the first black president...? - Page 5 - Mothering Forums

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#121 of 145 Old 11-16-2008, 04:51 AM
 
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I guess I should premise this post with the statement that I am white. I was also originally from Virginia and I am well aware of the racism that exists in our society today. Of course I have never experienced it directed at me so I will never truly know how it feels.

That being said when I was in college in the late 80's I remember being harassed often because of my southern accent and the fact I was from Virginia. It seems the view of most was that we were all racist toothless red necks when in fact nothing could be further from the truth.

In 1989 I went back home and worked as a volunteer in Douglas Wilder campaign for governor. Remember at the time only 19% of Virginia was African American and yes we did have the reputation as one of the last bastions of the old south. But I was amazed at the treatment I received as a campaign worker. Many people I would have assumed would be against a black man running for governor indeed proved to be far more open minded than I had imagined.

I am proud to say that I was there in Richmond on January 11, 1990 and Douglas Wilder because the first black elected Governor of a state and a southern state...Virginia. So to me it is not surprising at all that Virginia went for Senator Obama. Seems we are not the back woods folks many make us out to be here.
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#122 of 145 Old 11-16-2008, 02:26 PM
 
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And then Virginia went on to elect George Allen.

Later, people in Virginia laughed with (not at) his dumbass when he called out a young man at a rally with a racial epithet and welcomed him to the real world of Virginia, a young man who--unlike Allen--was a native of Virginia. And that was just the final episode in a long known pattern of bigotry. Yes, he then lost that next election, but barely. Everything else had been brushed off.

I was a senior at Hampton University when Wilder was elected, and it was a great moment. Then, my husband and I got married and he spent the next two years searching for jobs in a wide open field, with an incredible transcript and amazing recommendations (and yes, it was racism, not coincidence; one of the personnel directors was later fired and then sued by the NAACP). I could give you a list of very specific incidents. I could talk about the lynching that occurred several years after Wilder was elected. Wilder was born in Richmond; Virginia might have elected a black man as governor, but they also elected a native son in doing so. Big difference between Wilder and Obama.

I have no illusions about the state I grew up in, and what happened on November 4 is nothing short of a miracle.
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#123 of 145 Old 11-18-2008, 03:07 PM
 
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Very interesting discussion. I was very moved by Missy's post. It amazes me how cruel people can be. My sons are 3.5 and 15 months old. My 3.5 year old doesn't know the difference between black and white. My husband and I are both very sensitive about this issue and want them to grow up "colorblind" in the sense that they realize that a person's worth or value has nothing to do with the color of their skin. I would be horrified if my children ever thought they were better than anyone else because they happen to be white or if they ever showed even the tiniest bit of a racist attitude. When my 3.5 year old is at the playground or wherever else, he could care less what color the other children are. He'll play with anyone. I wish we could all retain this innocence forever. I'm glad for this thread because it has given me a lot of ideas regarding how to explain racial differences in a way that my kids will understand. I want them to be part of the solution, not the problem.
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#124 of 145 Old 11-19-2008, 12:52 AM
 
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Nor is it a mistake that we've never had a female, or non Christian, or a (known to be) disabled president, etc.
Nixon was a Quaker. Not all Quakers consider themselves Christians. There are Muslim & Buddhist Quakers. It's an interesting religion and VERY different from what people generally think of as Christian. Some of my Quaker relatives do not consider themselves Christian.

FDR used a wheelchair.

And though it's obviously not the presidency, the governor of New York is black and blind. My almost 4 yo thinks you have to be blind to be governor.
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#125 of 145 Old 11-19-2008, 09:50 AM
 
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I was also under the impression that many of the founding fathers were Deist, and not Christian, which makes me believe that some of the early presidents were probably Deist also.

I truly believe that it's OK to leave many kids out of race discussions at age 5 and discuss it later in childhood. I don't think I underestimate my child. I just don't think life needs to be so heavy at 5, and I don't think that many children will be more "racist" for having the subject brought up when it presents itself if they are developing healthy relationships with a diverse group of friends and teachers.
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#126 of 145 Old 11-19-2008, 12:21 PM
 
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I was also under the impression that many of the founding fathers were Deist, and not Christian, which makes me believe that some of the early presidents were probably Deist also.

I truly believe that it's OK to leave many kids out of race discussions at age 5 and discuss it later in childhood. I don't think I underestimate my child. I just don't think life needs to be so heavy at 5, and I don't think that many children will be more "racist" for having the subject brought up when it presents itself if they are developing healthy relationships with a diverse group of friends and teachers.

I have said it before in this thread as have many others. No one is saying your child will grow up to be a racist because you did not expose them. But you should realize for us moms of children of color we often to not have the luxury to avoid this heaviness of life. One of my sons was called the N word in the grocery store at the age of 3 by a white man and my other son had a friend in preschool tell him even though you are a brown boy I will play with you. And my daughter while in preschool school her what she is because she is lighter than some of the white children, but her hair is not straigh (it's different). So I don't have that luxury nor do my kids.
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#127 of 145 Old 11-19-2008, 01:41 PM
 
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We've had MANY disabled presidents, fyi. FDR for 3 terms could barely move and even as recently as Kennedy, who, in spite of his youthful energetic persona, had severe crippling diseases rendering him unable to walk sometimes and he had to deal with chronic pain, etc.

Anyway, back to the topic... I think at this stage it is really important for my young children to experience the normalcy of African Americans (and other minority groups, including women) achieving great things and positions of power and being able to achieve their dreams in this country. My little ones are part of the first generation of Americans that will grow up not thinking twice about a woman or a person of color being mayor, governor, senator, president, CEO, professor, business owner, etc. And for now I'd like to keep it that way, in large part because I believe strongly in the power of naming, in calling attention to differences where before there were none perceived.
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#128 of 145 Old 11-19-2008, 02:35 PM
 
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My little ones are part of the first generation of Americans that will grow up not thinking twice about a woman or a person of color being mayor, governor, senator, president, CEO, professor, business owner, etc.
This is a very nice dream, but it is definitely a dream. This generation will have lots of racism too, I'm afraid.
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#129 of 145 Old 11-19-2008, 02:55 PM
 
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I'm gonna be over the moon ecstatic if my kid grows up to find it hard to believe what a big deal I make over the first black president, because he finds it so normal, because there have been female and queer and Muslim presidents by the time he turns 30, and hatecrimes have entirely disappeared, and there is pay parity, and no one in the last decade has ever even heard the n word, and he can't imagine such an unequal world as one where a Harvard law scholar and American senator gets death threats because of his race... Seriously, over the moon.

But I'm still gonna tell him how huge this is. Because it is.
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#130 of 145 Old 11-19-2008, 03:41 PM
 
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I'm not sure how Periwinkle waiting until her kids are older is going to impact much. Her kids aren't going to be calling anyone slurs. They aren't going to reach adulthood with their heads in the sand. She said she thinks "the foundation of assuming everyone is the same is more important for them now, and will make it more meaningful to build on that with an understanding of how wrong slavery, segregation, etc. was." And I tend to agree.

As with all things, I wait until my ds asks questions and seems ready for information. Racism hasn't come up. Neither has the Holocaust or a myriad of other hate crimes like rape. We'll talk about them when I think he is ready not when others think it is important or necessary. Because some people have horrible experiences means all young children should be made aware of them is strange logic to me. We don't always get to choose what our kids experience but sometimes we do. Sounds like my ds is having a sheltered childhood in a homogenous neighborhood but that is far from the truth.

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#131 of 145 Old 11-19-2008, 03:46 PM
 
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I guess my problem is is that we don't necessarily have to explain all the evil things others do/have done in order to share with our children that this, today, is a huge GOOD thing. We can mention that some people don't like other people because of the color of their skin/their heritage/whatever, and that's wrong, and that today is a very good thing because more people than ever before have gotten over (more or less) that way of thinking. We don't have to go into the atrocities of slavery and hangings and hatecrimes and rape and all that other stuff in an age inappropriate way.
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#132 of 145 Old 11-19-2008, 04:00 PM
 
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I guess my problem is is that we don't necessarily have to explain all the evil things others do/have done in order to share with our children that this, today, is a huge GOOD thing. We can mention that some people don't like other people because of the color of their skin/their heritage/whatever, and that's wrong, and that today is a very good thing because more people than ever before have gotten over (more or less) that way of thinking. We don't have to go into the atrocities of slavery and hangings and hatecrimes and rape and all that other stuff in an age inappropriate way.
I think this is a very good point.


I just want to put my mod hat on for a minute and remind everyone to remember the UA while posting. This conversation has been a very good one, please try to keep it respectful. Thanks

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#133 of 145 Old 11-19-2008, 04:03 PM
 
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Like Arwyn said, it's not an all or nothing. Nothing is...quite frankly, an ineffective tool for raising children that you hope won't be racist. You cannot control everyone your child comes into contact with, you can't control what people say to him nor how he will interpret the language and beliefs around him. We can, however, give our children the tools they need to deflect racist idealogy so it doesn't become theirs.

A woman commented on my blog the other day. Her family is white and she and her husband had always felt that "colorblindness" was the way to go. Then the college-aged son of a close friend came home spouting racist views--his parents had raised him, teaching him tolerance and equality, but they had never taught him about racism. He didn't have the knowledge needed to identify it until it had gotten into his mind and heart.

I don't know how else to explain it. I'm saddened and frustrated and angry and scared that there are parents who are willing to deliberately hide a truth because it's unpleasant; it makes me worry about the generation my children are growing up with.
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#134 of 145 Old 11-19-2008, 04:27 PM
 
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I'm confused when people say their kids never noticed that people are different races. I'm trying to remember when my daughter first noticed but I bet she was like 2. We've always had black friends and neighbors and I remember her touching a friend's face and saying something about them looking different. She also notices friends who have other differences but I don't see how it's possible for a child to not notice that. It's just part of reality.

I also don't see how it's possible to live in a multi-ethnic area and not run into instances of racism. We've witnessed it - my daughter and I together - and our area isn't even THAT diverse. If you see this stuff and don't comment on it, you condone it and it becomes normal and okay. My daughter knows that there are different races, that people are treated differently because of it, and that it is wrong to treat people differently because of it. I think it's helped her learn about empathy. I am really confident that if she is ever playing and someone is being excluded due to race (or for tons of other reasons but particularly that one as we've witnessed racist incidents of that nature) that she would make sure the excluded children were no longer excluded. Kids have to be taught what's right if they are going to do the right thing around peers who have been taught otherwise.
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#135 of 145 Old 11-19-2008, 05:46 PM
 
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Kids have to be taught what's right if they are going to do the right thing around peers who have been taught otherwise.

This is how I feel, too. I also think it's important for caucasian kids to understand the history of (and current) racism in this country for another reason - it helps them understand that and why some POCs might be more sensitive to issues surrounding race than they are. I mean, in a perfect world, it wouldn't matter if you described someone by their skin color. But we aren't in a perfect world, and it does matter to a lot of people - and most black people I know are really weary of being jdescribed as a black person before any other physical trait they might exhibit. Because of that, it was important to me to teach my kids that it's not appropriate to say something like, "I'm playing with that brown kid over there." There's no way I can figure out how to explain why that's not polite without at least touching on the issue of racism.
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#136 of 145 Old 11-19-2008, 07:29 PM
 
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I'm confused when people say their kids never noticed that people are different races. I'm trying to remember when my daughter first noticed but I bet she was like 2. We've always had black friends and neighbors and I remember her touching a friend's face and saying something about them looking different. She also notices friends who have other differences but I don't see how it's possible for a child to not notice that. It's just part of reality.
Yeah, I think it is just that kids may or may not comment on it. My ds certainly pointed to a picture of a white girl and black girl and said "She looks like Lucy and she looks like Jasmine" when he was much younger.

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I also don't see how it's possible to live in a multi-ethnic area and not run into instances of racism. We've witnessed it - my daughter and I together - and our area isn't even THAT diverse.
I don't know how it is either but somehow by ds hasn't personally encountered any. And I don't know how he has missed picking up phrases like "F-ing N*****" the way groups of teenagers throw it around at each other in our neighborhood. Possibly if ds were in school, he would have come across more of these experiences.

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If you see this stuff and don't comment on it, you condone it and it becomes normal and okay.... (snip)...Kids have to be taught what's right if they are going to do the right thing around peers who have been taught otherwise.
ITA.

People who are choosing not to discuss these things at this time with their particular children who have their unique temperaments are not necessarily going to ignore the subject forever.

Until my particular child can manage to not say "jackass" and "ass" at the playground with more regularity, I'm not going out of my way to explain that some people are called "white" and "black". Honestly, I think he would go around the playground adding those words in front of "ass". I do not have an easy kid to whom you simply explain that that's not nice and firmly take him home home every time it happens. Next, the word becomes the "secret power word" to pull out at special moments. I deal with enough judgement and people wondering what diagnosis my ds has (none).

And considering my child tends to shut down when people talk at him (unsolicited teaching), I've found it best to bide my time on some things. He is highly empathetic and learns well when the time is right. I imagine he will have no trouble extending his concern for cutting down Christmas trees and killing animals for food to treating people fairly. I was impressed he knew the names of the candidates when my mother asked. He did say he thought the current president was George Washington, though.

The president elect is the same color as ds, his grandma, and his mom though not the same ethnicity. So I could tell him the president elect's dad was from Kenya and in the olden days of the last election not enough people would have voted for him because of that. And ds could say "I'm missing Fetch!" (He really just said that in response). Or I can wait until he is a little more mature and choose a better time.

Just because people are choosing not to talk about racism at this somewhat arbitrary time (arbitrary in my child's mind) doesn't mean it isn't going to happen. And I agree it isn't an all or nothing thing. Ds navigating through life in a diverse area where, thus far, he has only noticed people of different ethnicities treating each other fairly and respectfully is teaching him what is normal. Sure we've seen some ugliness, just not the racially motivated kind.

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#137 of 145 Old 11-19-2008, 08:16 PM
 
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When I said that my kids don't know the difference between black and white maybe I should have worded it differently. What I meant was that it has not come up in conversation yet. They are still so young and haven't been exposed yet to racist attitudes on television or around other people. I stay home with them and choose their playdate friends very carefully. I want them to stay innocent as long as possible but I obviously plan on explaining racial differences to them one day. I just don't know when yet. That's why I'm so interested in the opinions on this thread. I'm not sticking my head in the sand but I just don't think my 3.5 year old is able to comprehend the history of slavery and how ignorance/pride/hatred has wronged so many races yet. Some 3.5 year olds may be ready but mine isn't.

I was horrified to read that a white man called a 3 year old child the n word in the grocery store. WHAT IS WRONG WITH THESE PEOPLE???? It's really sad that some parents pass on their racist attitudes to their children on purpose. It's just disgusting.
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#138 of 145 Old 11-19-2008, 08:17 PM
 
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I think there are age-appropriate ways to approach the topic with any child. That aside, my biggest issue is when people want to pretend that this election is something normal. It's not. Pretending it's normal is extremely offensive and dismissive to what Obama accomplished in this campaign as well as to those many individuals ahead of him who risked everything just so their children and my children could have an education, to say nothing of even dreaming about running for President. If it were normal, the Obamas would not be receiving the number of threats against their lives right now. If it were normal, the man next to me at the victory party would not have collapsed in tears. If it were normal and if our children were growing up in a generation where it is normal, my 13-year-old would not have stood still in the middle of a room, surrounded by noise and cheering, with tears streaming down her face. The entire way home she was shaking. Because she knows, at age 13, that this wasn't normal.
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#139 of 145 Old 11-19-2008, 08:30 PM
 
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When I said that my kids don't know the difference between black and white maybe I should have worded it differently. What I meant was that it has not come up in conversation yet. They are still so young and haven't been exposed yet to racist attitudes on television or around other people. I stay home with them and choose their playdate friends very carefully. I want them to stay innocent as long as possible but I obviously plan on explaining racial differences to them one day. I just don't know when yet. That's why I'm so interested in the opinions on this thread. I'm not sticking my head in the sand but I just don't think my 3.5 year old is able to comprehend the history of slavery and how ignorance/pride/hatred has wronged so many races yet. Some 3.5 year olds may be ready but mine isn't.
I do understand what you're saying here. My youngest turned three in september and he is in no way able to understand racial issues beyond recognizing that people do, in fact, have different skin colors/facial features/accents/hair textures/styles of dress, etc. (At least I assume so. He's not very verbal, but he can distinguish colors, so I assume he can see that he can see that his skin is lighter than Dh's skin which is still lighter than his cousin's skin or our neighbor upstairs' skin). He really isn't mature enough to understand any of the intricacies of race and ethnicity. However, my older kids were mature enough at his age to comment on differences in ethnicity. I feel like if a child is old enough to comment on it, they're definitely old enough to start the education process. And with youngest ds, we talk about issues of race in his presence, so I assume that by the time he starts being able to understand, he will already have a grasp on some of it.
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#140 of 145 Old 11-19-2008, 09:19 PM
 
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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.
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#141 of 145 Old 11-19-2008, 10:04 PM
 
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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.
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#142 of 145 Old 11-20-2008, 02:05 PM
 
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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?
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#143 of 145 Old 11-20-2008, 02:34 PM
 
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Plantmama--

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.
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#144 of 145 Old 11-20-2008, 03:06 PM
 
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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.
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#145 of 145 Old 11-20-2008, 07:26 PM
 
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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.

Mama to a boy EnviroKid treehugger.gif 9 years old and a new little girl EnviroBaby baby.gif!

I write about parenting, environment, cooking, and more. computergeek2.gif

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