Teaching Kids About Race & Racism


By Gabrielle. Image of bell hooks — if you know the photographer, please share.

February is quickly coming to a close, but before it’s officially over, I wanted to feature some of the best articles and bits of history related to Black History Month and racism that I’ve read this month. I’ve basically relied on Kelly Wickham as my source — she’s a genius and she’s done a fantastic job highlighting essays and blog posts over the past few weeks. I highly recommend following her.

I suppose racism is always a topic on the minds of Americans, but it has especially been in my brain since Ralph and Maude started attending our public high school here in Oakland — a school with only a small percentage of white students, which is new experience for them. I grill my kids with questions about it: How often does race come up? How often does racial stereotyping happen? What kind of language do teenagers here use to discuss race? I get a little obsessed. It’s just that I want to be actively engaged in raising kids who will help eradicate racism in our country — I assume most parents feel the same way. But sometimes it’s hard to know where to start, and how to get it right.

Here are three of the things I made note of this month:

– It’s Not About You, and other adventures in privilege.

“Whiteness is the reason that when I see a Muslim character on television, they’re more likely to be a terrorist than a love interest. Whiteness is incredibly problematic and we can and should question it and the ways in which it affects and harms people of colour. Because that’s what it’s about, see – not making white people feel bad, not white guilt or white-shaming or reverse racism. It’s about tearing off the shackles that bind us.”

bell hooks. An author I haven’t read, but now want to. I plan to start with All About Love.

The Blacked Out History tumblr. Really well done snippets of history. I learned about Maroon Communities which I had never heard of, and the 10 demands of the Black Panthers.

UPDATE: A reader named April commented below and recommended two more blog posts that I found really compelling. I’m adding them here so you won’t miss them:

For Whites (Like Me).

How White People Will Ignore Obama’s Speech on Zimmerman.

– There have also been 3 mentions of the book, NurtureShock in the comments — specifically the third chapter titled “Why White Parents Don’t Talk About Race”.

Tell me, Friends, how do you teach your children about race and racism? Is it something you discuss as a family? Any related links you’ve come across this month? I’d love to hear.

80 thoughts on “Teaching Kids About Race & Racism”

  1. Where I live, my (white) kids are most definitely the minority. Their school is made up mostly of Native Americans. There is a high percentage of Muslims and Mexicans too, so they get so much diversity every day. I love it! My son is plays daily with Nkem from Africa, Rasheed Mohammad, and Tyler Whitehorse. He doesn’t even think twice about it. I hope he grows up and never even realizes that he had diverse friends. I hope he just remembers that they were friends and nothing else mattered. We don’t discuss race because they don’t see it and I don’t feel like I need to bring it up…but maybe that’s ignorant of me? I don’t know. We have talked about Martin Luther King, Jr. and what life used to be like for people of color and they feel sad about it, and confused. They think people are people no matter what color their skin is and I hope that never changes.

    1. I assumed raising kids in a multi-racial/multi-cultural community would do the trick, but I’m second-guessing myself. Apparently there’s a chapter in Nurtureshock (which I haven’t read yet, but Ben Blair has read and has been discussing with me) that mentions something like putting kids in diverse environments isn’t enough, that apparently you need to talk to them about it. I need to read it to see what it really says.

      1. I patted myself on the back frequently for the diverse neighborhood we live in–until I read that chapter in Nurtureshock.

        1. yes, i highly recommend reading the book. personally the more we talk about race and racism the better chance we have for eradicating it. the notion that i’m raising my child to be color-blind is pure nonsense and incredibly offensive to families that are very aware what the color of their skin represents.

  2. I love this post.

    Your statement on eradicating racism is so important.

    I really feel like as parents its our job to teach kindness and acceptance. Love is born at the tiniest of cells and from there, hate and bigotry, or simplyeignorance are so often taught and learned.

    I say, let love rule! But how?

    For me it’s many things.
    enrolling my kids in a pre-school rich with diversity. using language again and again that speaks to the beauty of different and differences. exposing my kids to mulit-cultural programs – like the cartoon Little Bill {which I love!} that features a loving, black family and community depicted in a rainbow of colors and styles so often missed with mainstream advertising’s tendancy for “light-skinned, flowing hair” black actors and models. And, most importantly, leading by example. Actions really do speak louder than words.

    Thanks for introducing me to Kelly Wickham. I look forward to digging into her point of view.

  3. i was kind of obsessed with this question and how to deal with these concepts in our family. i read I’m Chocolate, Your Vanilla (http://www.amazon.com/Im-Chocolate-Youre-Vanilla-Race-Conscious/dp/0787952346) and it was a great book to put these issues in perspective for me given my daughter’s age (2). this is a book i’ll return to as a reference point as she gets older. for now, though, we make sure she has lots of exposure to lots of people, which isn’t hard where we live, and otherwise we wait until she opens the conversation and make sure we’re ready to respond at her level and not impose our own ideas of race onto her when she doesn’t even understand the concept yet.

  4. Lisa Taylor Whitley

    I am so glad (and impressed) that you brought up this topic Gabrielle. As an African-American/Hispanic woman who grew up in a predominately white area, I think it is important that these conversations about race and racism are discussed within the white community. As a minority in this country, I can tell you it is sad when I realize that I am not even welcome as a member of this society by many. This is my country too and it is strange to often be looked at as an unwelcome guest or an intruder. I love reading home improvement/lifestyle blogs but it is discouraging when there are very few minority bloggers or even minorities featured on blogs. I really enjoy your “Living with Kids” series, but I have noticed there is very little diversity in the people featured. I think reaching out to and featuring more minorities would be a great way to open communications about race and racism in this country. Thanks for the opportunity to voice my opinions!

    1. I love that idea, Lisa! I’m feeling dumb it hasn’t occurred to me. Typically families featured in the home tours are the ones reaching out out to me, but there’s no reason I can’t do the reaching out, and contact minority families to see if they’d like to be featured.

  5. I love that you brought this up. I hope that you’re right that most parents are thinking about these things, but I fear that you’re not. I grew up in an area south of Chicago that was much more racially diverse than where we live now only an hour or so south of you. There is not a lot of diversity, but we try to talk about these issues as much as we can.

    Since Meg mentioned books, I want to point out that books are a fantastic way to introduce diversity to kids. I like to collect very diverse children’s books, both international children’s books and American books that just happen to have African -American, Latino, or Native main characters. Ezra Jack Keats and Vera B. Williams (both white by the way) spring immediately to mind but there are others. Patricia Polacco also has diverse characters in her books.

  6. Far and away one of the most worthwhile classes I took in college was “Race and Ethnic Relations In America”–not least because it was the only time on my predominantly white, Southern campus that I was in class where people who looked like me made up the majority of the students. It was a class where I could talk about my experiences as a biracial woman and be dismissed for being “too sensitive” or “playing the race card” (and on that note–can we stop saying that like it’s a thing? It’s just something white people say to delegitimize the experiences of people of color). While I can’t recommend specific reading for kids, for adults I will always unequivocally recommend “Why Are All the Black Kids Sitting Together in the Cafeteria?” by Beverly Tatum. Also, check out “Crunk Feminist Collective” for a blog that does some amazing work discussing intersectional feminism/womanism. Anything by Ngozi Chimamande Adichie is worth a look, and Soledad O’Brien’s “Black in America” documentaries are an excellent look at the diversity of blackness, delivered by an exceptional biracial woman.

  7. Thanks for the bell hooks recommendation — I have been on the hunt for a good book!

    I love hearing about your family’s take on the school your kids attend. I have really valued my public school education experience. I think something we can all forget when looking into schools is the day to day culture those environments can expose kids to and how that builds their worldview as well as idea of community in a positive way. Your kids are being exposed to so many cultures! I love how you practice the idea of expanding our worlds through interactions with people who are different than us even in the states. So great!

  8. Gabrielle, I am new to this site and rarely comment online, but this invaluable post inspired me to write. First, I am so glad to know that you are sending your children to public school in Oakland. I also just moved to Oakland (with a toddler) and because I work in education, I research and think about schools and inequality all the time. I deeply believe that everyone must invest in our public schools to improve them, and that the most meaningful way to do so is to put your own kids and energy in there!

    Second, kudos to you for actively engaging your children in conversations about race. While I understand some of the previous commenters’ well-intentioned views on color-blindness, diversity, and love, I cannot emphasize how important it is for parents to INITIATE conversations that don’t just acknowledge and celebrate racial-ethnic-religious differences, but also explain the very real, modern circumstances of racism and discrimination. It may seem harsh but without this context, kids assume that inequality in our society is due to individual effort and acceptable. Chapter 3 of Nurtureshock and the two blog posts below articulate this better than I ever could.

    Third, I agree with Lisa and would love to see more diverse families featured in your “Living with Kids” Series!

    Lastly, thank you for addressing this topic on your blog. Conversations about race happen constantly within families of color, because we have no choice but to equip our kids with knowledge for surviving in this world, and it is a true privilege for white families to choose whether or not to discuss this topic. Thank you for making that choice.



    1. “Conversations about race happen constantly within families of color, because we have no choice but to equip our kids with knowledge for surviving in this world, and it is a true privilege for white families to choose whether or not to discuss this topic.”

      So well said, April. Thank you for the links to the blog posts (I will be sure to read them both) and for adding another NurtureShock recommendation.

    2. I just read both of those posts and found them very compelling. I hope you don’t mind, but I’m going to add them into the post. Some readers don’t get a chance to check out the comments and I don’t want them to miss the links!

    3. Truth. “Conversations about race happen constantly within families of color, because we have no choice but to equip our kids with knowledge for surviving in this world, and it is a true privilege for white families to choose whether or not to discuss this topic.”

  9. I’m sorry, but Days Like Crazy Paving is full of the worst kind of non-productive anger, ranting, and narcissism. I realize that the author of a personal webpage has every right to claim the stage wholly for herself and to spit on any comment she chooses, but to what end? Close comments if the only appropriate ones are, “I’m sorry we’re all such assholes,” and, “thank you for sharing.”


    and, preemptively: #toneargument

    1. I confess, I didn’t read the comments on the post so I don’t know what you found there, but I definitely thought her post was productive. A good reminder to me to let people share their experiences and to not hijack conversations when I would be better off listening and learning.

  10. Thanks so much for this post, Gabrielle. Race — or, I should say, racism — remains such a dangerous force in our country. When I think of the trial of Michael Dunn, for instance, does anyone think that he wouldn’t have been convicted if Jordan Davis and his friends had been white? It just makes my blood boil. But I ramble. For the record, I am white and my husband is black. I have always thought of myself as a liberal non-racist person — the “good” kind of white person, right? And I married a black man, after all? But Peggy McIntosh’s article on white privilege made me think differently about all of the advantages that I have had because of my skin color. I would highly recommend and you can find it here: http://amptoons.com/blog/files/mcintosh.html. I’d also recommend the chapter in Po Bronson’s book NurtureShock called “Why White Parents Don’t Talk About Race.” His basic argument is that when white parents don’t talk about race because they want their kids not to notice skin-color, they are actually leaving the kids to come to their own conclusions. A few examples from my children’s school: a white child told a biracial boy that he was from Africa; a white boy, after getting into a tussle with my daughter about standing room in front of the aquarium, told their teacher that “brown-skinned people are stinky;” a white boy in my daughter’s class told her he doesn’t believe her hair is real and that he thinks it’s a wig. With one possible exception, I don’t think any of the children I’ve referenced are inherently racists. They just see these obvious differences and don’t understand them. Sorry for the ridiculously long post.

    1. Jessie,
      Thank you for sharing. I am a white woman raising my beautiful and amazing son (a Ugandan-American boy) in the upper midwest. Sadly, his father is deceased. This post and attached articles have me thinking again up how best equip him to successfully navigate his multiethnic reality. Could you share more about what you and husband have messaged to your children? I find that many of the conversations become “us” vs “them,” but in a multiethnic family, it isn’t so “black and white.” My son is just as much me, as he is his father. Thanks for any advice!

  11. You know what I worry about? I worry about when my youngest daughter, who is Asian, starts going to the mall and restaurants and other places like that on her own without the benefit of my “whiteness” as an umbrella.

    This fear entered my life years ago when I was at a neighborhood Bible study (sigh) and some of the women started discussing, for some reason, why they rarely went to the Mall of America anymore. “It’s different now,” they said. It took me a minute to catch on and realize that the “difference” they were referring to ever so discreetly was the fact that the mall is now populated by large numbers of people who are not Caucasian.

    And it occurred to me that these ladies felt safe saying this awful stuff in front of me because my daughter’s not *really* Asian in their minds. Which is bad enough. But equally terrible is the idea that they would treat my beautiful girl as *less than* if they encountered her on her own.

    1. P.S. I don’t really have a plan for dealing with this stuff when it comes up some day, so if anyone has advice or can recommend a good book, I’m all ears.

    2. Wow. What sadness. Just reading this comment made my heart ache for you and your daughter. With no ethnicity in my immediate family, this wasn’t on my radar. Thanks for writing so beautifully to illuminate this issue.

      1. Val…we all have ethnicity in our families! Yours might just be “white” or “European American.” But it’s little things like this that we need to look out for. We see non-white people as “ethnic”, aka “others” and white as the norm.

    3. I hear you. This is what concerns me as well. I’m a caucasian mom raising an African American daughter and have been so saddened and angry by the comments even close friends have made- “Well, I don’t really think of her as black”. I am learning I can’t let my frustration over comments like this (as well as ignorant comments about adoption/foster care etc- as this is how she joined our family) stand in the way of me giving a reply that helps educate them as to why those comments are hurtful.

      1. Karen,
        I just posted above, but can you tell me more about what you message to your daughter? My son is an Ugandan -American (I’m a white American and his dad was a black Ugandan). I work with children and on a regular basis kid (of all ethnicities) ask in disbelief, “That’s your son?” I would love to hear more about what other parents tell their kids. Thanks!

  12. I don’t have much new to add after all the comments, but I just wanted to say thanks for a really thoughtful post. Sadly, lots of the “family” materials for BHM are repetitive and sub-par, not really the conversations that we need to have to get us moving, as you say we need to go, to end racism. (Did you read that heartbreaking long feature story in the NY Times following the life of a homeless girl in Brooklyn? In one telling moment, the writer captures how Dasani dreads BHM assemblies because they are always the same… http://www.nytimes.com/projects/2013/invisible-child/#/)
    I just love how your blog addresses the *all* aspects of creating lovely homes for our families — the design, sure, but also more fundamental conversations such as this one.
    P.S. I agree about “Living With Kids” — I love the series, and I can imagine that it’s a small subset of self-selecting people who write in and nominate themselves (the rest of us have laundry and stuff all over the house on the best of days) — but now that you’re on the lookout for some diverse families, I can’t wait to see how much better the series becomes.

  13. We are a multi-cultural family and race is a constant consideration and topic of conversation for us. It’s nice to hear that other families talk about race and together we can make the world a more accepting place.

    1. I grew up in multi-cultural family (my oldest brother is Navajo) and my parents did a decent job of making sure we saw multiple world viewpoints, but for whatever reason, race was not a “constant consideration and topic of conversation” for us. I need to do a better job of having these discussions with my own children.

  14. I was a child of the 60s. Race became a serious issue as I had no opinions about race, but my parents did. Fast forward to the 80s, living on an Air Force base in New England and working in the middle school library. I witnessed the very best example of living together in racial harmony. These kids were every color and ethnic possibility since one of their parents was in the Air Force…the other could be from ANYWHERE…. And they all lived together, played together, studied and worshipped together. Amazing, beautiful,awesome example of how things could be. I loved those kids…my daughter was one of them and they still keep in touch after all these years.

  15. Thanks for this post. I attended a very diverse high school when I was younger and it has had a huge impact on the way I think and talk about race and injustice. I am a better person because of my classmates. I mean that, truly. Now, I am a mother living in a diverse, but segregated area of the South. Having two blond haired, blue eyed children is awkward at times–they attract attention from the good ol’ boys and the racist grandma crowds, which is upsetting to me. Race is regularly discussed in our house. The conversation is always evolving and it certainly keeps me on my toes as I’m not allowing any of that “we’re all the same” colorblind nonsense. In talking about race with my kids (they are pre school age), I’ve found the refrain: “and that’s not fair” having the most resonance. We can talk about segregation and stereotyping and the history of slavery and I can emphasize that that kind of treatment is not fair or kind or (if I’m feeling especially spirited) “what it means to be an American.” I’ve also found that phrase “that makes people uncomfortable” as being understandable to my kids about why it’s not kind to make a big deal out of how someone looks. Not because the difference isn’t there, but because it has a troubled legacy and we are not living in a “post racial” society. I’d love to hear from others who have found ways to talk to their kids about the reality and history of racism. Thanks again for a great post (and links).

    1. Thanks for sharing these pre-school appropriate phrases, Frankie. Really helpful. Concrete suggestions that parents can try out immediately are definitely what we need!

  16. This comment April made earlier really affected me, “Conversations about race happen constantly within families of color, because we have no choice but to equip our kids with knowledge for surviving in this world, and it is a true privilege for white families to choose whether or not to discuss this topic.”

    I realize I haven’t done nearly enough to discuss this with my daughter. Yes, she goes to a multi-racial, multi-cultural school and she has friends from all sorts of backgrounds, but we haven’t really had many explicit conversations about race and racism. I need to change that. I plan to read the information in the links (I did read the “It’s Not About You” post) and pick up Nutureshock. Thanks for providing a space to discuss this topic.

  17. I just wanted to thank you for speaking up on this topic. I think anglo Americans tend towards letting racism be someone elses’s problem instead of owning up to our own privilege and how that negatively impacts everyone else. Eight years of parenting a biracial son has helped me see the world differently. Specific to raising children, I would say that teaching our children to be colorblind is wrong. Children see color from very early on. It is up to us to set the tone of the conversations surrounding race and ethnicity. There is nothing wrong with noting the differences between us, it’s where we go from there that’s important. As a Dutch/American/Australian racially blended family (through adoption) we celebrate all the ways we are different, and all the ways we are the same.

  18. Gabrielle, I love that you are thinking about this and bringing it to the fore. My guess is that most folks come to your blog for the design/home inspiration. You could rest on your crafty laurels and never have to wade into more difficult topics. It’s to your credit that you’re using this as a forum to consider a really important aspect of family & education, one that usually gets too easily smoothed over when we are unsure of how to face racism. I know that I can go to the internet for home/design/craft features & that I can go there, too for writing on progressive politics and anti-racism. It’s delightful to see them featured in the same space!

    1. Thank you for the kind words, Amy. I truly hope Design Mom will be a place where any topic that falls under design or parenting (and teaching kids about racism certainly does!) can be discussed openly. I appreciate the feedback!

  19. This month a friend of mine who happens to have the most beautiful brown skin opened my eyes a bit this month. She has been a huge devotee of a well known designer. As she was looking eagerly at her new summer collection she was heartbroken to see many dresses displayed in the color “nude”. I had never really thought about what most of us consider this sand color (read white nude skin color). Made me appreciate how powerful our words really are. I’m in the middle of making a textile art piece of a dress in “nude” with a mix of every black, beige and brown colors I can find. Love the discussion.

    1. Oh my goodness. Just read Scalzi’s post, plus his two followups to that post and I’m experiencing a huge crush on this person I’ve never heard of till a few minutes ago.

      Thank you so much for sharing this, Brenda!

  20. Thank you for sharing these articles! I have been recently thinking about this very subject because my son will be starting kindergarten next year in a school that is 99% white. The lack of diversity is one of the reasons we weren’t sure it was the best fit for us. I don’t want my children to grow up living in a bubble of white privilege, but when you live in a less than diverse area providing your family with an authentic understanding of race and racism and how our actions/inaction/mentality contribute to perpetuating racism can be difficult.

  21. I too was going to mention “Nurtureshock”…I was thinking it’s great that you actually talk to your kids about it instead of pretending that it doesn’t exist or pretending that we all just look the same.

  22. Thank you for all the great links! By the way, if Ralph and Maude would be willing, I would love to hear a report on how their school year is going. I am a high school teacher and would love to pick their brains on the transition from French back to American schools, and the diversity issues in their current school. Here in Arizona, a lot of kids aren’t ashamed to make known their racist views, sadly, and as a teacher I try to counteract that as much as possible, but it’s tough.

    1. “Here in Arizona, a lot of kids aren’t ashamed to make known their racist views, sadly, and as a teacher I try to counteract that as much as possible, but it’s tough.”

      Oh man. I can’t even imagine. The link Brenda shared above might be really good for high school kids — it works with a gaming metaphor.

  23. Not sure how this adds to the conversation, but I’ll comment.
    I’m 42. I feel like when I was growing up we were taught acceptance by telling us ‘we are all the same, it doesn’t matter what color you are’
    I am white and married to an African, raising our girls in NYC. My girls started school at a small progressive public school. The school was very diverse and they made an effort to ‘include, not exclude’ My daughter came home one day and told me ‘mom, different people like different things’ It was so simple, but so true. It kind of changed my way of thinking about race. Instead of trying to find commonalities, we need to recognize that we are different and that it’s ok to be different. We can learn from our differences and life is richer as a result.
    I live in Chicago before I moved to NYC. I have now spent more of my years away from my hometown. My reality has now shifted, my eye has changed. It feels a little strange when I go back home to a predominately white town.

  24. In the discussion on race perhaps you might want to start with some of the companies who advertise on your site. I recently contacted the owner of My Sweet Muffin to ask why she only stocked white dolls. She didn’t really have a good answer even though she herself is Korean. I also was very disappointed to see only white children modeling all the beautiful hand knit sweaters made by Kenyan women on the Toto Knits site. Unfortunately being excluded is something people of color deal with on a daily basis.

  25. Thanks for this post. It has been in the forefront of my mind for about 6 months now as my 3 yr old has started referring to people of colour as ‘chocolate people’ and sometimes laughing and pointing. We have no idea where it comes from or started. We lived in a very diverse neighbourhood, and he went to nursery with children of all backgrounds, and we ourselves are mixed race! I will look at these links with interest as I want to know the best way to explain race to him and unravel this awkward phase.

  26. I’m so glad that you posted about this. We live in Mississippi and the university where I teach has some deep and ongoing problems with race. Living in this state has dramatically altered my awareness of race. But how to talk to our kids about it? My daughter is only 4 and she doesn’t understand people being unkind yet. I have tried to explain a little bit about the history of race in our country, but it is difficult to explain without terrifying her (it is terrifying stuff).

    I grew up in a suburb that was mainly white and asian, and I was taught in school that racial discrimination was terrible, but that it happened a long time ago. This couldn’t have been farther from the truth, and I have had to let go of many of my assumptions to get closer to understanding the experience of other races.

  27. Gabrielle,

    I started reading the books that Ben Blair mentioned in his interview you linked to last Friday, I believe.

    I am listening to the audiobooks version of Nurture Shock, right now. Thought provoking on this subject, for me, as well as several others.

    I appreciate your posting on Race and Racism, as well as all the comments. I will reference back to it over the year for reading material.

    On another note I checked out all the books from the library this week, that Ben Blair mentioned in his interview. I very much appreciate the list and his commentary. I am enjoying Dewey’s book and Rousseaus’s book at the moment.


  28. When we moved to the Houston area after 9 years in Montana, it was nice to see people of all races and ethnic groups after being in a fairly white state. My son’s school is evenly split between white and Hispanic kids. I remember when we moved to Montana 12 years ago and being surprised to see all of the news anchors were white.

    We do discuss race and racism at times with our 8 and 4 year old boys. My adopted sister is Korean and our neighbors have 6 adopted kids from Ethiopia and our boys are friends with them.

    Movies can provided good talking points. This past weekend we watched “Remember the Titans” and talked with our 2nd grader about integrating schools and other issues that came up in that movie. We also have watched “42” with him and the struggles Jackie Robinson faced.

  29. My oldest son is just in kindergarten and they had to do a report for black history month and this was his first time with asking questions about racism and its powerful that a 5 year old even has insight on how wrong it is.

    I think its so important to address the issue and the questions head on and make sure that our kids know that we can have an open dialogue about it.

  30. I plan to tell my children the stories of my own stumbles and confusion around race. After growing up in mostly white Oregon, I moved to NY city at 21 and was immersed in every culture and neighborhood because of my job. I had a friend yell in my face at me for my prejudice, I was shocked because I didn’t think I was prejudiced, another friend comforted me and told me that I wasn’t racist… but I was prejudiced. I cried ALOT. My kind friend told me she was also prejudiced..we all were, and explained that I was ignorant but not hate filled, and that was the distinction between the two. I now don’t pretend that reading a book or having a few friends of another race brings down all that separates our history or cultural baggage. I know our job is to overcome our own ignorance by acknowledging it first to ourselves, and then trying to go into that discomfort with education, relationships and questions.

  31. Your growing conversation on this is so fantastic — as well as your recent hands on involvement! Bravo, Gabrielle, you cease to amaze me and are such a cool parents and wonderful person.

    It’s dinnertime in Sweden and I’m trying to imagine how to express my support, experience and what I think if the weight of support needed in 5 tight sentences! Can it be done? No, so I’ll skip all of the personal sidelines I ‘d love to discuss, add, and develop to just say that one truly doesn’t have to be a victim of rascism to do something about it or to have an opinion — it’s destructive — but, each and every one of us are all a part of the answer — and that’s through conversation, education, acceptance and choices we make — people like you. Thank you for leaning your voice and your actions.

  32. As a white woman who was raised in a very white community in the rural West, I didn’t experience racism until I went to more urban areas where they actually lived with mixed cultures. I was discriminated against for being white and menacingly told to get out of a black DC enclave, but I didn’t I was there to work and my boss the CEO and my friend was African American and my coworkers were Africans, white, Asian, Indian, etc. I have dated people of every shade. My children are blonde, but only because my 100% native American ex broke my heart. I can’t rewrite history, but I can teach my children to be kind to people. Color of their skin seems irrelevant to me, but I can’t change others ignorance it is deeply imbedded within some people of all colors.

  33. Oh, thank you for igniting this great conversation! And all of these reading recommendations have come at just the right time for me.
    I am a white woman, my husband is african american, and together we have a 5 year old son. We have talked more about race and skin color in his short 5 years than I ever did growing up. We answer questions and discuss his observations of all people, we talk about his physical traits; how his skin color is the combination of mommy and daddy, he has my lips, daddy’s nose, and my brother’s eyebrows…
    And a couple of weeks ago, at bath time (which is not my greatest time of day for wise words and stimulating conversation), he broke my heart with one short talk.

    He said, “mommy, I’m sad today”
    I said, “why? did something happen at school?”
    he said, ” it’s just that no one else is like me and it’s lonely”
    I said, “what do you mean no one’s like you?”
    he said, “well, jake and abby are dark like daddy and alex is light like you and so is rachel. but no one is like me and they all tell me so”

    There I sat with no wise words, no solve- the- problem answer, just staring at this beautiful, insanely observant little boy, trying hard not to cry and reassuring him that he is not alone.

    So, thank you Gabrielle for opening this dialogue and to everyone for recommending books and blog posts and for talking.

    1. Jessie — This would break my heart too. Where do you live? Is there a local online parenting/mom community where you could post about finding other mixed-race families? My children (3 and 6) are biracial but they are lucky — they know so many kids whose parents have different skin colors that they don’t think much about it. I’m sure when they are older there will be pressure to identify with one or the other, but for the moment, they see enough of themselves reflected in their peers that they aren’t sad. If you can’t find other families, look to books. Remind your son that there are many, many people like him, including our country’s president.

  34. Nurtureshock has long been on my list of must-reads — I’ve read other Bronson books and liked them — and this is a reminder to finally do it. As a pink-skinned mom of two African-born brown-skinned girls, I have a LOT of thoughts and feelings about this subject — some of which I find hard to articulate. Some day I hope to write more about it. Looking forward to checking out the links you listed.

  35. What a great topic! I recently read a novel that has a theme of racism – “Americanah” by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie. It’s told from the perspective of a Nigerian woman who immigrates to the US and her experiences with racism here. For me, a white woman if my 40’s, who has lived in racially diverse areas for half my life, it was very eye opening. It made me think about things that I’ve been completely oblivious to.
    I rarely talk to my children about race, and only if they initiate it. Thanks so much for bringing up the importance of it.

    1. I read this book last Fall and LOVED it. It made me evaluate my very American tendency to “pretend I don’t notice things” like race.

  36. Great Topic- I have to share a sweet innocent thing my little granddaughter said the other day….in all seriousness….she asked her Mother…
    “Are we Black or white?” aren’t we all the same to Heavenly Father?
    They live in California and enjoy the advantages of a state that is very diverse.
    Thanks for your post.

  37. this is such an important and valid discussion, gabrielle – both online and in each of our homes! my son will grow up as mixed race – we already try hard to maintain his half Chinese heritage. where we live in vancouver, it’s very diverse as far as ethnicities – and my husband and i are both very open and accepting to everyone of all races, religions, sexualities, etc. i hope and pray that the world continues to grow and change and become more accepting! lots of great links and books for me to explore as outlined in the comments! (ps i read bell hooks in university – a wonderful, deeply powerful writer.)

  38. I’m a 54 year old white woman raised in a town that was almost completely white. We moved to a city in WA 14 years ago and I was immediately relieved to find my girls in a racially and ethnically diverse school and town. That was the first step in their lives being richer and more evolved than mine.

    I know my limitations mostly because of my background. My parents were liberal but still I was not around any other ethnicities until my father moved to California when I was 17. Suddenly, my eyes were opened to the “real world”. I’ve always known that I had to possess some racist tendencies. How could I not? I’m not saying I used racial slurs or treated others horribly but my world was lacking in knowledge of other familes…races…ethnic groups. I had to possess some preconceived and probably erroneous notions.

    Reading the article above and following other links and reading them proved it. Did I think when I picked up nude pantyhose it might not be for others? Did I notice that most of my children’s books were filled with white families? Had I noticed that my dolls were all white when I was a child? And did I really think that buying my girls dolls of other races….a black Barbie, an Asian Barbie, would be enough? I have checked out NurtureShock from the library to read the chapter mentioned above and hope to continue to evolve.

    I’m not sure how well I have expressed myself here but hopefully the thoughts from my heart will shine through.

  39. I know I’ve lived in a bit of a bubble when it comes to race and racism. Part of the bubble was out of my control–I’m white, I was raised in a white community, etc. But the other part of the bubble directly falls on my shoulders as I often questioned how bad could racism still be, it’s not the 1960’s anymore? In my defense (if I’m allowed one) I don’t consider myself racist and therefore I think I extended that same assumption to everyone else. Obviously that’s incorrect thinking and I was clearly in denial. To combat that denial I think I often overcorrected so as not to seem racist, things like “Oh there’s a black person be extra friendly!” I didn’t think those exact words, but I can see it in my actions. I was so eager not to be racist, that I didn’t realize I was probably being more racist.

    Now that I have a daughter with very obvious physical disabilities I’m starting to understand racism a little better….or at least I am more aware of it. My daughter is stared at, pointed at, whispered about, etc on a daily basis. She also knows what it’s like to never see anyone like her and I’ve seen her feel extremely self conscious around toddlers who don’t know any better, but who grab at her unusual arms anyway.

    The thing is I know that before my daughter I certainly had my prejudices against disabled people–and I still do. Same with racism. Instead of shaming myself or pretending my prejudices don’t exist, I now just try to be honest with myself, admit my biases and then ask myself why I think/feel that way. I really do think everyone is prejudice in one way or another and rather than being in denial about it, we need to be honest with ourselves and then commit to doing better.

    Do I expect disability prejudice/racism to be completely overcome, ever? Realistically, no. But I try to educate and advocate for dissabilites through my blog and personal interactions, have patience and grace with others around me and try to be more aware and do better for myself.

  40. I don’t mean to post too many comments in this thread, but thought some people might want to know (if they don’t already) about the people-colored crayons from Lakeshore Learning: http://products.lakeshorelearning.com/learning/People-Colored-Crayons. If your children need to be reminded that there is no single “skin color,” this set is great. My biracial daughter loves it. (Do I need to add that I have no affiliation with Lakeshore other that having bought the product?)

  41. Hi Gabrielle. Such a great post on a critical subject. We also live in Oakland, and our son is African American (we are white). Needless to say, I think about racism many times every single day. We receive a lot of information and support from Pact, an adoption organization that places children of color (http://www.pactadopt.org/app/servlet/HomePage). Their library has many great books about talking with kids about race, whether or not your child is adopted. There are no easy answers, but talking about this stuff openly and honestly is the only place to start. And THANK YOU for re-iterating the Nurtureshock point of view — the idea of raising kids to be “color blind” may sound like a good thing, but in actuality it is doing everyone a huge disservice. Kids DO notice differences, and if we don’t talk about them they think they are “secret” or “bad.”

  42. Yet another reason I need to read Nurtureshock! My daughter is almost 5, in preschool, and is one of the only white kids in her class. It’s been great, and it’s made me re-evaluate my strategies when it comes to educating her about race.

    Solipsistic as ever, I’m sharing a link to a blog post I wrote about it. At the end of the post I include how one of my friends also made me aware of a great app created just to help parents talk about race with their kids. http://palecetacean.com/2013/10/04/race-and-children-in-america/

  43. I’m so incredibly late to this with all the reading I’m doing but thank you so much, Gabrielle! You also made me realize that much of what I end up sharing is private so I’m going to cull the items I worked on last month for a public post on my own blog. There were some fantastic conversations and people are really ready to dig in. That’s not to say that it’s bad to also sit and watch and listen: I do that plenty, too.

    One post, in particular, that I wrote for Babble last summer always seems relevant and I’d like to share that one here, too.(And I’m just halfway through the comments on this post so I will read the rest!)


    Again, thank you for sharing (me! you shared me!) and for being a part of this important conversation.

  44. Pingback: A Mom's Year » Happy Friday + Weekend Links

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