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Would you explain race to a five-year-old? - Page 2

post #21 of 33
Quote:
Originally Posted by Owen'nZoe View Post
How do you avoid talking about race? I don't get it. Granted, my child has dark olive skin and we live in a very white area, so we get comments about his skin color that make it impossible to avoid speaking about race, but even without that, I remember being horrified when we walked through the grocery store once when he was 3 or 4 and he said loudly, "I don't like that man. His skin is brown." OMG - it is still one of the most horrifying moments of my life as a parent, but it did lead to a lot of good discussions about race and skin color. And this is a child who has gotten the "Outside appearances don't matter" message consistently since birth, and a child who himself is identified by the people around him as not-white.

In 4K, he had a teacher who discussed Martin Luther King Jr. and slavery with the children. At the time, I had mixed feelings about it (did he really need to know at that age how ugly people can be to one another?). Now that I see where he is on race issues (at age 6 1/2) in relation to other the other kids we know in the area who did not have the same curriculum, I feel more comfortable that it was an appropriate subject to cover with preschoolers.

Well, we've managed to avoid it with my 6-1/2yo ds DESPITE the fact that we (who are Cauc) live in a heavily Hispanic town and have fostered children who are Hispanic and AA, had a close relationship with my mixed AA-Cauc half-brother and his family (who have since moved away ), AND adopted a very obviously Hispanic daughter . It just honest-to-God never came up.

Seriously.

That being said, after reading this thread, it's apparently time.

Thanks for the links.
post #22 of 33
first let me get into semantics.

there is a difference between race and ethnicity. and i hate us still using the term 'race'.

there is only ONE race and that is the human race.

ok rant over

we are a biracial family so my dd has noticed that she is lighter skin than me.

i have dealt with it in an age appropriate manner as she grew older. today at almost 8 i dont see her react to different colours at all.

what was fun was that many of her friends parents had emigrated to the US so their gparents were still in the original country. so when she got interested in the globe we would talk about how such and such person belongs to which part of the world.

we have treated it just like how we deal with people with white hair, fat people or girl boy look or two mommy or two daddy families.

she has realised that just coz someone has white hair doesnt mean they are old, or that just because that person has short hair means they are a boy.

at 4 dd watched a program on MLK with her gpa and talked to him about segregation - how even though he was not black he either was discriminated against or not. he talked about how painful it was that he was allowed to enter a bar while his black friend was not allowed to. that one day one time conversation about 'looks and colour of skin' created her foundation.

today at almost 8 we really hadnt had a ethnicity question lately. she has a very mixed group of friends with many different kinds of family.

she has not really brought up or said anything about 'racism'. however what concerns me more is the whole if you are fat you are an ugly and/or bad person not worthy to have friendship with. and thin = good and beautiful.
post #23 of 33
We speak openly about race (just as we do about many other topics.) I'm multi-ethnic/racial.

If anyone's interested in looking at Vittrup's thesis, specifically at the checklist (Appendix H) that parents had such a difficult time discussing with their kids:

http://repositories.lib.utexas.edu/b...pdf?sequence=2

After/during each video, the parent was to say things like All people are special, White, Black, Mexican, Asian are all special.

Thanks for posting these. That 2nd link was very powerful.
post #24 of 33
Loved that second article!

Once in a park, I said to my son, let's go look at the pretty bride having her picture taken. We found ourselves in the middle of a very lively North African celebration.

My son says to me "Mom, let's leave. Everyone here is brown".

I take a deep breath and Try. Not. To. Freak. Not as an excuse but we speak a different language (American in France) so they probably didn't catch it. I still had images of hoods and burning crosses (even though we're Jewish lol!)

Time to have This Discussion!

Having a kid go to a diverse school, I thought, would have superseded these sentiments. WRONG. He was used to a mixed crowd, not being a minority on his own. When I realized this was "the problem", I coaxed him into discussing it, adding my "first time to Jamaica" experience (told my friends' father what I was wearing. He stopped me to tell me only that he wouldn't have a problem picking me out at Kingston Airport lol!)

It's kind of a luxury trying to explain "race" (a word I actually avoid) to him and my country's history, while he's growing up in another. For a long time, he's learned to separate people's identities and their backgrounds (another minefield folks! Think adoptions, etc.) He has a half-African president. They made him say "I have a Dream" in his American accent when they were learning about Martin Luther King. He's met other French-Americans who are AA and can relate to them as another French-American, regardless of his different color and religion. Much of the American culture sent abroad is, in fact, African-American. Much of what other French people relate to him as, is not strictly speaking, his own culture!

Being what I like to call, a "quasi-minority" with the Jewish and American thing going on helps. Something different but something fundamentally the same. With some he shares the same culture, others, religion, and with yet others, color, which actually, is a really minor one. Living near several other European countries, we meet white people we can't even speak with lol! So much for relating on the basis of color alone...

My kids were especially delighted when the winning Miss France last year was actually mixed AA and white French.

So they relate on a "mix and match" basis. One diplomatic friend has nothing in common with my son except he speaks French and ice skates. That works for my son!

But my youngest had an incident at school, an altercation with a child and she was hesitant to say out loud that the child, was in fact, black (French girl, unsure of actual origins, which are not relevant anyway). I knew then that we had a problem. I wanted to know which one she was. I actually asked "What color is her hair?" and my then 5 year old blurted "Her hair is BLACK. Her skin is BLACK"... I knew then that we had a problem, although the incident itself had nothing to do with either child's background.

My dd was at fault. She called the little girl "old". The other girl is, in fact, 8 months younger. The fact that my dd was wrong was less important (although pointed out) then the simple fact of calling someone something they don't like. Race card, entirely aside!
post #25 of 33
I would encourage you to discuss this with your 5-year old. Not making race an issue but still explain and inform is IMHO the best way to approach this.

We rarely or eve use the word "race" and home, not rally sure but I don't think it sounds proper.
post #26 of 33
Thread Starter 
Yeah, I don't like the term "race" much either. To me it means classifying people, which apparently kids do anyway...and though it is uncomfortable, I am doing it a little now too.

We had an interesting event the other day. Dd, who is as blonde and blue-eyed as can be, has a new "Barbie-style" doll with dark hair and skin (Only Hearts Club) so she can play Barbies with the other girls. Another little girl commented that she didn't like dd's doll because it had brown skin. Luckily, we had discussed racism when I first posted this and have continued to discuss it. Never expected my daughter to experience dollie-racism, though!
post #27 of 33
Quote:
Originally Posted by widemouthedfrog View Post
. Dd, who is as blonde and blue-eyed as can be, has a new "Barbie-style" doll with dark hair and skin (Only Hearts Club) so she can play Barbies with the other girls. Another little girl commented that she didn't like dd's doll because it had brown skin. Luckily, we had discussed racism when I first posted this and have continued to discuss it. Never expected my daughter to experience dollie-racism, though!
This may not have been "racisim". She might have thought the blond Barbie was prettier! It may have had nothing to do with the color and everything to do with having a preference-which isn't a sin!

I would though explore it with the little girl to be sure but not jump to conclusions.

I must say that I'm very heartened to see the darker-skinned dolls. When I was little, they were ALL white. How undermining that must have been for my non-white peers as a child! They did remove our books though, and give us ones with a variety of people. Also, all the moms were shown as SAH's in the old texts so that was actually more of a problem...
post #28 of 33
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by Eclipsepearl View Post
This may not have been "racisim". She might have thought the blond Barbie was prettier! It may have had nothing to do with the color and everything to do with having a preference-which isn't a sin!
Oh, I think that's exactly what it is, a preference. But if my child said "I don't like her because she has dark skin" about a real person, we'd have a good talk. The point that someone made near the beginning of this thread is that children DO prefer the skin tone that they have themselves (which makes sense, since as children we look for common ground so we can fit with others), so we need to teach them to be inclusive.

Not that I am being judgmental about the other little girl. I just found it interesting.
post #29 of 33
Quote:
Originally Posted by meemee View Post
first let me get into semantics.

there is a difference between race and ethnicity. and i hate us still using the term 'race'.

there is only ONE race and that is the human race.
As a Anthropology major, I am very clear on the lack of scientific racial categories, but I would argue the term should be used in these conversations. The fact is these arbitrary classifications are very present and powerful in our world and when talking about discrimination, usually "race" is the accurate term. I think it is very important to explain the difference between ethnicity (which I understand as relating to cultural affiliation and country/region of family orgin) and race (categories defined by physical characteristics which often, inaccurately, are used as synonyms for cultural groups).
As these conversations with our children progress, we can emphasize the lack of true "races" and the fact that if we were in an ideal world people wouldn't make these separations. I like to allow individuals to define themselves in ways that include their ethnicity, without being confined or labeled by outsiders crude observations of physical characteristics.
post #30 of 33
Just another mom who talks openly about racism.

I didn't follow all the links, but maybe one was to the study where children had internalized negative messages about race even though their parents hadn't realized it? It was done in Austin, and was fascinating. After I read that, I decided to talk about racism a lot.

It helps that one of my children is named Luther, so that creates additional interest. Last MLK day we got some books and listened to some stuff on NPR and talked all about the Civil Rights Movement. They might not have gotten that much out of it, but I want to introduce it early so that they're aware of it.

My 7 yo seems aware of racism, she has pointed out to me how the American Girl catalog has lots more white girls than girls of color.

One thing I am concerned about is the "guilty white" tendency to romanticize people of other races, especially because there aren't very many AAs around here for my kids to know on a personal level. I want them to be aware of stereotypes and racism, but I also don't want them to think of black people as this poor, down-trodden group that should be treated differently. Does that make sense?
post #31 of 33
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by AmaraMonillas View Post
I think it is very important to explain the difference between ethnicity (which I understand as relating to cultural affiliation and country/region of family orgin) and race (categories defined by physical characteristics which often, inaccurately, are used as synonyms for cultural groups).
Yes, I used the word "race" for this reason. My daughter is aware of cultural differences and languages, but was unaware about the somewhat arbitrary divisions that people use to describe people of different skin tones and hair colors (among other things). Race may be a social construct, but it's one that can be very challenging and divisive, hence the initial question.
post #32 of 33
Quote:
Originally Posted by Fuamami View Post
One thing I am concerned about is the "guilty white" tendency to romanticize people of other races, especially because there aren't very many AAs around here for my kids to know on a personal level. I want them to be aware of stereotypes and racism, but I also don't want them to think of black people as this poor, down-trodden group that should be treated differently. Does that make sense?
I'm not sure what you meant, so please forgive me in advance if I'm misreading into it.

It depends on what you mean by treated differently.
I'm sure that you're aware that many folks are now taking the stance that because Obama's president, suddenly everyone's on an equal playing field and racism no longer exists. So naturally, when they see that particular racial groups of people ARE still living at a socioeconomic disadvantage- then *certainly* their condition must be due to some internal deficit of character they possess and not due to a legacy of oppression they've inherited.

IOW, if you don't acknowledge that these obstacles to social mobility were systemically put in place, then you are in fact strengthening negative stereotypes and racist attitudes.
What you want is to find a balance between treating people as the fellow human beings that they are and having an understanding of the limitations that have been placed on them.

ETA- Acknowledging oppression in other groups doesn't mean that you're expected to feel guilty.
Perhaps not the best example but...
Whenever I encounter an immigrant who doesn't speak English, I usually try to assist them by interpreting for them. I don't do this because I think I'm superior to them nor because I feel guilty in any way, but simply because I know that in this particular area I've had an advantage.

As I stated, this isn't a great example because, of course, there are plenty of African-Americans who are doing socioeconomically very well just as there are immigrants who can manage English just fine. I'm just trying to convey that one doesn't have to feel guilt nor pity in order to acknowledge other people's disadvantages.

I do want to also add that my response focused on African-Americans exclusively because it was in response to your post- which btw I think is the typical direction the conversation takes because of our country's history of slavery. But really the discussion about race should include other races, not just blacks and whites.
post #33 of 33
Coming very late into the conversation, I think it's more important to discuss different cultures that people have before discussing race. For me, only talking about the color of one's skin/eyes/hair is meaningless without the bigger issue of culture, nationality, and prejudice.
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