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. 


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.


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,

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For Parents: 7 Steps Toward Healthy Race Conversations with Kids


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.


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!


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. 


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.


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.


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. 


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. 


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.


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.


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


How do we get people to want to know the truth? Reflections from a Ta-Nehisi Coates lecture


‘How do we get the truth—the knowledge about race/ism—to people?’

This was the question posed by a college student following the lecture given by Ta-Nehisi Coates at Davidson College (November 16. 2015). This particular student, a young man, was excited about what he’d uncovered in his college course regarding anti-racist education. I could tell that he was excited about knowing the true history of how race/ism was intentionally designed and implemented. He was excited to be enlightened and clear. He was clear about how the division, inequality, hate and fear were not an organic, natural occurrence and that people groups are not biologically predisposed for a social economic hierarchy. With clarity in place, he began to hope. Implied in his question, tone and demeanor, was that if we all new the truth, we could all be free and end all this race/ism nonsense.

‘The truth is available. The information is clear. It is written in the constitution. The cause for the Civil War is clearly written in the war document. The laws that secured inequality have been documented. The truth is not hidden. It is available for all who want to know. But people don’t want to know. They benefit from believing the lies.’ 

This was the gist of the lecturer’s response to the young man’s question. So the question is not ‘how do we get the truth to people and make them aware of the true history’ Perhaps the question is…’How do we get people to want to know the truth?’

Dear people who believe that you benefit from believing the lie,

By accepting the false narratives that you have been force-fed and digested, you are pawns in a game rigged for everyone’s demise. Yes, even your own demise. While refusing to deconstruct the lie of race/ism, you continue to be exploited, raped, used, and abused, and taken advantage of. For over 300 years, this system (of race ideology, narratives and discrimination) has counted on your ignorance to perpetuate fear so that it can thrive.  While this system gives you the illusion of benefitting—status, material gain, comfort, self-righteousness—your loss is so much greater.

Unfortunately, your soul suffers a severe loss in believing others less worthy of love than you. You forfeit your right to be fully human as you continue to deprive others of humanity and human rights. By sustaining this nonsense, you lose your opportunity to tap into the divine creative power we all possess to rise up and overcome the weak principality of race. And by allowing yourself to be governed by such a weak principality, you allow yourself to live as a slave. (Ironic, isn’t it?)

Our desire is for you to be FREE, empowered and living in the full capacity for which you were created. We love you and are anxiously awaiting your arrival to the border of Freedom Land. We can’t fully enter without you. In the meantime, let us know how we can help you want to know the truth?

Looking forward to seeing you soon.


Brownicity: The Art & Beauty of Living & Loving Beyond Race  12342793_1659421017676481_8349281181690331825_n