Saying ‘No Thanks’ to Lying to Kids about Thanksgiving

Saying ‘No Thanks’ to Lying to Kids about Thanksgiving

by Dr. Tehia Starker GlassUNCC’s College of Education.

Tis the season for depicting the stories that coincide with the holidays!  Thanksgiving is up next and my husband and I have the responsibility of educating our 18 month old and  3 year old about what and why we celebrate.

We choose to say, “No Thanks” to going along with the ‘traditional’ depiction of the Thanksgiving story–the one where the Pilgrims and Indians sing ‘kum by yah’ around a perfectly styled dinner table.

We believe we have to prepare our boys with a foundation of historical accuracy for not only their racial group, but other’s racial groups so they can discern truth from a false or deficit-oriented narrative about themselves and others.  Based on current curriculum that is taught in schools, we know we have to provide a less Eurocentric perspective of history.

It’s critical that our boys learn:

  • a historically accurate representation of Thanksgiving–time, location, people. Ask, ‘Who are the “heroes?” ‘Was it really Thanksgiving like we see in current time?’
  • accurate language–names of the Native Americans/Indigenous people,
  • multiple perspectives (Native and European) of Thanksgiving, 
  • and a developmentally appropriate representation of Thanksgiving. What my 3 year old learns will be different than what my 18 month old learns.

We identified resources that support what we’d like our boys to see.  We found Native American/Indigenous authors, illustrators, historians, organizations and the like to get an authentic perspective of Thanksgiving. Beyond the resources, we chose to incorporate larger ideas of Thanksgiving and what it means to our family.   

Here are some resources we found. So, pull out the arts and crafts supplies, books, and the love, and have some fun celebrating Thanksgiving! 

Constructing Knowledge about “The first Thanksgiving”

 

North Carolina Native American History (for caregivers and teachers-includes lesson plans)

 

Lesson Plan for grades 4-12

 

Children’s Book List from American Indians in Children’s literature

Bible verses about giving thanks. 


 

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.

 

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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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

 

 

Active Agents

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We’ve All Been Duped

We’ve all been duped!

Tricked into thinking that race is WHO WE ARE–is ESSENTIAL to our identity!
Tricked into thinking that race is entitled to our allegiance.

And so we surrender to its SIREN, calling us to COAGULATE into sides, fortified to defend against the OPPOSITION–the opposition that race created. Yes, its  a CRAZY CONUNDRUM!

“Mr. Race. You took a WHOLE, divided it into pieces and called each piece greater than the other. Then you say to the pieces, ‘Defend yourself against the others! By destroying them, we will be WHOLE again!’”

Race has us all TWISTED and TANGLED

CONFUSED and MANGLED

VIOLATING sisters and brothers in pursuit of self-prescribed justice.

If we destroy the lines, then we can all be on the same side.

Mr. Race, you have no place in this space! —Lucretia Carter Berry, 2015

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We are engaging in a paradigm shift. Our eyes are wide open and we can so clearly see the forces that have shaped our national consciousness by writing many of us out of the human family and leaving the rest of us to function without a societal mirror. Decision-makers and media representatives systematically reframe our history to cultivate fear and ignorance. Fear and ignorance are a perfect recipe for feeding the narratives that subtly seduce us into indifference to racism, segregation, poverty, genocide and the list of dehumanization goes on.The consequences  have been reprehensible, disgraceful and seemingly unforgivable.

BUT as we take on the responsibility of becoming active agents, we are empowered to reject the frames, narratives and subliminal messages that have lied to us—that have broken our human family!

A frame is an unconscious lens through which we view an issue or problem. Related to social cognition processes encoded in our brains, frames help us quickly make sense of complex information and then make individual and collective decisions on that basis. These processes generate deeply embedded perspectives that are easily activated in the subconscious, especially through devices like images, stories, stereotypes and slogans. For example, ‘Hard work yields prosperity.

Narratives are specific stories (whether real, exaggerated, or fictionalized) used to convey or reinforce a given frame. For example, ‘Those who have less are not hard workers, are lazy and are looking for a hand out.’

Messages are the takeaway from frames and narratives that invoke specific action. For example, ‘Poor people want a hand-out. Don’t help poor people.

The bad news is our forefathers made up this crap. The good news is our forefathers made up this crap! Therefore we can un-do this crap!

We can change our frame! Dr. Caroline Leaf* says so. We can switch on our brains, question everything, no longer passively accept information that dehumanizes people, and embrace the responsibility to think and act outside of the lies we’ve been told.

We can choose a frame of justice, love, grace, mercy, friendship, forgiveness and ONEness. And within that frame, we can write narratives that speak to the God-value in all of us. And our message, the take away, will be one of healing, change, and inclusion. We will live, move and ‘be’ very differently than we are now.

This is where we are after Session 3. To continue moving forward, do the homework in preparation for Session 4, Tuesday, Oct. 6. 

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*Who Switched Off My Brain? Controlling Toxic Thoughts and Emotions by  Dr. Caroline Leaf