June 12th is Loving Day

This year’s Loving Day (2017) marks the 50th anniversary of the1967 United States Supreme Court decision Loving v. Virginia which struck down all anti-miscegenation laws remaining in sixteen U.S. states. Learn more at LovingDay.org.

What has changed in 50 years?

According to a new Pew Research Center analysis of U.S. Census Bureau data, in 2015, 17% –one in six– of all U.S. newlyweds had a spouse of a different ethnicity, marking more than a fivefold increase since 1967, when 3% of newlyweds were intermarried.

In observance of Loving Day,  Nathan I connected with Brett & Anjelica to candidly talk about marriage, family, and life in 2017. Though we have never met in person and are on opposite coasts (USA), we discover that we have a lot in common. This was fun!

 

Parents & Teachers: Help! Get a $50 Amazon Gift Card!

Parents and teachers:

Participate in this study (Parent SurveyTeacher Survey) conducted by our very own Dr. Tehia Starker Glass of UNCC’s College of Education.

If you are one of the first 50 participants for this study, you will receive a $50 Amazon gift card!  Simply, complete both the survey AND an interview by July 15, 2017.  In addition to the gift card, you may also receive 1 of 10  complementary registrations to the Pursuing Extraordinary Outcomes in Public Education (PEOPE) Conference held at UNC Charlotte Center City Campus October 30th. This year, PEOPE is featuring a series of presentations on conversations with children about race–including the results of this study!

Thank you for your participation and contribution to the research! Click a link below to start the survey.   

Parent Survey 

Teacher Survey 

Once again, THANK YOU!

The Global Mom Show Podcast: Talking to Your Kids About Race with Lucretia Berry

For our family, it seems ridiculous to pretend that we don’t see differences in our skin tone. In fact, we celebrate the diversity of our beautiful hues that make up the tapestry of our and the ‘hue-man’ family. Also, it seems odd that we would not talk about race with our young children, considering that we live in a society obsessed with ‘racial’ distinctions–even to the extent of pretending not to see them. Our conscientious approach to raising informed, instead of ‘colorblind,’ children evolved into Brownicity: The Art and Beauty of Living and Loving Beyond Race.

On The Global Mom Show, I had the opportunity to share more on the heart and story behind Brownicity and the creation of the series and book, What LIES Between Us Journal & Guide: Fostering First Steps Toward Racial Healing. To get updates about when this series and others are offered, subscribe to our mailing list (website of fb page).

Listen. Read. Share.  

FB, IG, Twitter

Reading, Writing, and (overt) Racism: the new normal school day?

This is the beginning of an intricate text conversation I had this morning with my cousin, who is a wife, mom of two, and an award winning educator.

img_0262

I was furious and heart broken! But not wanting to jump to conclusions, I held myself back from blaming this hideous presidential campaign we endured for the last two years. You know, the one that breathed life into the fear-driven, hate-induced rhetoric that successfully accomplishes its mission of divide and conquer.

So, as you see in the text thread, I asked “Has anything like this ever happened before?” Again, trying to be objective, I deleted the extension of my question that read “before the president-elect’s campaign?” Of course, I knew the answer. But my desperate optimism was holding out for an equally dark but somehow more hopeful response like,

Keep reading →

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.

IMG_1462

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.

 

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.

FullSizeRender

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.

imgres-7

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. 

images-7

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.

I’m Not Racist…Am I? review & reflections

by Lucretia Carter Berry

I’m Not Racist!…Am I? is a feature documentary about how this next generation is going to confront racism. The film’s unique focus on kids and family immediately grabbed our attention. So a few of us Brownicity moms moved heaven and earth to attend the screening at Trinity Episcopal School in Charlotte, NC.

With film maker, Andre Robert Lett
With film maker, Andre Robert Lee

Through the documentary, we followed twelve New York City teens on a year long journey getting to the heart of racism. We watched as these kids were challenged within themselves, their friendships and families. We watched as they had conversations that most adults are too afraid to have. We watched as these remarkable young people navigated through naiveté, guilt and a few tears to develop deeper bonds, a stronger resolve and a truer definition of racism.

Their collective navigation was made both complicated and beautiful by the mosaic of their individual stories. After the film, we moms talked about with whom of the twelve we most identified.

Personally, as a black woman, I could identify with Kahleek, who through involvement in the project, was relieved and excited to gain a framework and language for articulating how institutional and structural racism had played out in his life.

But as a mom, I was most impacted by Abby, who is multiethnic (bi-racial) like my children. Unlike our family, Abby’s parents had not talked about race with her. As Abby is empowered by her involvement in the project, we watch her have a weighty and convicting conversation with her father, telling him, “If we would have talked about it as a family, I would have been more comfortable.” Can you say ‘Brownicity Soap Box Moment?’

It is empowering to see and understand the forces in your life that work independently of your own abilities, talents, and will. It is even more empowering to be given the permission to deconstruct and dismantle these forces. Brownicity exists to help families do this.

Watching these kids take this journey will inspire adults to do the same. See the website for how to access I’m Not Racist!…Am I? This film is an invaluable tool for families and communities.

The film is part of a larger initiative – Deconstructing Race – developed by The Calhoun School to create a multimedia platform to get young people, their teachers and their families talking – and doing something – about structural systemic racism. (http://notracistmovie.com/)