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.

Taking Responsibility for Our Food

Welcome to April edition of the Authentic Parenting Blog Carnival, hosted by Authentic Parenting and Mudpiemama. This month’s topic is “Celebrating Our Earth – Green Living”. Please scroll down to the end of this post to find a list of links to the entries of the other participants. Enjoy!

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Eggs

Photo by Gisela Francisco

For a long time, we have done our little parts to help the Earth. We reduce our consumption by not buying a lot of stuff. We reuse whatever we can or pass items to others who can use the items. We recycle as much of what is leftover that is possible. Right now those things tend to be rather trendy. More people are becoming aware of mass consumerisum (at least I hope). Everywhere you go, someone wants to hand you a reusable grocery bag (sorry, we have plenty of reusable bags).  Recycling bins are popping up in more and more businesses (a good thing). However, there is still a lack of connection for most people between doing these things and the Earth.

It became clear to us a couple of years ago that we needed to change that for our family. We were ordering a side of beef, mainly free ranged, antibiotic and growth hormone free, from a local farmer to stock our deep freezer. It felt like a very grown up thing to do at the time, buying a cow. We were discussing some things at lunch one day when something my then 7 1/2 year old son said gave me pause. He didn’t equate eating animals with killing those animals. I have to admit it shocked me a bit. I grew up on a farm. We raised and grew our own food. I have always been upfront with our children about where our food comes from. Yet, somehow, my son didn’t feel a connection from his actions of eating the food to that of an animal giving its life. Something needed to change.

Since that time, we have increased our efforts to make that connection to the Earth. We continue to look for ways to live our lives in a more sustainable manner. As we prepare to move, some ideas are on hold and we look for our food from local sources. However, we are making plans for our new place – ones which include chickens for our own eggs, a worm compost bin, a large garden, and if we have space, some other animals so that not only do we know exactly where our food is coming from, but so that we can take reponsibility for the food we eat.

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Visit The Positive Parenting Connection and Authentic Parenting to find out how you can participate in the next Authentic Parenting Blog Carnival!

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

With Privilege Comes Responsibility

I am privileged. It’s a fact we don’t often talk about or that we often don’t even acknowledge. However, whether we notice it or not, privilege is very much a part of our lives and impacts our decisions.

Photo by Brain Glanz

I am white. While that shouldn’t make any difference, in our society it does. It means I’m less likely to be discriminated against because of the color of my skin. It means I can walk around in parts of our country without being harrassed by police or having it assumed that I am a criminal or an illegal immigrant.

I grew up Christian. While, after years of careful study and scrutinization of world religions, I no longer lay claim to that label, the fact that I grew up Christian lent a privilege of its own. I was not discriminated against due to my religion at that time. At the same time, I often consider myself privileged because my mother encouraged me to question things. She stood up for me, when as a small child, I questioned Sunday school and church leaders about various topics or positions. It was her support that allowed me to study world religions and viewpoints as a teenager and come to my own decisions.

I am intelligent. While I may have grown up poor, I was able to go to college on scholarship. I breezed through classes without studying. I am able to research and make my own decisions. I can hold my own when confronted by those in positions of authority regarding my decisions.

I am middle class. I don’t have to worry about having enough money to feed my children. I am married to a wonderful man and am able to stay home with our children. I am able to keep my children with me rather than being forced to find alternative child care which may not be in accordance to my beliefs. I can spend the time needed to establish good breastfeeding relationships. I can afford food which I otherwise might not be able to. I have greater choices available. I am less likely to be affected by environmental pollution based on the areas I am likely to live.

I live in the United States NOW. I am not someone’s property. My children will not be ripped away from me. I am not forced to stay with an abusive husband. I will not be sold and treated as mere property. I am able to access resources and information.

I am female. While this normally does not allot privilege, being female in the US means that the idea of cutting my genitals when I was born never occurred to my parents.

I am an adult. According to US law, I became a person when I turned age 18. My voice counts. I can vote. I can make decisions for myself. It is a crime for someone else to hit me or abuse me. If I were to ever be in such a situation, I could leave.

For all of the ownership I try to take over the choices I make, I cannot overlook how privileges beyond my control, and often allotted me by those who have gone before me) have affected my life. To do so would be to discount those who do not have the same privileges and opportunities. As the saying goes, with privilege comes responsibility. I cannot turn my back on those who are less privileged…those who have been disciminated against…those who are just as deserving of opportunities as am I. That is why I feel I must speak up for others…why I speak against discrimation and injustice.

Stepping Back

Photo by Katie W

Earlier this week I asked my children to pick up the bathroom so that I could clean it. Our main bathroom is the only one with a bathtub, and it is mainly used as the kids’ bathroom, along with guests who come to our home. With four young kids, it gets a bit messy. I reminded them a couple of times as I was passing through that I needed it picked up before I could clean it. I cleaned the master bath, even mopping the floor by hand, and then proceeded to the kids’ bathroom.

Much to my dismay, there were still items on the floor, toothpaste was left uncapped, there were glasses from bedtime drinks,…It wasn’t as though my children had ignored me completely each time I had asked them to pick up. Their definition just happens to be different than mine.

I felt the exhaustion and frustration well inside of me. I began a small diatribe about how I was feeling sad and frustrated by what I saw. And then, I stopped. It wasn’t helpful. It was bordering on lecture mode. Instead, I told my three older children, ages 8, 6, and 3 1/2, that they were now in charge of cleaning their bathroom. I expected to be met with exclaimed “Ewwwwwws!” Instead, they looked at one another and cried, “Let’s do it!”

My daughter asked me to get various supplies for them, and I went about the house doing something else. The three of them went in the bathroom and got to work, chattering away. At one point when I looked in, I was met by the sight of my 3 1/2 year old gleefully scrubbing the toilet bowl. I wish I had had my camera.

When they finished, they let me know that they had enjoyed the experience and requested that they now be in charge of cleaning their bathroom. Later when I checked the bathroom, I was met with my own surprise. While there were some little pieces of paper around the edges of the floor and I doubt the bathtub was scrubbed out, the rest of the bathroom was clean. The mirror was spotless. The sink and counter were clean and clear. Trash had been emptied. The toilet was freshly scrubbed, and bathmats had been placed in the laundry while the floor had been wiped by hand.

It was a reminder to me to step back, out of the way…both from my expectations of myself when it comes to asking for help and from those times I feel frustrated in life. One could also say that it is a reminder to watch as our children come into their own.

voice and choice…

Allowing children a voice and choice in matters that affect them fosters responsibility. There will be some times when a parent needs to step in, having more experience or knowledge about a topic. You wouldn’t let your child learn about cars by running out in the road and being hit by one. However, children are quite capable of making many choices and often have great insight. A choice should be given regarding matters which are within the child’s realm of responsibility. A voice should be given in matters which are within the parent’s realm of responsibility. When children have a say in matters, they have control. Children learn about responsibility by being involved in the decision making process.

developing responsibility…

Responsibility isn’t something we can impose on our children. There isn’t a formula on how to explain responsibility to them and suddenly have them be the compassionate, caring, committed individuals we hope they will be. Responsibility is something that has to grow from within the child. It finds direction in the values absorbed from the child’s home and community, but the child is ultimately the one who develops it.

That isn’t to say that parents can’t help with this aspect of life. On the contrary, children absorb the values they witness. Through modeling, we can show them what responsibility looks like. Since children’s inner emotional reactions to us and our understanding and treatment of them are decisive elements in how much they learn from us, we can treat them as individual people, worthy of respect. Ultimately though, the greatest way we can help children to develop responsibility is to let them practice it by making decisions on their own rather than merely expecting them to do what we tell them.