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the first black president...? - Page 8

post #141 of 145
Originally Posted by pigpokey View Post
My children (older 3, young 5) are aware that skin comes in different colors, but not that it has more significance than hair color except as it affects UV penetration, and they are not aware of racial labels. I'm sure that will change rapidly in the next few years.
I agree completely with this EXCEPT I am not sure my kids' awareness would change much in the next few years unless I make a big point of bringing it to their attention. It is not something we run into here. But because I am certainly in agreement that racism is alive and well in general in America and I believe it is critical to understand the history of slavery, segregation, and discrimination in America, I will teach my children about it. But my kids are too young for this now. For now it is more important that they live with their experience that Obama was the president we wanted to win and he did - neither because he is black nor in spite of the fact that he is black - but simply because we think he is the right person to lead this country and most Americans agreed with us.
post #142 of 145
I understand your frustration, Missy, in those who are saying this election is normal now. It is making light of something that is historic and will hopefully motivate this country to really deal with and heal from racism, but won't necessarily do that.
And I agree that making light of it with our children will fail to instill in them how important struggling against racism is.

However, your daughter is 13! She is a young adult fully capable of understanding things of historical importance. My ds is 4 and though I can start the conversation in a gentle way by reading books with him or telling him how great it is for our country to have a black president this is a conversation that will take place over years to come. I don't necessarily do too much to shelter my children, but it's really hard for me to break through and tell them about violence etc... I think Arwyn said it well. There are ways to start this conversation while keeping things gentle.

I am so sorry that some of your children have experienced racism. I can hardly imagine having to deal with that. As an adult I've experienced some race based comments in our neighborhood but it really seems like a stretch to explain this to ds.
Soooo, if ds overhears someone yelling to me that if I don't like public urination I shouldn't "be in the ghetto, y'all" is that a conversation starter into white gentrification of black neighborhoods....umm...yes, even though that guy really was just rude and drunk and I've never seen him before.
Do you see the dilema? It's so much complicated information! And this to a child who does think a black president is normal just like if his parents won the lottery. Reality is so hard to grasp.

And yes, my ds really doesn't notice a person's race. He also doesn't notice what people look like in general. He's never commented on someone's weight, height, hair color, eye color...all kids are different. He's not really an observer.
I feel like this conversation gives us all a lot to think about and maybe opens some of us up to the topic of racism. Something some of us rarely have to think about. I'm glad that some of you are pushing the racism discussion and emphasising it's importance. But let's also respect each other in how we raise our children. If experience doesn't necessitate it then some of us would rather have this discussion with our children take place later or in stages or as it comes up naturally. I'm wondering, is there any danger in that?
post #143 of 145

My other children, whom I mentioned in an earlier post, are 6 and 9. I wrote about my daughter's reaction because she was there with me at that moment, and my point in talking about her reaction was to reiterate that this is not normal. This is not a generation that is going to be raised free of racism and bigotry. She has already felt it to the degree that, while adults were yelling and screaming, she was stunned to tears. There's an intensity she shouldn't feel at this age. Especially if people are claiming (and they are) that her generation is growing up free from racism.

My little boys--who are not young adults--were very aware of the implication of this election. They are very aware that, when they look at the past presidents, none look like them. They are very aware that, when we've seen the people who represent us in Washington, very, very few look like them. I haven't been given a choice when to introduce race and racism because they were slammed with it at an age that apparently, for many here, is too young for something so serious and painful. And sometimes that hurt came from another child. Like the little girl who asked my daughter years ago, "Why did your mom marry a blackface?" I kind of wish her parents had talked to her a little more often, y'know?

Or the 9-year-old girl who, just the other day, insisted on arguing with my children about their race, insisting that aren't Black (which is how they id). They are, apparently, nothing. And President Obama is wrong, because he keeps saying he's Black and he's not, either. And she knows everything about Black people because they had a roommate who was Black.

So, yes, it does matter.
post #144 of 145
I wanted to come back and say that I do have a lot of sympathy for the desire to keep one's children "innocent" and "colorblind". My parents basically didn't talk to me about race or racism at all when I was younger, and I was probably about as colorblind as some of y'all's kids. We lived in an overwhelmingly white area, but there were a couple black kids in my classes over the years, and they were, to me, just there. No big deal.

Then when I was 8 or 9 years old, home alone (latchkey kid), I saw an Oprah episode that discussed white supremacists and racism. I was horrified, and what I learned from it was not anti-racism but racism. It was such a big, horrible thing to learn about all at once that it stuck with me, and for years after that when I would see a person of color doing something "unusual" (be a lawyer, run for office, whatever), what would run through my mind was what the racist people I saw on Oprah would say about them. It was one of the most traumatic things in my life, and I hated myself for it. Not that I believed those things, because I didn't, but that they existed in my head and I had no methods to counteract them. Because my parents didn't talk to me about it in anything other than a privileged colorblind "everyone's equal" kind of way. My parents were by no means racist, but they weren't anti-racist, and that hurt me when I did encounter it.

Eventually (and always a little) my parents did talk about race, but primarily in a "we're so much better than we were" kind of way, even while they raised me in our white little suburb. And while by the time I grew up we WERE so much better than we had been when my parents were growing up, there was still (and is still) so much more to do. They raised me to think that it was all over, all in the past, and that hurt me.

So I do understand and sympathize with the desire to have kids be colorblind, to raise them with utopian beliefs. I feel that pull myself. But we don't live in utopia, and I believe it's better to help your children discover that gently and with your support than for them to find it out on their own

So don't tell your 3 year old about lynchings. Don't introduce murder and rape and slavery to your 4 year old. But do talk to them, and please please to the best of your ability give them the tools to deal with and counteract racism -- because no matter how white they are or how white their neighbours, they are going to run in to it eventually, and you want them to be on the right side of it. You want them to know how to identify and reject it.

Celebrating the election of our country's first black president, whether or not you voted for him, is a good way to start. They may think a black president is normal (like plantmama said, anything that happens before kids have a good sense of reality is "normal"), but let them know that it's a really really good thing, too. Don't be blase about it just because they may not entirely get it yet.
post #145 of 145
I talked with my child about racism before MLK Day this year, when he'd just turned 3. He was less colorblind than I'd thought.

I mentioned more than once that one reason Obama's election is very exciting is that the United States has only ever had light-skinned presidents and he is the first brown one. I was ready to discuss it further if my son asked questions, but he didn't.

An out-of-town friend who spent election night at our house is light-skinned African-American raised by his mother and white stepfather, so he feels very much the same kind of person as Obama. He was very excited about the election and talking mostly in terms that I thought went over my kid's head. But the day after the election, EnviroKid said of our friend, "He's happy to have a president who looks like him." When he watched Obama's victory speech, he pointed out "brown-skinned people" in the audience. So I think he's pretty aware for his age.

Mostly, we've kept the emphasis on what Obama will do as president, not what group he belongs to. That reflects our values. But it IS important to have a non-white president for a change! We'd be talking about it more if our child were a little older, like 5 or 6; we WILL talk about it more in years to come.

During the Democratic convention, EnviroKid was very interested in the video about Obama's life, showing him with his maternal family. Later I found a photo of Obama with his paternal relatives in Kenya. We talked about how his parents grew up in different cultures and had different color skin, and his skin is an in-between color. I think it's important to acknowledge both parts of Obama's heritage. People tend to see him as black, he identifies himself as black, but his mother and her family were important in shaping him too. He's at least as white as I am Jewish.

It's all so complicated! Children need to be aware of race and its role in our history and our present society, but that awareness comes gradually.
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