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Jul 09

Race Matters: Discussing History, Discrimination, and Prejudice with Children

Welcome to the July 2013 Carnival of Natural Parenting: Learning About Diversity

This post was written for inclusion in the monthly Carnival of Natural Parenting hosted by Hobo Mama and Code Name: Mama. This month our participants have shared how they teach their children to embrace and respect the variety of people and cultures that surround us. Please read to the end to find a list of links to the other carnival participants.

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When our first child was born, we lived in a wonderfully diverse and liberal area. He was born to a plethora of self-proclaimed uncles and aunties from all over the globe, of all different religions, races, languages, and experiences. What they had in common was a thirst for knowledge and open-mindedness. I knew that when we had friends over or when we visited with friends, my child would hear multiple languages, be exposed to a great understanding of diversity, and see that his skin was just one hue of many. Race didn’t matter. Everyone was equal.

Then we moved here. Suddenly, race did matter. For, as much as people may tell you that racism doesn’t exist in the Mid-West, it most assuredly does. (The truth is, it exists, at least in pockets, throughout the United States, a country forged through the discrimination and abuse of non-Caucasians.) Sometimes it is blatant. Sometimes it is subtle, but there is always an undercurrent. From extended relatives who mention the nice black lady who cut their hair, as though a person’s skin color has something to do with either their hair-cutting skills or how nice they are, to the people who blatantly deny that racial discrimination exists to the face of a woman who has just shared that her family has been racially profiled when out driving because they are an inter-racial family. It is there. It is there in the neighborhoods where people tend to stick with people of similar ethnicity because they know they won’t be discriminated against by others like them or whose socio-economic status, stagnant by discrimination, keeps them in neighborhoods which they would rather move from. Here, race matters.

Sure, race matters to the bigots who think the color of their skin makes them better than others, but race also matters to those of us who think it shouldn’t have to. We should never forget the atrocities in our history, held at the hands of those who claimed to be doing what was best for another group: the discrimination, the prejudice, the hatred. It matters because it still exists, and it matters because we can do something about it.

My children, despite their freckled whiteness, know something about discrimination. That happens when you are a non-Christian family in an area where the majority are, or at least identify with, Christians. To be fair, it is my husband and I who made the decision. We encourage our children to learn about different beliefs and decide for themselves what they believe, knowing that they may not have that maturity or may change their minds numerous times as they grow older. My children have seen the hatred expressed at women as they simply nurture their children by breastfeeding. They have heard the hatred of non -“white Christian males” during elections. They have experienced the ageism from others that we have all experienced as children.

We talk about prejudice and discrimination. We talk about the fear and hatred behind it. We talk about history, read books about it, and watch movies and documentaries. We talk…a lot, and we stand up to those who would put others down. We talk about the privileges of being in a majority, even though it definitely doesn’t win a popularity contest. We have been verbally attacked for our beliefs of equality. That won’t stop us.

We are raising the next generation with our children. Children who will grow up to fight for others, because they believe it is the right thing to do. Children who will grow up to make a difference. It isn’t minorities alone who make changes, otherwise the majority would continue to oppress. There would never be change. It takes people, banding together in what they know is right, to make real change, and I want my family to be a part of that. When we are all equal, we can look to the past and vow never to let that happen again. Until then, we will continue to make a difference.

photo credit: Chris JL via photopin cc

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Carnival of Natural Parenting -- Hobo Mama and Code Name: MamaVisit Hobo Mama and Code Name: Mama to find out how you can participate in the next Carnival of Natural Parenting!

Please take time to read the submissions by the other carnival participants:

(This list will be updated by afternoon July 9 with all the carnival links.)

  • A gift for my daugther — Amanda, a special education teacher for students with multiple exceptionalities, discusses at My Life in a Nutshell how she will enrich her daughter’s life by educating her the amazing gifts her students will bring to the world.
  • The Beauty in Our Differences — Meegs at A New Day writes about her discussions with her daughter about how accepting ourselves and those around us, with all our beautiful differences and similarities, makes the world a better place.
  • Accepting Acceptance and Tolerating Tolerance — Destany at They Are All of Me examines the origins of and reasons behind present day social conformity.
  • Differencessustainablemum discusses what she feels to be the important skills for embracing diversity in her family home.
  • Turning Japanese — Erin Yuki at And Now, for Something Completely Different shares how she teaches her kiddos about Japanese culture, and offers ideas about “semi immersion” language learning.
  • Celebrating Diversity at the International House Cottages — Mommy at Playing for Peace discovers the cultures of the world with her family at local cultural festivals
  • Learning About Diversity by Honoring Your Child’s Multiple Heritages — Jennifer at Hybrid Rasta Mama looks at the importance of truly knowing your roots and heritage and how to help children honor their multiple heritages.
  • People. PEOPLE! — Kellie at Our Mindful Life is trying to teach her children to use language that reflects respect for others, even when their language doesn’t seem to them to be disrespectful.
  • Just Call me Clarice Thomas — Lisa at The Squishable Baby knows that learning to understand others produces empathetic children and empathetic families.
  • Diversity of Families — Family can be much more then a blood relation. Jana at Jananas on why friends are so important for her little family of three.
  • Diverse Thoughts Tamed by Mutual Respect — Amy at Me, Mothering, and Making it All Work thinks that diversity is indispensable to our vitality, but that all of our many differences require a different sort of perspective, one led by compassion and mutual respect.
  • Just Shut Up! — At Old New Legacy, Becky gives a few poignant examples in her life when listening, communication and friendship have helped her become more accepting of diversity.
  • The World is our Oyster — Mercedes at Project Procrastinot is thankful for the experiences that an expat lifestyle will provide for herself as well as for her children.
  • Children’s black & white views (no pun intended … kind of) — Lauren at Hobo Mama wonders how to guide her kids past a childish me vs. them view of the world without shutting down useful conversation.
  • Raising White Kids in a Multicultural World — Leanna at All Done Monkey offers her two cents on how to raise white children to be self-confident, contributing members of a colorful world. Unity in diversity, anyone?
  • Ramadan Star and Moon Craft — Celebrate Ramadan with this star and moon craft from Stephanie at InCultureParent, made out of recycled materials, including your kid’s art!
  • Race Matters: Discussing History, Discrimination, and Prejudice with Children — At Living Peacefully with Children, Mandy discusses how her family deals with the discrimination against others and how she and her husband are raising children who are making a difference.
  • The Difference is Me – Living as the Rainbow Generation — Terri at Child of the Nature Isle, guest posting at Natural Parents Network, is used to being the odd-one-out but walking an alternative path with children means digging deeper, answering lots of questions and opening to more love.
  • My daughter will never know same-sex marriage is not normal — Doña at Nurtured Mama realizes that the recent Supreme Court rulings on same-sex marriage will change the way she talks to her daughter about her own past.
  • Montessori-Inspired Respect for Diversity — Deb Chitwood at Living Montessori Now tells about her multicultural family and shares Montessori-inspired ideas for encouraging respect for diversity.
  • EveryDay Diversity — Ana at Panda & Ananaso makes diversity a part of everyday living, focusing on raising of compassionate and respectful child.
  • Diversity as Part of Life — Even though Laura at Authentic Parenting thought she had diversity covered, she found out that some things are hard to control.
  • Inequity and Privilege — Jona is unpacking questions raised by a summit addressing inequity in breastfeeding support at Life, Intertwined.
  • 3 Ways to Teach Young Children About Diversity — Charise at I Thought I Knew Mama recognizes her family’s place of privilege and shares how she is teaching her little ones about diversity in their suburban community.
  • Teaching diversity: tales from public school — A former public high school teacher and current public school parent, Jessica at Crunchy-Chewy Mama values living in a diverse community.
  • 30 Ideas to Encourage Learning about Diversity While Traveling — Traveling with kids can bring any subject alive. Dionna at Code Name: Mama has come up with a variety of ways you can incorporate diversity education into your family travels (regardless of whether you homeschool). From couch surfing to transformative reading, celebrate diversity on your next trip!
  • Diversity, huh? — Jorje of Momma Jorje doesn’t do anything BIG to teach about diversity; it’s more about the little things.
  • Chosen and Loved — From Laura at Pug in the Kitchen: Color doesn’t matter. Ethnicity doesn’t matter. Love matters.
  • The One With The Bright Skin — Stefanie at Very Very Fine tries to recover from a graceless reponse to her son’s apparent prejudice.

6 comments

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  1. Lauren @ Hobo Mama

    I really appreciate your post. It’s bringing back memories of my own time in the Midwest, and why I feel more at home here on the West Coast. (Not trying to be a jerk toward the Midwest; we just fit in better here.) I’m heartened to here how you’re intentionally raising your children to be open-minded.

  2. Dionna Ford

    I’m always happier when we’re surrounded by open-minded, accepting friends!

  3. Dona Bumgarner

    Although I live on the very edge of the West Coast, where I know for sure the culture is generally more open-minded and accepting, race still comes up as an issue. I hope we do see a world some day when it really actually doesn’t.

  4. Destany

    I’m so glad someone said it! Yes, there is a lot racism here. Not that I hear it all of the time, but when I do… it’s shocking. What is most shocking to me is the way that the people who will say derogatory things about another race do so in the most nonchalant, casual way. They just assume that because I am white, I must certainly agree with them or that I wouldn’t find anything wrong with what they are saying. It just tells me that most of their encounters are ones which condone and validate their hate.
    What I appreciate about living where I live, right on the cusp of the bigger city, is that my particular area is mixed enough that my children are not exposed to the elitist attitudes they would find on the other side of town. And whenever we are speaking with someone who is revealing themselves to be an ignorant bigot, we can walk away and very easily find people who are tolerant and appreciative of others.

  5. Stephanie @ InCultureParent

    Nice post! Sadly there is still so much racism in the US and your post made me happy to not live in an area where we encounter racism everyday. But even in liberal areas like the SF Bay Area where we live, you can still find it, just more subtly. Totally agree on your approach of talking to your kids about racism and privilege and I also see the subtle prejudices even self-professed liberal, open-minded people have to minority religions (in our case Islam). People with anti-Islamic views, I find, are everywhere and I am sometimes shocked at the comments people make to me about Islam. Nice to read from another family raising kids with similar values, that of standing up for others and promoting not just diversity but equality and justice.

  6. Deb @ Living Montessori Now

    It’s sad that there’s still so much racism in the world. It’s wonderful that families like yours are approaching the issue of race with honesty, openness, and acceptance.

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