Thursday, September 22, 2016

On racism and parenting

While I was off capturing another birth (yes, I do this. It's my favorite.) and feeling all good about the world, two men were shot and killed. Two dads. Within 24hours of each other. By police officers. Because they were black.

I used to be really concerned with our fairly white circle of friends- in that most of our friends look like us. We live here, where sadly our statistics show our area as pretty diverse... because there's a maximum security prison less than 5miles away- I'll skip the prison racism rant for now, that's not why we're here today...
I used to avoid talk of diversity- because then our kids would notice and it would be a thing.
Until one day, when Noah was around 4, he said he didn't like someone because their skin was dark (he didn't know skin was referred to as white or black .... because we weren't labeling).
Adrenaline rush (on my part) and trying not to stammer too much as I ask for more clarification.
It was true. He liked people who were boys, with white skin, and preferably brown hair.
I researched like crazy. This wasn't right. The plan wasn't working! We were raising a racist white male.
I found an article like this and this.
And we started explicitly talking to our kids about race. Taking ownership for what our race had done, the atrocities committed, the need for change - still! We worked at seeking out picture books that show nonwhite characters (this is harder than you'd think - randomly pull a picture book off the shelf at the public library, and 90% of the time, it's filled with white kids) - and not books that specifically talk about race. Just books that show kids being kids -even *gasp* - black kids.

And now, 6 years later, I hear words come out of my kids' mouths and feel reassured that the race inequalities shock my children. We have recently been talking about the insane number of murders recently .... but then also talking about how it's probably the average number of killings - we just have social media to heighten awareness. The kids make big plans to go to a black person's defense in a heartbeat. Our kids are angry. And they can be, at no risk to them - because they are white. I'm so glad that they get it. I don't have to be explicit about how incredibly horrendous this is. They get it because they know that people are people and each one is worth fighting for (if needed). That it isn't about skin color - in terms of who you stand with - but it is about skin color in that it's something we're really thankful for. We're thankful that everyone doesn't look like us and we're thankful we live in a country where this is the case to the extreme. Our kids get it. Even if every.single.neighbor is white. They still get it.

I recently told Noah the story of when he was four ... and how it made me realize we weren't doing this right. He was mortified.

But I keep feeling like we could do more. I don't know what - but if more killings are happening, then it means we're not doing enough.
And this simple list came up on my newsfeed. We have a responsibility, as white people, to be the change. Black people don't have that power. They've tried. But as the suppressed group, they only have as much power as the dominant group (white people) give them. Think about that. That's a big responsibility. Take it. Own it. Do something.

And especially as a white mother of a white son who will grow to be a white man .... Big responsibility. It's a conversation that we have to keep having. It's actions that we need to keep taking.

What are the conversations with your kids like at your house around racism? Around these recent lynchings? How are you addressing this?

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