Back in the early 90s, when I was a preschool teacher, I worked with two 4-year-old best friends, “Stacy,” who had lovely chocolate brown skin and eyes, and “Kim,” who had blonde hair and blue eyes.
One day, as these two best buddies waited together in line for the bathroom, Kim innocently looked up at me and said: “I don’t like black people.”
I was speechless – she’s holding the hand of her best friend, who IS a black person, telling me how she doesn’t like black people… It just did not compute.
Until I realized that she did not think of Stacy as a black person; Stacy was her best friend.
She did not know who “black people” were. When she said those words she was parroting the adults in her life.
Metaphorically, I threw up my hands. I felt terrible, but I just did not know what to do. Should I talk to Kim’s parents? Should I talk to Stacy’s parents? Should I try to persuade Kim that she shouldn’t feel that way about black people?
In the end I did nothing, I said nothing. While I spoke of this with my fellow preschool teachers, I never took it any further than that.
But it stayed with me all these years (Kim and Stacy are now in their 20s.)
Maybe you watched just a few days ago with horror as a white supremacists plowed his car into a peaceful protest, killing one and injuring many – and terrifying all.
Maybe you wondered what kind of a world you’re raising a child in.
Maybe you threw up your hands and said “what can I possibly do about this?”
If so, then this bonus episode is for you.
I just finished recording. I couldn’t stop thinking about Kim and Stacy, and also a song from an old musical, South Pacific:
You’ve got to be taught before it’s too late/
Before you are six or seven or eight/
To hate all the people your relatives hate/
You’ve got to be carefully taught!
I was thinking about you, and about how you maybe feel like throwing up your hands and shouting “what can I possibly do about this?”
And I was thinking about Stacy, wondering how many times in her twenty-something years she’s gotten the message from our society that somehow, just because of the way she looks, she is wrong, or bad, or “other.”
And, I was thinking about a We Turned Out Okay listener, named Kerri, who wrote back in May (when We Turned out Okay turned two) with a question:
“I would like to know as a white person what I need to do to be sure my children are not contributing to the racism that is hurting so many.”
I recorded this episode to give us – myself, as much as anyone – a roadmap, some steps to take to build a world in which racism has no part.
Four steps, to be exact; four steps we can take to build a world without racism.
Four steps to help you counter the fear and negativity, four steps to help you help your child understand what racism is, and why it needs to die.
Along the way I talk about a whole bunch of stuff, like a favorite Dr. Seuss book, wise words from several friends of the podcast, and child development theory to help you understand your child better.
Click here to read about the four steps to a world without racism and to get links to the people and podcasts and books I reference during the episode – and thank you very much for listening, for not throwing up your hands and concluding there’s nothing you can do.
Because as the parent of a young child, the key to ending racism is in your hands. Continue reading “Bonus: How to feel less helpless about racism, or Building a World Without Racism”
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