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the first black president...?

post #1 of 145
Thread Starter 
ok so my kids are 5 and 1 . i am not sure if i want to make a big deal out of Barak being the first black president, i kinda want them to see it as normal and not some bizzare occurance. I really want them to grow up thinking it is normal and nothing to be gawked at but i am so excited and want them to know how special it is at the same time. i try to teach that we are all the same , what are you all doing at this historic time? :
post #2 of 145
My 6 yo and I talked about it briefly last night. I couldn't help but talk to her because every news station focused on him as the first black president. She wanted to know what that meant.

We focused on our nations sad history, how black people were treated, how wrong those beliefs are, how God created everyone and we are all his children etc.... She couldn't believe that people were treated differently because of their skin. She even said "What if people treated me differently because of my brown curly hair? That just doesn't make sense and would make me so sad".
post #3 of 145
Well, that's what it is--a historic time. And it's historic for a reason--because Barack is the 1st black president (or, technically, will be in Jan).

I'm not letting America off that easily. There needs to be some accountability. It's no mistake that we went so long without a non-white president. Nor is it a mistake that we've never had a female, or non Christian, or a (known to be) disabled president, etc.

I can't get behind a color blind mentality. He's black. His color influenced the way that many people voted--both for and against him. We need to teach our children to embace differences, not ignore them.

So....to answer your question, ds (who is biracial) and I (a white woman) have discussed what this means, the significance of it, the fact that we are living history right. this. very. second. when I let ds check off the box on the ballot....

BUT, we don't discuss his color any more than we discuss his (and our) hopes, dreams, and plans for this country.
post #4 of 145
My dd is only 3, but I've chosen not to stress his race. I thought about this a lot when Hillary was running the primaries because a big part of me was THRILLED that my dd might grow up with the pres she remembered being a woman- and I realized what a special thing it is for dd to already believe in equality in such a deeper way than I think I could ever teach her (by teaching her the way our society has been and then unteaching her- doe sthat make sense?) Certainly if she ever asks about the significance of his race, then we'll discuss it, but right now I'm happy with her innocence.

I also wouldn't want to give the impression that he won just because people wanted a black president. As important as it is from a historical perspective, his race was not a reason that I would vote for or against him-- I'm happier stressing to her the importance of voting for someone who wants to protect the environment and give everyone access to health care- since those are more important to me. (from where I stand, the republicans could have paraded out a disabled black lesbian, and if she still spouted the standard republican platform I would have voted against her without batting an eye)
post #5 of 145
Well, to be fair, there have only been 55 presidential elections in our nations history. Only 55. I understand that there has never been a black, woman, non christian etc... president but, there have only been 55 elections. I understand what you're saying and I agree this nation has a long way to go but, I think it's very important to point out to children that there are a lot of non white, non christian men and women serving in high offices in this nation.
post #6 of 145
I know exactly what you are saying. DD is 3 and I mentioned Barak Obama for the first time to her yesterday. I didn't say anything about race, I was just describing what a "president" is and how it was time to choose a new one. But I don't want to mention race. I am from a multi-racial family and I'd rather DD just see everyone for who they are until she starts asking about how we look different.

My thought is there is plenty of time for DD to learn about the history of injustice in this country. Why not let her experience the USA for what it will be with a black president, so that it is her norm. She can learn the history of this later. I would be equally happy to have a woman as president and I'd approach it with DD the same way.

Besides, I just wish we were already at that point where it wasn't about black/white or male/female, just only about the best candidate for the job (which I also think Obama is). So I intend to focus on that for DD until she's older.
post #7 of 145
I wouldn't call his skin color black to my children because he's not very dark. We do have friends with truly black skin and we have friends who stay out of the sun and remind me that my skin actually is white. Obama is neither.

He has a father from Africa and a mother with white skin. I don't talk about "race" with the kids. At 3 and 5 it has no application to their lives. When they are older, they will be able to understand it in its contexts and hopefully the concept will be less and less important in the next couple of decades.

What they know: Variable skin color largely is about how much sun your ancestors were able to be exposed to. If you lived where it was cold and further from the equator, you needed lighter skin to stay healthy. Dark skin helped when people got a lot of sun. Now that we have airplanes, phones, etc. people do not stay where their parents live as often so people of all skin colors live in our city.
post #8 of 145
i am not sure if i want to make a big deal out of Barak being the first black president, i kinda want them to see it as normal and not some bizzare occurance
That. My 6 year old knows no difference in skin color and I'll keep it that way as long as possible.
post #9 of 145
My almost 5 year old DS also doesn't perceive racial differences the way adults do. He told me everyone in his class was white, for example, which is empirically untrue - it's fewer than 50%. I didn't try to tell him that his best friend is actually mixed race and his new buddy is African American. He'll figure that out with time.

But, I definitely stopped as we left the polls yesterday and said, wait a moment. Remember this moment. I hope you remember this when you are older - this is the first time we are electing a black president. People have sometimes been mean to black people just because they are black and that is not ok. But this shows that the world is changing for the better. He mostly understands that Barack Obama is against the war and DS supports him for that reason. But I hope he does remember. What an amazing first political memory.
post #10 of 145
I've been teaching my 6 year old about racism and the history of civil rights in our country since he was a toddler. It's very important to me that I raise my children to be anti-racist, just as I was raised to be anti-racist. The concept of "color-blindness" is something that makes white people feel better and feel they are permitted to neglect educating their children about the history of oppression in this country. Look up white privilege.

Barack Obama being the first black president is a HUGE deal. Not small. Not something that should be ignored for a second. It is HUGE. It is AMAZING! As CMM said, Obama's race certainly played a very large part in the presidential race and influenced votes.

My children are being raised to be conscious of the history of this country, and what we need to do to make it better. My 6 year old absolutely has been taught about the historical importance of this election, from an equality perspective. Racism still exists and we are still immersed in it, whether we are always conscious of it or not. It does a disservice to ALL people, but most especially people of color, to pretend that racism doesn't exist, or that we can fight racism by ignoring it. We can't. We can fight racism with education, however. And that includes education about our American history. We must understand history in order to learn from it and not repeat mistakes.
post #11 of 145
Originally Posted by Alyantavid View Post
That. My 6 year old knows no difference in skin color and I'll keep it that way as long as possible.
Same here.
post #12 of 145
Originally Posted by CookieMonsterMommy View Post
I'm Nor is it a mistake that we've never had a female, or non Christian, or a (known to be) disabled president, etc.
What about Franklin D. Roosevelt? He was in a wheelchair.
post #13 of 145
I seriously doubt it is time to introduce the history of the country and various ugly mistakes to my children who have not developed enough to be able to hold the concepts in their minds accurately and are prone to illogical acts of generalization and fantasy. If you still believe that Santa Claus flies all over the earth in one night on magic reindeer and comes down everyone's chimneys I have no idea what you would make of skin color politics. I am hoping to help them develop to be ethical intellectuals. I think planting notions of fear and hate and problems they cannot solve in their tender years in no way advances that. For now I think the most helpful thing is to encourage them to develop respect and love relationships with people of all "races" and grapple with the mistakes of their ancestors later. I am pretty sure I am not making a racism-promoting mistake in taking this tact with my children who are 3 and 5. At any rate when I meet someone I do not decide whether to be friends with her based on her skin color. I do it like all mothers of young children do. If our children get along well I immediately want to exchange phone numbers. I do not know any better way to teach a new set of norms.

The hand that rocks the cradle rules the world.
post #14 of 145
Originally Posted by lotusdebi View Post
The concept of "color-blindness" is something that makes white people feel better and feel they are permitted to neglect educating their children about the history of oppression in this country. Look up white privilege.
Exactly. The color-blind thing is just plain condescending. How nice it is to have the privilege of being able ignore it all.
post #15 of 145
I started to talk about Obama being the first black president to my 4yo ds (in a week he turns four) while driving him to school today and listening to the news on the radio. (We're white.) I told him people are talking about how it's the first time there's been an African-American president. I said Obama's father was from Kenya and Kenya's in Africa and, and there hasn't been a president before whose family was from Africa. That didn't quite sound like enough (to me, anyway - wasn't sure if ds was listening really) so I added that people from Africa have darker skin, brown skin, and for some reason for a long time people in the United States were not fair to... not nice to... people with darker skin...

Well, I heard myself talking and it was all over his head, really, about things he has no experience or context for. I stopped talking and he didn't seem to notice. Overall I feel he's just too young to take it in.
post #16 of 145
Originally Posted by Ruthla View Post
What about Franklin D. Roosevelt? He was in a wheelchair.
Almost all of America had no idea he was in a wheelchair.
post #17 of 145
It's weird to read through this thread because in a way I can agree with everybody who posted! These are all valid points!

I think it really depends on the age of the child, their life experience, and what their awareness of racial issues is already. As with everything we teach/tell children we have to sort of base our answer on their level of understanding of the world--when a two year old asks why leaves are green it doesn't make sense to go into a lengthy explanation of chlorophyll and photosynthesis! We have to gear our answers or explanations to them to their current levels of understanding. My DD will be 3 this Saturday and her Dad is from India and I'm white/from the U.S. Since we went to visit India this summer and she met her paternal grandparents and aunts/uncles/cousins, she has come home and started being aware of a difference between India and America, and being aware of race/color differences in people and asking questions. But in her mind, Indians are green. Daddy is green, her grandma is green, anybody wearing a sari at the Indian grocery store is a "green lady", etc.! We've started having some discussions about how some people have different hair color and eye color and skin color, and how people come from different parts of the world and that many people from India, like Daddy, have darker skin. She recognizes Barack Obama and John McCain when she sees them on TV but isn't really aware of the significance of the presidency or anything, much less the historic significance of a black/biracial president. I just explained the concept of what a president is yesterday. When she's six or seven she'll be ready for a much more complicated explanation! In the meantime I'm happy that this is going to be a part of her earliest experience of the world.
post #18 of 145
I grew up in England at the time of Margaret Thatcher, the first (only) female prime minister and one of the first woman premiers of any country, and my parents initially stressed the fact that she was a woman as suggesting equality, that I could achieve anything I wanted, and so on.
At some point, the awareness sank in that although Thatcher was a woman, she did not have the intention of changing the lives of other women through her position of power. I would not raise the subject of Obama's race unless one of his campaign promises relates specifically to race relations. (eta: I haven't read them all, so I don't know.)

I will say, though, that I'm hoping that he turns out to be more than "just" America's first black president. Roosevelt is remembered for having some common sense on his shoulders first, the wheelchair second, it would be good if we could say the same for Obama in years to come.
post #19 of 145
I am just honoured that such a wise man will be leading the country.

I think it is a big deal, a huge deal.
However, my kids are 2 and 4, and since we are not in the USA, we have not discussed it because they do not even know about an election. It has been all over the news here too though.

I got this phrase off the news coverage and thought it was beautiful:
Rosa sat so Martin could march,
Martin marched so Obama could run.
Obama ran so our childen could fly.
post #20 of 145
I think that people should read

15. I do not have to educate my children to be aware of systemic racism for their own daily physical protection.

Because only people who have white skin privleage can *not* talk about Obama as the first black president.
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