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    Tuesday
    Jul092013

    the one with the bright skin

    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.

    ***

    Shortly after the Presidential election last November -- after we had, as a family, watched the debates, attended rallies and painted our windows on election night with Obama logos, then paraded outside with noisemakers as the results were announced and we breathed a collective sigh of relief -- we had friends over to play. George sat on the couch looking at a magazine with our neighbor's middle school-aged daughter, and they came to a picture of the newly reelected man we'd rooted for. 

    "Who's that?" our friend prompted.

    "Barack Obama," George replied. "But I don't like him. I like the man with the brighter skin." 

    Are you a racist, bro?I couldn't help myself. From across the room, I yelped, "WHAT?!" Do I need to put a disclaimer here, saying this is not the way I recommend you deal with the issue of racism with your kids?

    "Th-th-that's not true," I stammered. Our friend looked on in what I perceived to be sheer horror but what was probably actually bemusement. "You like Barack Obama! You LOVE Barack Obama!" I don't even love Barack Obama, but by golly I needed George to recant, but fast. Unsurprisingly, he didn't. Like most people who are confronted with their prejudice when someone insists that they've simply misspoken, he shrugged and carried on. 

    For awhile, I freaked out about it. Was George being cold to the biracial kid in his preschool class? Was there a reason he hadn't recently asked to play with Juanito from across the street? Has this affected any of the people of color in our lives? I didn't have to wonder for long if he realized they weren't white, because he began pointing out anybody whose skin color was darker than his. I countered with white people's hair color and eye color, trying to make it a zero sum game. But it didn't matter, and it didn't stop him commenting on even the subtlest tan. So I dialed back my anxiety that I was raising a racist, and remembered that, actually, I don't want to participate in color blind culture. I want my kids to see race, to value differences and, most importantly, to examine their feelings around it, not to mention their privilege. 

    So, we talked. I stopped trying to equalize George's every observation. I let him have the floor and when he asked me questions, his openness surprised me. Reframing his observations as...well, simple observations rather than the sinister, loaded comments I was inclined to bristle against has helped me to think more deeply about my own bias and privilege. And I began to understand, too (on another level, at least), how ingrained prejudice is in a culture when three year olds hear and take to heart the dog whistles sounding around them. Having a respectful, open dialogue about his ideas and challenging them, helping him to see the beauty in differences when his mind craves sameness, understanding what is developmentally appropriate instead of expecting him to have a nuanced understanding of race: these things have been imperative to our successful exploration of an admittedly uncomfortable topic.

    I look forward to the day when I can point out to George that the luxury of having this conversation at all is part of our privilege; that many, many people, some of whom we love dearly, experience racism, with no explanations, from the day they are born. With a foundation laid in honest, open dialogue, I'm hopeful that those discussions won't be far off, and their gravity won't be lost on him.  

    ***

    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.
    • Call Me Clarice, I Don't Care - A True Message in Diversity — 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 only know same-sex marriage as 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 response to her son's apparent prejudice.

    References (1)

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    Reader Comments (4)

    Out of the mouths of babes, eh?

    July 9, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterMomma Jorje

    Been there! Had the horrified face and the gut reaction and the realization that my kiddo did not have any ill intent behind his words. And it is such a great opportunity for dialogue. I hope I have a better response once Ailia hits that age.

    Children do come out with the most wonderful words, usually totally innocently. It is us adults that hear them through filters which give them a different meaning, sadly this is the root of so many prejudices in the world.

    July 11, 2013 | Unregistered Commentersustainablemum

    I haven't had one of these moments yet, but I know it will happen soon enough!

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