Parenting white children (A book review)

Parenting white children (A book review)

Co-sleeping or sleep-training? Bottles or breastfeeding? Parenting is filled with complicated decisions. How we respond depends a lot on our backgrounds, our support networks, and our individual personalities. As a white parent of white children, I’ve thought quite a bit about how I want to address race and racism with my children.

My children are 15 and 10, now, and my parenting regarding racism has grown as my own knowledge and awareness has grown. For example, as a relatively typical white liberal parent who knew I wanted to be not-racist from the day my first child was born, “exposing my children to difference” was important. (It took many years before I realized that, for me, white was the default and “difference” meant not-white, but that’s another topic.) We bought dolls with different shades of skin, books with stories about children who were Black or brown, and we attended festivals held by different ethnic communities celebrating their cultures. We didn’t go so far as teaching “everyone is equal, race doesn’t matter” in the color-blind way, but we were on the parenting-white-children road without a map.

In my gut, I knew we weren’t doing enough. The trouble is, I didn’t know what to do differently.

I’ve been reading books and writing and talking with people about racism for years. Despite that, most of the time I really and truly feel like I don’t know what I’m doing. I feel like I’m flailing, though I keep trying. There are resources out there to help us white people dig into our own biases and privilege, and there are many, many ways we can actively begin undoing whiteness in our lives. Raising White Kids: Bringing Up Children in a Racially Unjust America by Jennifer Harvey is the book I wish I’d had when my babies were littler, though I’m glad to have it now. (It’s never too late to start parenting race-conscious children!)

Among the white people I know, there is a deep hunger to figure out what we can do. We know that talking isn’t enough, though we also know that’s not nothing. The guidance in this book is concrete and clear. On the publisher’s website, it describes how the book “offers age-appropriate insights for teaching children how to address racism when they encounter it and tackles tough questions about how to help white kids be mindful of racial relations while understanding their own identity and the role they can play for justice.”

In the book, among many other things, Harvey addresses the common fear I hear from my white peers when it comes to teaching our white children about racism: We don’t want to scare them; we want to keep them safe from the ugliness of the world for at least a while. That understandable fear blocks us from being honest with our children about racism. Setting aside the fact that parents of color, especially Black parents, don’t have the option to keep the ugliness away from their children if they want them to stay safe (so educating our white children in solidarity feels like the least we can do), Harvey makes a strong argument that equipping our children with the specific language of racism, including some of the harsher realities, will ultimately protect our children. As she points out, our children hear and learn about scary stuff—police killing Black people at higher rates than white people, for example—even it we aren’t the ones teaching them. If we haven’t been there proactively helping them build a vocabulary for talking about the issues, we make it difficult for them to process what they learn and they may turn to denial, shame, confusion, fear, or even racism itself. For example, maybe they will begin believing the lie that all those Black people did something to deserve being killed.

Rather than clumsily try to restate what she says in the book, I want to encourage parents or teachers of white children to read it. (Or, do what I do, and get the audiobook.)

And, honestly, though the book is meant to help parents of white children, I feel like it’s also a guide for us white adults about how we might talk to each other about racism. The fact is, most of us white people haven’t learned how to talk about it, I know I haven’t. We’re like little children who don’t have an extensive vocabulary, and it can feel super-awkward. The examples Harvey gives are easy to imagine happening in a wide variety of contexts, not just in conversations with our children. Plus, she recognizes that white adults also need some basic education about racism, including information about the process of racial identity formation. She gives us that. So, we learn more and can be better prepared to help our children learn and grow.

This book isn’t the end-all be-all for dismantling white supremacy, of course. But as I imagine the ripple effect of many of us parenting white children in a race-conscious way, it fills me with hope. We and our children might become much more effective participants in building a more just and fair society where all children get to be safe and get to be children, for all of their sweet little childhoods.


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The almost eight year old does a book review

Ever since I first appeared on Babble’s list of top mom bloggers in 2011 and again in 2012, it has meant an inbox stuffed full of requests from public relations folk’s eager to work with a “mom” blogger. Of course 99% of these folks have never read my blog and have no idea that while I am a mom and I am a blogger, calling me a mom blogger is a bit of a stretch. The result is I use the delete button often since I have no interest in selling you or myself on some marginal and unnecessary product. However as a reader, who is raising a reader, I admit the requests most likely to catch my attention are for book reviews. But with almost 100 books in my possession that I have not read, I am passing on all books for myself. However my daughter who turns 8 in a few days loves books and as a family of color living in Maine, I struggle to find books with main characters who my daughter can relate to. So when the request to review Princess Cupcake Jones and the Missing Tutu landed in my box, I actually found myself replying to it. What follows below is my daughter’s review of the book, she hand wrote it and I haven’t changed a thing.

2013-07-24 23.04.00

 

I loved Princess Cupcake Jones because I love rhymes and the pictures! Plus Cupcake Jones is a lot like me because I lose lots of stuff too! I hope they keep making  Cupcake Jones books.

 

Love,

Almost 8 

There ya have it, thumbs up from the kid herself. Seriously this book reminded me of a Black Fancy Nancy. Princess Jones is written by Ylleya Fields and it’s a fun little book.

Note: The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) says I have to tell you that while we didn’t receive any cash for this review, we did receive this book for free. Can’t break the law now, so hopefully no one will come and throw me in the hole.  Trust and believe though this is an honest review, we only tell the truth here in BGIM land.

 

 

 

Swirling and it’s not just for ice cream anymore…a review

 

I often forget that for many Black women dating and loving across racial lines does not come easy, then again for the last 21 years I have been involved with white men. Husband number one, while the marriage was short lived, did create a child who is now a 20 year old man and husband number 2 who I’ve spent 17 years with. So getting that out the way, one might think I was a perfect fit to review Swirling: How to Date, Mate, and Relate Mixing Race, Culture and Creed a new release by blogger and writer Christelyn D. Karazin and co-author Janice Rhoshalle Littlejohn.

I admit I had been curious about what this book would be and when I received an offer for a review copy, I jumped at it. After all there are few books that really talk openly about dating across racial and cultural lines written from the perspective of a Black woman.

For starters, Christelyn and Janice have a way with words, reading this book at times reminded me of a talk with girlfriends on a Friday night. In the early chapters, they give some good advice, that to enter cross racial and cultural dating world; you will need to clean your slate about some assumptions you may hold against men of different backgrounds.

Swirling is funny and provides some good food for thought if one is just starting to consider dating across color lines, though I am not sure referring to men as rainbeaus is a great idea. I say that because in reading this book, I read parts out loud to my own partner (a white guy) who thought rainbeaus while meant to sound cutesy actually seemed like it was fetishizing non-Black men. The personal vignettes were a great touch especially Christelyn’s own meeting with her future in-laws, she’s a champ!

This book is heavy on providing great tidbits and laughs for how to swirl; this book is light on reality and data. Divorce rates are actually higher for mixed race couples especially Black-White pairings and the author’s suggestions about getting around the real issues that any mixed race couple in America faces especially Black-White pairings don’t seem rooted at times in reality. To be frank I would have liked to have seen more research and not just tidbits collected from Christelyn’s blog Beyond Black & White as evidenced by the fact that I am quoted on page 191 of this book and other blogs judging from the resource list at the back of the book.

All in all, it’s not a bad read and again for a Black woman seriously thinking of crossing racial/ethnic lines when it comes to dating, there is useful information to be gleaned. I think though that it falls short in the mating and relating long term section, then again it may be a chance for the authors to write a sequel.

Disclosure: In keeping with FTC rules, while I was not paid for this post, I did receive a review copy of Swirling.