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!

 

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.

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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.

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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.

 

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