Inferiority feelings in minority children - Mothering Forums

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#1 of 12 Old 08-02-2009, 06:31 AM - Thread Starter
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I just got done with a race and ethnicity class that I took this summer that brought many thoughts to my head....and lots of questions.

I am a Peruvian-American, but really a TCK. I had a baby 6 months ago and would like to raise her so that she does not grow up with a feeling of inferiority. My husband (her dad) is white. She has black hair, dark eyes, and dark skin. In addition, I speak to her in Spanish and I am teaching her the good (in my opinion) aspects of Peruvian culture.

In the class that I took, we spent a lot of time discussing White privilege, the link between race and poverty rates, feelings of inferiority, racism, the treatment of minorities by the majority, the lack of equality, etc. It has been shown that the vast majority of minority children go through an extremely difficult time during adolescence as they search for self identity. I know adolescence is far away for my baby girl, but I believe I need to raise her in a way to "counteract" the negative stereotypes she will encounter growing up. We currently live in a small city where there are small pockets of racially mixed groups, but it's mainly racially separated.

Where I grew up on the east coast, sometimes the racism was so bad that in order to protect us my dad, and parents of other hispanic children would tell us to lie and say we were Italian. I never could bring myself to lie about my ethnicity and was beat up twice in school. Where I live now sometimes I am ignored, brushed off, etc. when in public settings.

Does anyone have any advice on how to accomplish this? Does anyone have any resources? Books? Studies? Articles? about the topic? How do you raise your children to feel secure and confident in a country where they are a minority and where they experience the racism and stereotypes?
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#2 of 12 Old 08-03-2009, 06:15 PM
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I'm not sure I can answer your question, but I can only relay my experiences. As half middle eastern and half american, I can tell you that I got more grief from my middle eastern family than I never got from anybody else. Perhaps that's because my skin is very white. So for me, it wasn't so much that my mom is middle eastern, but the fact that I was mixed that was the problem. My middle eastern relatives also have a big problem with it and have always looked down on my mom for marrying an american. As a result they have treated me and my brother horribly. So it definitely goes both ways.

All I can say with certainty is that correcting these attitudes has to start at home. No matter how equal it is on the outside, any family members who maintain negative attitudes about race and ethnicity will simply undermine any progress made elsewhere.

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#3 of 12 Old 08-05-2009, 12:35 PM
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Originally Posted by crazydiamond View Post
All I can say with certainty is that correcting these attitudes has to start at home. No matter how equal it is on the outside, any family members who maintain negative attitudes about race and ethnicity will simply undermine any progress made elsewhere.
I agree. Start in the home - continue to teach her about her history and culture and demonstrate your own pride in your background. Emphasize the positives (great achievements, interesting aspects etc.) and while it's appropriate to teach about past hardships and the triumph of surviving/overcoming them, avoid dwelling on a victimization viewpoint. Use art, books, t.v. programs, etc. from Peru, but also from other cultures too. The library is usually a great resource for multicultural books and videos (at least in multicultural cities like Toronto and Sydney - and I hope your town too!) Join multi-cultural associations, attend foreign movie festivals (Toronto has an amazing children's festival for international films - the subtitles are read out loud during the film for the pre-literate little ones).

If she starts attending community playgroups, pre-schools, schools etc., approach the administrators and teachers about including multi-cultural activities - include games for the children to play, make sure there are books and toys available from different cultures, have different "treat days" when moms can bring in special foods from their homelands. If the group is not interested in such activities - find another one, because it obviously isn't the right place for your daughter anyway.

It is unfortunately inevitable that she will meet racism - overt and latent. The best you can do is give her a sense of pride and self-knowledge that will allow her to survive, and even thrive, when faced with it.

Best of luck
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#4 of 12 Old 08-05-2009, 01:01 PM
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My school where I teach is 100% minority. Luckily, there are more role models and standards of beauty out there for them then there were in the past. Even when I was a kid, a standard beautiful minority was someone who looked as close to white as possible. My best friend is East Indian, and all the top models there are very fair skinned. Her mother was a model, and her relatives always remarked what a pity it was my friend was so dark. This is a girl who never has a zit, gorgeous eyes, and an hourglass figure to die for. She looks great in a cocktail dress, I can tell you that.

My students are luckier, but certain things are still an issue, like darkness of skin, and hair. Hair is a big issue for girls. Also, height. Being too tall or too short. Especially if your ethnic background contributes to your height.

I would join multi-cultural associations. Teach your daughter about Peruvian history, and also, teach her about other cultures as well so she can be worldly. She'll appreciate her culture more when she knows what's unique about it, and appreciate the similarities with people throughout the world.
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#5 of 12 Old 08-05-2009, 11:05 PM
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ditto teaching about culture etc. but one place I'd start in on is by not saying "minority." That in itself is belittling in some ways, at least for me. The language you use, even when not directly talking about race or ethnicity, will help shape self esteem and self-worth and identity. And if you're interested in teaching her to be a global citizen, she isn't a minority even in the statistical sense anyway.

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#6 of 12 Old 08-05-2009, 11:07 PM
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Surround yourself with a network of families and caring individuals who share your outlook and philosophy.

I find the internet is great for a treasure trove of blogs of other multicultural and TCK families as they share how they are learning and promoting pride in the minority culture for their children.

Below is the link to a letter by Kara Wright of Mindhearted and her response to Chicago Parent's article about children being colourblind. Food for thought.

Good luck

Sign hanging in Albert Einstein's office at Princeton: Not everything that counts can be counted, and not everything that can be counted, counts.
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#7 of 12 Old 08-06-2009, 05:42 PM - Thread Starter
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Thank you Mommas!! You pointed out some really great ideas. I will definitely try to find a multi cultural group around our area and will incorporate your suggestions.
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#8 of 12 Old 08-06-2009, 06:17 PM
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Hey Mama-

I'm in Flagstaff too (for awhile longer at least)
Its a hard place to be brown for sure and I think you can count peruanos like yourself on one hand!
I wanted to share with you but I am coming up blank at the moment. But I would add that beyond giving her multicultural "experiences" in the context of mostly white American environments, give her the chance to have multicultural friends. Culture means a whole lot more when its shared in the context of the communities it comes from. And while you won't be able to bring her many peruvian cultural experiences here in AZ, I know a lot of amazing Mexican, Navajo and Hopi young families that are friendly and would more than likely share theirs with you and your daughter. Being around other young people who are proud of who they are will encourage your lil one as she grows up to take pride in her identity too and more encouraged to explore and celebrate who she is.
Good luck to you though!
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#9 of 12 Old 08-06-2009, 08:18 PM - Thread Starter
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shinaabikwe, I'm so glad you posted! I would love for my little one to have other "brown" friends in town!

I'll send you a PM.
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#10 of 12 Old 08-12-2009, 03:24 AM
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here is what i have done with my dd.

i look at anyone making any derogatory remark as a bully. no matter what their remarks are, ethnic orientation, sexual orientation- i 'teach' my dd - everyone has a mouth, every one has a right to an opinion, everyone in this country has freedom of speech. what they say - no matter how they phrase it - it is their opinion. you can take it or leave it. you never have to believe it. i mentor how even buying into the 'you are so nice' is also an opinion, doesnt mean you are nice. means the person finds you nice.

my dd is almost 7 and most of the teaching comes in the form of me modeling the behaviour. a couple of years ago a child was calling me names. cant remember what it was. my dd got all heffed up and was ready to jump on this child. her face was red with anger and tears were pouring down her cheeks. i did not say anything about the boy. i just stopped her from going and jumping on him. oh man. she got so so so mad with me. a series of 'how can you...' came out of her mouth. so i repeated the names the boy was calling me. i asked her did she think i was that? i even told her perhaps sometimes i am to you when you are angry. but just coz he is calling me those things, am i that? then i gave her the he has a mouth, he has the right to say whatever he wants talk.

the other day some kid in the park called her something. she totally got into the arms at her waist pose and using her whole body in that sassy pose she told him, that is not a kind thing to say. nnnn is not a kind word. and just because you say i am nnn doesnt mean i am nnnn. the poor kid you should have seen his face. he was a 10 year old too. he never bugged my dd again.

the key is to surround your child with love and respect. to see your child as another person who has their own opinions. fill them with love so that they have high self esteem. to me that is key. i volunteer with a variety of ethnic background. the ones who make it out against all odds are the ones who are full of self esteem and who have some role model to guide them. it just completely blows my mind how they have survived what they have survived.

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#11 of 12 Old 08-12-2009, 02:27 PM
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my ds is half peruvian as well! in my case, DH is peruvian. we speak spanish at home and my babe is 6mos too!
I dont know what TCK is though..
there are little things you can do to help her negotiate the caucasian standard of beauty and normalcy- give her brown haired/skinned dolls instead of white/blond dolls, for one.
i like that you are planning to teach her positive aspects of her peruvian culture.
i second pp's who talked about getting it in her head that people can have and express whatever opinion about you they want, it doesnt make it so.
as an example you could say "the sky is red today." and when she insists that the sky is blue you can point out that just because you say the sky is red doesnt make it so.
also remember that discriminating statements aren't only made along racial lines. kids can also be teased/taunted/beat up (like in your op) for any number of reasons (too tall, too short, too smart, too dumb, too rich, too poor, too white, even! i had a very pale friend who was constantly being made fun of!) my point is to take the victimization out of it. you cant control what others say/do/think, but you can control how you react/feel about it. no one can make you feel like a victim.
adolesence is hard for all kids, regardless of color.
keep your head up mama! you sound like you are a thinking woman who will be a very strong and positive force in you dd's life. she's lucky to have you.

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#12 of 12 Old 08-14-2009, 03:35 AM
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I wouldn't say that I grew up feeling inferior. Different definitely, but never really inferior. I generally thought that the people who used my "mixed race" status as a way to bully or tease me as ignorant boobs.

I'm half Caucasian, half Japanese, and more often get mistaken as Hispanic than Caucasian or Japanese. Doesn't bother me much... I think it's quite funny actually.

Then again, in my family, race/ethnicity/culture was never an excuse not to do something different just because it "is not the way things are done".
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