teaching acceptance for diversity - Page 2 - Mothering Forums

View Poll Results: Do you meet diverse people in your daily life?
We live in a homogenous area, and our own social / homeschooling circle is also homogenous 5 26.32%
We live in a homogenous area, but our own social / homeschooling circle is more diverse than average for our area. 5 26.32%
We live in a diverse area and our own social / homeschooling is fairly diverse. 4 21.05%
We live in a diverse area but our own social / homeschooling is not very diverse. 5 26.32%
Voters: 19. You may not vote on this poll

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#31 of 39 Old 06-09-2012, 04:50 PM
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Originally Posted by 4evermom View Post

Then they let go of a helium balloon and notice it does something different. Or they notice girls wear pink and then assume someone wearing pink is a girl. It doesn't mean they are sexist or racist or gravitist.


In general (not directed at any one poster)


I am not comfortable calling a child sexist or racist.  I think they can make racist or sexist comments, but to actually be racist or sexist?  I am not sure that is a label I would pin on a child who is still in the process of sorting things out.

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#32 of 39 Old 06-09-2012, 07:14 PM
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I found an interesting article that talks about this-- the article is not specifically for the LW, because it is targeted towards white parents trying to teach their kids not to see white as "normal" and everything else as "minority", however I thought this was a helpful quote:



What do I do if my child says something racist? What will others think of me? Will they look over at me, knowing what a horrible mother I am, because my son just came out with something funky about that woman’s hair, her skin, the way she talks? What will people say?
This is a big one. A really big one. As soon as we encourage our children to reflect on the world around them, to say what they are thinking and feeling and to invite conversation, well, they start to talk. And they will say things just about everywhere. And in front of just about everyone. And they will ask questions. Why is your hair like that? Did you notice that your skin is really dark? Wow, look, my mom’s arm is really white next to your arm! How come all the Black kids play basketball? Did you know that your grandfather was probably a slave? Your kids will say things that are beyond what you could possibly imagine. And they should say those things. Because this is how they learn. But they are only going to learn if you are open to hearing them. Which means knowing your own s---. Here is what we mean by that: What is going on for you when you hear your kids say something that triggers your “that’s racist” button? What emotions come up? What are you concerned about? What do you do when those emotions come up? We have all seen parents, when reacting to something their child has said, looking quickly around and saying, “shhhh, that’s not a nice thing to say,” or “Stop that! Don’t be rude!!” or any number of other things. We know the feeling in our bellies when we are walking through the world, thinking about our grocery list or the drive back home, when junior says something that immediately makes us feel exposed and visible. As white people. As potentially bad parents. Raising our children to be white is about knowing our reactions and finding ways to NOT shut our children down when they ask those kinds of questions.


The rest of the article is here: http://loveisntenough.com/2011/07/20/white-noise-white-adults-raising-white-children-to-resist-white-supremacy-2/  and it's definitely worth reading, but I highlighted that quote because it touches on why it's hard to talk to kids about race-- they're going to blurt out things that aren't right, and we need to not freak out about it, because all that will do is teach them to keep their opinions to themselves, and then we don't know what we need to teach them.  


Clarification: When she says "raising our kids to be white" what she means is raising them to realize that we all have a "color"-- it's not that other people are "colored" and are discriminated against, we all have a race, and it impacts our interactions.   

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#33 of 39 Old 06-10-2012, 04:40 AM
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Back to the OP, I think what is at issue is more a reaction to being uncomfortable around a different culture than a racial one.  I grew up in the American south and was immersed with lots of different races early on.  What I found was that not all people of one race have the same culture.  Those with cultures/backgrounds similar to mine were easy to get along with; those that were not were difficult because we had very little common experience and lots of cultural-based misunderstandings.  I well-remember wishing at age 5 that I could have a classroom of just people that talked and acted like I did because, quite frankly, I could not understand the words used by many of the black children and they often took my things without asking or touched me when I did not want to be touched (this was part of their cultural upbringing).  Not all were that way, and, as I said, I was good friends with those who were more in-line with my own culture.  Now that I live up north, the African-American culture up here that we interact with is very different and there is less of a cultural divide unless you are in the inner city.  I think it's biological and even beneficial to recognize when other people or cultures make you feel uncomfortable.  For young children with limited life experience this is especially true.  I wouldn't take what your daughter said as a value judgment of the personal worth of people so much as a frank statement that sometimes other people make us uncomfortable by the way they act, which is true for adults and children alike.  I am as uncomfortable around uneducated white people as I am around black people who fit that same stereotype.  I don't wish them ill, but I certainly don't enjoy interacting with them.  I wouldn't worry this into the ground but rather say that when people talk or act differently from us it can feel uncomfortable, but not all people who look alike act alike.  I would think this a good opportunity to examine how culture is made and passed down but also acknowledge that it's okay to dislike aspects of other cultures, because it is.  I would also try and find out more of what prompted your daughter's feelings--is she having difficulty in a new social situation?--and help her find ways of coping with that.  

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#34 of 39 Old 06-10-2012, 05:12 AM
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ah, i'm wondering if I get what you're saying serenbat? I'm wondering if you are objecting to the idea that the OP's child has not actually had to face these issues, has not been educated about these issues? That is, without doubt, a luxury that those who identify as white have, because its an issue we can largely ignore.I totally agree that's a massive issue and it IS a luxury of privilege.


Especially given that the OP does not actually identify as white, and given that, despite our absolute best efforts, all our kids say things that make us stop in our tracks and go "WHERE did this come from?", I just don't think we should read anything into it about the kid's upbrigining. If the OP was on here defending her child's right to have these views, that would be different, but she's not, she's here scratching her head and trying to sort it out. 


I do have an issue with parents who prefer to keep their (white) child innocent of prejudice in the belief that its not their problem, and in the belief that racist ideas won't percolate their bubble. They do and they will, but moreover, to not teach about racism, IMO, is to imply that that part of all our history wasn't really that significant and can just be easily brushes away. I think this thinking creates an idea that racism just isn't that important.I do feel though, that its got to be taught in the context of modelling seeing people as varied and interesting people. I think mechanistic anti-racist stuff, while absolutely better than nothing, is not that much better than nothing. 


I'm also personally very uncomfortable with suggesting that any differences between "races" beyond obvious fairly minor physical ones are actually biological and so innate. I don't think we have any evidence at all for this, and I think this idea has been used incredibly destructively in the past. I agree that its probably natural for many of us to seek out those who are as like us as possible, because these people are most likely to understand us, but I think its learnt and prejudiced behaviour to assume skin colour is a good indicator of whether someone is "like us". I know, for example, that I click much better with anyone from the city I grew up in (which happens to be an incredibly culturally mixed area)-this is utterly regardless of skin colour, and what it really comes down to is that most Londoners have a certain shared sense of humour. I also think though, its important to model for kids that we need to reach out of our own comfort zones. Once you get chatting with others you do so often realise how alike you are, its a cliche but its true.

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#35 of 39 Old 06-10-2012, 09:17 AM
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"WHERE did this come from?"



we don't know- but we do know that studies have shown children do learn stereotyping, etc and that  from a very young age and family/society do play a roll in it


During childhood, our attitudes are molded directly and indirectly by the race, ethnicity, and status of the people around us (i.e. teachers and classmates, parents, colleagues and friends, salesclerks, doctors, nurses, waiters, house cleaners, construction workers, the unemployed, the homeless, etc.). By age twelve we have a complete set of stereotypes about every ethnic, racial, and religious group in our society.



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#36 of 39 Old 06-10-2012, 10:03 AM
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Originally Posted by serenbat View Post



we don't know- but we do know that studies have shown children do learn stereotyping, etc and that  from a very young age and family/society do play a roll in it

Well, gee what DON'T children learn about other humans from family or society? Now you're acknowledging maybe everything isn't the parent's fault. Again, what's so offensive about the OP becoming aware of her daughter stereotyping and asking for advice on how to counteract this? So offensive you're compelled to reply that her post is too offensive to even give advice.

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#37 of 39 Old 06-10-2012, 10:16 AM
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Originally Posted by serenbat View Post



we don't know- but we do know that studies have shown children do learn stereotyping, etc and that  from a very young age and family/society do play a roll in it


Actually, stereotyping (as in, having a simplified, standardized concept which one applies to a group of similar things) is a natural, albeit somewhat simplistic, organizational strategy of the child's developing mind. Prejudice (an unfavourable opinion formed beforehand) and racism (hatred based on racial prejudices) can evolve from stereotyping depending on social, parental and media influences and on how parents and others react to any negative stereotyping the child expresses. 


It's a common myth that "children are colourblind." In fact even very young children are acutely aware of differences in skin colour and do tend to use skin colour and other simplistic cultural attributes as an organizational strategy in making sense of society. My sister Anna, who is black was raised in a white family and a predominantly white community, was at a park at about age 18 months when she started calling "Anna! Anna! Anna!" and pointing across the playground. There was another black child, probably the first black child she'd ever really perceived in her young life. By age 18 months she was already sorting the world into whites, and Annas (i.e. blacks).


Many parents are uncomfortable talking about racial differences, but their children's questions need to be answered in simple direct ways that validate their perception of differences and provide clear honest answers rather than brushing them aside. Otherwise kids can end up confused and worried about issues of differences and taking their cues from the wrong sources.



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#38 of 39 Old 06-10-2012, 12:35 PM
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we live in a pretty limited area of diversity.  only 13 minority.  although i wonder if they are including the out of state college students.  we have a lot of people from africa here as well.  DS1 has learned about slavery and the civil rights movement but i dont really feel the need to teach him about acceptance of diversity beyond respecting other cultural norms.  we as parents dont treat other races differently so i think they learn by example. 

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#39 of 39 Old 07-12-2012, 06:05 AM - Thread Starter
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Hi everyone ... meant to check back in much earlier, then it just slipped.

Thanks for each and every response, even the ones that made me want to say, "but, but ... "

Reading those responses, saying that I had lived too segregated / privileged a life, or must have demonstrated prejudiced attitudes ... it made me feel what my daughter was feeling when she shrank into the couch and said, "I shouldn't have said anything." 


And thanks to those of you who understood and offered help and insights.   Some of those were very much on target.  We have gotten together more with our friends of different backgrounds - it really didn't end up being contrived at all, it just took a phone call and viola, there was a playdate.  It will take a lot more than this to explore these feelings and stereotypes, and I am not going to put the burden on the playdates to address these issues.  There are issues within issues ... so we will keep thinking about them, but at least in the background of our thinking there will be more diverse everyday life experience than what we seemed to be having earlier.

Anyway, now having thought about all those responses, arranged several playdates, and seeking out diverse representations in books and other media, I want to share some notes from a couple of books I have come across.  What I have discovered, and becomes obvious once you are aware of it, is that segregation is operating in hidden ways - it came up in the recent Slate debate about whether homeschooling is in line with liberal values -and  Astra Taylor notes that:


Quote from Astra Taylor:

"But, truth be told, the minuscule number of secular home learners nationwide is dwarfed by the huge population of liberal parents who do everything in their power to get their kids into the best public schools possible, moving their families to more competitive districts, those desirable zip codes, and perpetuating inequity in the process."  (Learning in Freedom)


Now I will quote a book with the suitably embarrassing title:  Some of My Best Friends are Black: by Tanner Colby


Quote from Tanner Colby:

When you're white in America, life is a restricted country club by default, engineered in such a way that the problems of race rarely intrude on you personally.  During the time of Jim Crow, it took a great deal of terrorism, fear, and deliberate, purposeful discrimination to keep the color line in place.  What's curious about America today is that you can be white and enjoy much of the same isolation and exclusivity without having to do anything.


The intentional nature of this phenomenon was thoroughly documented in a book called Sundown Towns by James Loewen.

Some of the topics that Loewen brings up, useful for our introspection are:

Cognitive Dissonance in Martinsville, Indiana (p, 327)

Independent Sundown Towns Limit the Horizons of Their Children (p. 334)


and many others. It is a stunning, shocking book - until you see how painfully obvious it is, or should have been.


No conclusions, still thinking - just coming up for air to share.

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