beautiful little girls.  It’s humbling to reflect on the now 20 year old ripple effect caused by a few ISU college students doing the work of change.

#WOKE

We finished our first 21-Day Race Ideology Detox. People gathered each Wednesday for a month to primarily not talk about race, but to actually learn about race and view this socio-political construct through the lens of faith. Two churches from different denominations came together to host the weekly meetings. You can read more about the churches and why they hosted the detox, here.

During the very first meeting, I could feel the tension and discomfort in the room as participants ‘held their breath’ in anticipation of the much dreaded rigid dichotomous  ‘race conversation.’ By the fourth and final session, I could sense the empowerment, unity and hope in the atmosphere. The heaviness and hopelessness was gone as participants had accepted the challenge to see race differently and become grace-filled spaces for healing and change.

Overall, participants were transformed by the process. One of the pastors wrote, “I was enlightened, challenged and encouraged.”  As the facilitator, I observed the paradigm shift that occurred as participants replaced their perspectives once only fed by divisive politics, colorblindness, uninformed opinions and miseducation with a more ‘unity, freedom and justice’ centered approach to the race conversation. 

One of the detox participants, Tiffany Trudewind, a wife and mom of four young children, chronicled her journey and transformation through her painting and a poem she wrote.

Painting by Tiffany Trudewind illustrates her tranformation to #woke.
Painting by Tiffany Trudewind illustrates her tranformation to #woke.

#Woke

by Tiffany Trudewind (April 2016)
As I struggle each day for my identity
Am I simply a mother, wife, churchgoer, consumer?
Am I someone who really makes a difference
Or will my daily routine become all that I will amount to?

 

Then I woke to realize that I was fighting to identify
With a role in a society that judged me only by what I produced
That I was trying to blend in with something
That wanted to swallow me whole instead.

 

Then as the scales of perpetual blindness fell,
I realized who I really was,
I am a voice!

 

I am a whisper in my children’s ears of how special they are,
I am the encouraging word for my husband after a long day,
I am the prayer for a friend who is struggling,
I am a voice!!

 

I have the power of words to lift up the weak or grind them to the dirt
To spew hatred like knives or heal wounds as sweet water
Like shifting plates under the earth’s crust
My words can gain enough momentum to cause an earthquake

 

And as this new identity began to wash over me,
My eyes were opened to its full reaching magnitude.
I am a child of God so I am His voice too!!
And when I realized my power I understood the importance of my influence.

 

But I reflected and realized there were times I had shied away from this power.
I had chosen to stay silent when injustice had happened around me
I had chosen to fade into the backdrop because I believed my voice didn’t matter.
I had chosen for my voice to not exist therefore I did not exist.

 

And with a bubble of fire from a place that God had built deep in my belly I said
I will not be silent any more!
I cannot stand by and pretend it will go away on its own
I was made to be a voice of God’s love in the face of fear and hate

 

So if you ask me now who I am I will say
I am an advocate against injustice
I am God’s word spoken aloud
I am a voice that is no longer asleep
I woke up

Tiffany’s relentless pursuit of transformation is extremely motivating and encouraging. She has taken on the burden of seeking and finding the truth and in the process is becoming free—free to free her family, free to free her community. Our goal is to help set people free from the ignorance and fear that holds us captive and prohibits us from walking in the unity and oneness for which Jesus prayed.

 

 

 

 

National Nanny Training Day Conference: When children have questions about skin tone, how will you respond?

presented by Lucretia Berry.

National Nanny Training Day
National Nanny Training Day Conference

‘Why is your skin a different color than mine?’

‘My skin is not white/black, why is it called white/black?’

What are some of the skin tone or race related questions that you’ve been asked by a child? One summer I was collecting data in an Appalachian preschool where everyone was white. A sweet little boy walked up to me and asked me why my legs were brown. I could sense that his question made the adults uncomfortable, but I thought that he and his question were adorable. How would you have answered his question?

Addressing the toddler was easy. It was the discomfort of the adults that caught me off guard. Why were the adults uncomfortable with his question? Because they were more than likely taught to be colorblind. Colorblindness is the notion that If we say we don’t see skin color or talk about it, racism will go away and that the person who mentions skin tone or race is racist. I guess colorblindness sounds good in theory, but not only did it make us an empty promise, it left us void of the language and ability to have seemingly simple conversations with children.

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You shouldn’t avoid talking with children about skin tone and race. Research shows that because children are developmentally prone to in-group favoritism, shunning conversations about race and skin tone will not produce the desired ‘everyone is equal’ mindset.

Having conversations about skin tone void of shame and discomfort in their early years empowers children with the right language and foundation for engaging in more complex conversations about race when the opportunity presents itself.

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Here are some ways to talk with children about skin tone and race. When children talk about skin being brown, peach, pink, etc., they are simply noticing the obvious. The observation of skin tone is not inherently connected to the social, political construct of race. So, when children have questions about skin tone, we don’t need to launch into a civil rights speech right away.

Here is how it plays out in our home. Our family is multi-ethnic—white dad, black mom, and three little girls, currently ranging in ages from four to eight. Because the race concept is complex and confusing (for adults to understand, let alone children) we gave ourselves a language and narrative to acknowledge our five different skin tones (and five different hair textures) without using race terminology like ‘white’ and ‘black.’  Starting from when our oldest was a preschooler, here’s a little of what we do.

  1. We talk about ‘melanin’. Melanin is why our skin tones are different ‘hues of brown.’ Mommy has more or darker melanin. Daddy has lighter or less. We use fun descriptors for our skin tone like ‘sugar cookie, caramel, peanut butter, chocolate.’ We make up songs about our different skin tones and we celebrate them!  (SIDE BAR: We talk about our hair in terms of various degrees, ranging from dad’s super straight hair to mommy’s infinitely kinky curly hair. There is no ‘white hair, black hair or ethnic hair.)
  2. We talk about geography and ancestry. Our children’s ancestors who lived closer to the equator have darker melanin and their ancestors who lived further away from the equator have lighter melanin. Having ancestors from Italy, Germany and Africa has contributed to our beautiful ‘hues of brown.’ 
  3. We talk about the history of race/ism. Around seven years of age, our oldest daughter understood the concept of race. We explained that around 400 years ago, someone divided people by skin color in order to give white people advantages by taking away opportunities for people of color. She read non-fiction children’s books, like Who Was Abraham Lincoln, Meet Addy: An American Girl, Who Was Martin Luther King, Jr., and learned of the atrocities and consequences of racism. As you can imagine, racism upsets children (as it should), so we also talk a lot about hope for the future. If we are educated about race/ism and passionate about change, we can create a better world!     

In children, we have the opportunity to cultivate a future overflowing with love, justice, peace, unity and fun. Telling the truth about skin tone and race/ism will only equip and empower them to help get us there. 

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Related Resources

Your Children See Color—and It’s Beautiful! Here’s Why You Shouldn’t Be Afraid to Talk About It. Online: For Every Mom. Lucretia Berry (2016)

Why White Parents Don’t Talk About Race: Does teaching children about race and skin color make them better off or worse? Nurture Shock: New Thinking About Children. Bronson & Merryman. (2009) Here is a summary.

Introducing our 21-Day Race Ideology Detox!

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We reformatted our initial Brown-tables sessions into twenty-one days of awakening, reflective thinking and growing our capacity to foster healing and change.

For the month of April, Independence Hill Baptist Church along with Jonahville AME Zion Church will be hosting the detox! To participate, join us each Wednesday at 6:15pm at IHBC. Childcare is provided! Please feel free to join us.

We are awakening to our collective creative power to heal and change the world. The world will shift quickly when we walk as the light-bearers we were created to be. This requires us to lead the way in dark areas where naturally no one likes to venture. Race/ism is one such area. We’ve been taught that if we don’t talk about race and say we don’t see color, racism will go away. Instead this ‘colorblind’ approach has left us void of language and power to confront the darkness of racism as it has continued to divide and conquer us—even in our sacred spaces, like the church.

Race/ism is an American invention that affects how we think about virtually every aspect of our society and culture—and yet we struggle to talk about or even define it. We can be part of the solution for racial healing. We can be the light that drives out the darkness. However, as we seek to transform the world, we must first allow ourselves to be transformed.

The Apostle Paul told the Romans, 

Do not allow this world to mold you in its own image. Instead, be transformed from the inside out by renewing your mind. As a result, you will be able to discern what God wills and whatever God finds good, pleasing, and complete. (Romans 12:2)

Likewise, we need to be aware of how we have adopted a worldly ideology that seems to have a stronger influence in and over our lives than our faith. To be a part of the solution for racial healing, we need to understand race/sim and how it has controlled our lives and thoughts—most often without us even recognizing it.

The 21-Day Race Ideology Detox will help us see the evil stronghold that has defiled our unity with each other and left us too fearful to confront it. It will bring awareness and understanding. It will prompt us to challenge our thoughts and actions that have contradicted our faith without us realizing it. It will help us unite against the force that has divided us. It will serve as a foundation for further and deeper healing and exploration. This detox will equip and empower us to talk about race/ism, so that we can address and eradicate it.Resources

During the detox, we will

  1. watch RACE-The Power of an Illusion, a series which investigates race in society, science and history;
  2. answer a series of *reflective questions that help awaken us to our thoughts and actions—conscious and subconscious—related to race; 
  3. and engage in guided activities and discussions facilitated by Team Brownicity.

*The reflective questions encourage you to renew your mind. The model is borrowed from Dr. Caroline Leaf’s program for overcoming toxic thinking.

Race ideology and our faith are at odds. Often our thoughts that are unconsciously driven by race-associated-fear override our faith. Because we are unaware of this non-conscious association, without thinking, we act out of fear instead of love. We act against love! But as Dr. Leaf reminds us, we can change our thinking. We can uproot the beliefs that have been planted into our thinking by race ideology. We can renew our minds!

If you have questions, please contact Independence Hill Baptist Church or us