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).

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‘What LIES Between Us’ — What Does Love Sound Like?

In line with our mission to encourage, equip and empower families to engage in healing and life-giving conversations about race, we offer a group experience called What LIES Between Us. The facilitated sessions, journal, and content are designed to foster first steps toward racial healing. Currently, the sessions are being hosted by Ann Fields. The participants are primarily her neighbors, friends and others who longed to connect to our conversation. 

Here is a peak inside our first session of What Lies Between Us: Fostering first steps toward racial healing

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Creating the space and setting the tone for a healthy experience is essential. Before guests crossed her threshold, Ann Fields had dedicated much time and attention to cultivating a healing atmosphere. She lovingly invited her guests, asked them to bring a dish to share, thoughtfully prayed for them and over her home, labored over the perfect oils and flowers that would release soothing fragrances, arranged the chairs in such a way to foster connection, recruited our teenagers to help take care of our smaller children. (The children were free to join with us adults and/or enjoy all of the play spaces, including the trampoline and zip-line. Fun!)

So, the first session had no choice, but to go well. Here are a few highlights.

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I presented the introduction and rationale for why the sessions are formatted and structured this way.  Most would agree that they have not engaged in group discussions or workshops on race in this way. The rationale is spelled out in the Introduction of the Journal and Guide

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Creative expression with crayons and story telling through a children’s book helped to disarm ‘race talk’ anxiety. Most people in this group, prior to this session, had not met. Some didn’t even know the hostess.  So, this activity helped us to warm up to each other.

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Our artist-in-residence, Micaila-Ayorinde Milburn-Thomas, led us in a music expression we call ‘What Does Love Sound Like?” We created a four-part harmonious consonance to embody the sound of unity. We sang beautiful melodies created from our individual explanations about why we’d chosen to participate

Respect..we want it.

We’re here to love one another.

I am the healer. I came here to heal.

Then our unity was interrupted by a ‘clanging symbol’ which created a cacophony. We were able to embody what a cacophony feels like. We were reminded that ultimately, we get to choose which vibration we want to release into the world–consonance or cacophony.

To reflect on what we experienced during our time together, we committed to completing chapter one ‘Believe Differently reflective journaling. Introspection fosters maturity from within.

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For the next three weeks, we will learn about the invention, history and legacy of race.

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Shalom.

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

What does the ‘art and beauty of living and loving beyond race’ mean?

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Yes, it is a rich descriptive—a poetic tag line, but what does it actually mean?

It describes those of us who have recognized the destructive force rendered through race ideology and have decided to deny it leverage in our lives—to the best of our abilities. We know that in its very conception, race ideology was and remains divisive— designed to corrupt humanity to an unrecognizable, irrefutable, inconsolable and irreconcilable broken mess.

BUT we are a people empowered by the DIVINE with love, hope, faith and creativity!

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Jefferson and his wife.

Jefferson (a white guy) described his father as a southern, Civil War enthusiast. Jefferson’s facial expressions gave us, his audience, permission to deduct that his father was an overt, proud racist. Post high school life experience left Jefferson with his own impressions about race that were different than those of his father. While attending a predominantly white university in Georgia, he joined a white fraternity and shared a brotherhood with young men who reflected his father’s perspective. BUT then Jefferson did something artful, beautiful and most of all intentional. He joined the African-American Student Association (AASA). He gave himself permission to be uncomfortable. He learned a lot. He forged relationships. He initiated a clothing drive for the homeless that created an opportunity for the brothers in his white fraternity to serve along side his brothers and sisters of AASA. Long after Jefferson graduated, the collaboration between the two groups occurs annually.

Jill and her family
Jill and her family

For almost twenty years, Jill (a black woman) has been a part of the white church she married into.  It was the church that her husband’s family had attended for generations. It sincerely reflected the socially and racially segregated community in which it was established in 1872. As the only black parishioner, most likely, Jill’s was the only heart longing for her church to be a hospitable and inclusive place for all people–not just white people. Jill prayed. Jill tried to leave. As if supernaturally anchored, Jill was compelled to stay. She continued to pray. Following the Charleston Nine massacre, Jill prompted, pushed and strongly encouraged her pastor to move forward differently and contribute to healing where race had secured such a cavernous breach among churches. Since then, Jill, her pastor and their church hold monthly reconciliation parties with a local African Methodist Episcopal church. As one, they assemble, break bread, worship, share, listen and talk about racial reconciliation. To witness the sights, sounds, feelings, and fragrance of these gatherings is to partake in the art and beauty of a finely crafted masterpiece.

Like so many of us in our Brownicity community, Jefferson and Jill intentionally do the hard work of tearing down walls, forging new paths, creating new stories, engaging in change—however uncomfortable and inconvenient.  The ‘art and beauty of living and loving beyond race’ integrates love, hope, creativity, passion, and commitment. We dare to believe that we can craft a more beautiful world for our children and then we do the work — in ourselves, in our families, in our communities, wherever we have access and influence. 

As you move forward, consider how you will partake in the art and beauty of living and loving beyond race. How will you or how do you commit, engage, and advocate? Please share your stories.

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Church Reconciliation Party
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Church Reconciliation Party
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Church Reconciliation Party
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Church Reconciliation Party
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Church Reconciliation Party