Saturday, July 20, 2013

White Kids and Race: NurtureShock and Civil Rights Music

Our house, this morning:

M: "Yeah, he's a white man."
B: "Really? He's a white man."
M: Basically, they're all white men."
LB: "White guy!  LB's a white man! LB's a white man.  C(r)oc shirt.  LB has c(r)oc shirt.  Kittycat lub you!  Elmo lub you!"
Dancing ensues.
End scene.

So, I'm trying to put together some resources related to my last post on white parents, white kids, and race.  This post talks about the book NurtureShock and some music of the Civil Rights Movement. I've also gotten some great suggestions for kids books that I will share later.

There are many conversations I don't look forward to having with my child.  If she could live in a world without death, guns, poverty, sexual violence, hatred of people of color, gay people, women, people with disabilities, that would be wonderful.  But we brought her into this world, and this world requires uncomfortable conversations.

Specifically for white parents teaching their white kids about race and racism, there are some web resources you can find by googling "raising anti-racist kids," and such.  I've not really looked at these site enough to have solid recommendations.  What I didn't see, were any handbooks on Amazon for white parents.  You would think there would be such a thing, someone should get writing.  One interesting resource is the chapter "See Baby Discriminate," in NurtureShock.  Review here at Salon.

The short version of the NurtureShock argument is that white parents are uncomfortable talking to their white kids about race, so they usually fallback on "we are all the same underneath," and encourage kids to be silent about race in order to keep them "color blind." However, the lesson white kids take away from growing up in a racially stratified society is that maybe white people are just better than people of other colors.  So, white kids need to learn about racism in order to have some response to racial structures that shape their worlds.

For a little girl like mine that means talking about skin color, and our friends who are all different colors.  It also means hearing that "Some people are mean to people who have brown skin.  That is not nice.  We should never be mean to someone because they look different than us."  For many white toddlers and preschoolers that is going to be a really random life lesson, one which may not make any sense to them."  But, our lives as parents are all about preparing our kids for future experiences before they encounter them.

We want our kids to know about guns and bad touches before they ever encounter such a thing.  Our kids will encounter race and racism.  We only help them by teaching them early the lessons we want them to carry through life.

You'll notice in the phrase above I said "are mean" rather than "were mean."  Both phrases are correct, but I think it's important to not only present racism as something historical.  Teasing out the differences of racism as it operates today, versus histories of slavery, lynching, and Jim Crow segregation is really challenging, a project for a lifetime.  Kids need to think about both what happened in the past and what happens today, of course, in an age appropriate way.

Some Resources:

I really like music as a teaching tool, and I think this anthology Sing for Freedom is a great way to talk about the struggles of the Civil Rights Movement.  It's mostly songs, with some short spoken word pieces.  It's music you can just enjoy that can eventually lead to conversation.  LB was stomping around to some of these songs this morning, and if she doesn't yet understand why people were "marching to freedom," at least it will be a familiar concept as she grows older.

I love this video of The Roots doing "Ain't Gonna Let Nobody Turn Me Around," it does include some archival footage that might be scary to the younger and more sensitive set.

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