I’m often fascinated by the human need to categorize ourselves.
What’s your gender? sexual preference? religion? hair color? height? IQ? zodiac sign? spirit animal? love language? Hogwarts House?
What color is your skin?
^^^This question, in particular, has become a wee bit heavier and more complicated lately. Am I right?
I have a lot of thoughts on the issue. Are you ready for a ramble? Maybe some parenting tips on navigating the conversation with our kids? Hang on. Here we go!
Not a black-and-white answer
Personally, I’m not always sure how to answer the race/color/ethnicity question.
I guess I qualify as … brown?
Like many Americans, my family is a mixed bag. I was chatting with my sis-in-law recently, and she described my fam as “ethnically ambiguous. That made me giggle a little. I think that’s a great way to put it! One friend in college, when she was trying to set me up on a blind date, described me as “exotic.” (Ha. That word carries a different connotation 20 years later, eh?) Anyway, bottom line is, you look at me and think … Hmmm … what race? Can’t really put my finger on it …
My family cocktail has some white, Jewish, lots of European in there (all over the place). I’m also half Latina. And I love it. I was the first in my generation born on American soil on my mom’s side. My life is one big beautiful mix of amazing food, music, languages, and traditions. And I wouldn’t have it any other way.
Living in the U.S. has taught me a few things. It has taught me how to love my roots. And it has also taught me how to fear them. Racism is real. We constantly judge and stereotype each other, whether intentionally or subconsciously. Like it or not. Believe it or not. It’s just part of our culture.
Want to know more? Tune in to our racism episode of the Media Savvy Moms Podcast to hear me talk about some specific examples during my childhood and my family’s transition from Cuba to the U.S.
The funny thing is … when it comes to race, we’re not always so easy to peg, at least in the U.S. Are we? We’re not always black or white. I’m not. And I look around and see mixed families e-v-e-r-y-w-h-e-r-e. And I love that too. Go us. You can’t put us in boxes. So deal with it.
It makes me happy to think that in future generations we’ll be more likely to think for ourselves and less likely to categorize or stereotype each other. We’ll be so blended no one will be able to tell the difference anyway. But that’s just one school of thought. Diversity is also beautiful and amazing and necessary on so may levels.
It’s time to talk
We’re living in turbulent times. And if parents wanted to tip-toe around the topic of racism before, then the jig is up. Right now, we’re quarantined and mostly dependent on media and devices for any news of the outside world, and recently that media has been saturated with reports, reactions, and opinions about the George Floyd riots and protests.
Whether we’re black, brown, white, or any combination of colors, it’s time for our families to break the silence. We need to address the subject of race and its systemic influence on society. Because although some of us (many of us) don’t fit in a box, some do. And there is injustice and stereotyping and mistreatment. And that doesn’t work. We need to rise above it.
I know racism is a tricky topic. But that’s why I do the work I do with Parents Aware and the Media Savvy Moms Podcast. To help parents crack open difficult discussions with their kids. Porn. Sex. Trafficking. Violence. Racism. Opiods. Terrorism. It’s the new millennium, people. We can’t just pretend these subjects don’t exist.
We need to talk to our kids. And we want them coming to us to talk about tough topics. Not going to Google and doing searches on the internet. Right?
WE want to be the default search engine. When it comes to tricky topics, teach your kids to say, “Hey Mom” or “Hey Dad” before “Hey Siri” or “Hey Google.”
Tips on the racism talk from the MSM Podcast
Below are some tips on talking to kids about racism from our recent episode of the Media Savvy Moms Podcast. For complete show notes, and to listen to the full (10-minute) episode, click here:
1. Start with a story
Do you have any personal experiences with racism? Have you personally witnessed a specific act of racism? How did it make you feel? Dig deep. And then tell your kids about it.
Storytelling is a powerful tool when we’re teaching our kids. It can take a topic that feels ambiguous, like racism, and make it real. Even if they don’t remember your exact words, children will often remember how they felt when you tell them a story. Tune in to the podcast to hear me share some personal examples involving racism from my family history.
2. Be intentional
Sometimes racism is right in our faces. But other times, our children might not even be aware of it. When you see racism in the media, take the opportunity to call it to your children’s attention. Bring it up at the dinner table. Ask specific questions. For instance, what is the difference between not being racist and being anti-racist? Above all, teach your kids empathy.
3. Walk the talk
The truth is, we can talk until we are blue in the face about racism. We can claim we are not racist or even tell our children that we are anti-racist. But words are only the beginning of the lesson. In the end, they will learn more from our actions.
So last but not least, consider what you DO with all this information. What will your children see when they watch you? This is just as important—if not more important—than what they hear.
- How do you interact when you encounter a person of a different race? Are you friendly? Kind? Cold? Indifferent?
- Are you letting ideas about racism and current events affect your mood? Is it making you angry? Happy? Sad? Hopeful?
- Are you talking to other adults about current events like the George Floyd demonstrations? How are you and your peers acting around your children when the topic arises?
Diversity is the key
A musician was sitting at a grand piano in a beautiful music hall. He sat down to play, but all the keys were the same. What if that’s all we had when it came to music? One note. Every note the same volume, tone, pitch, and length. Bing-bing-bing-bing. What kind of concert would that be? Just the same note over and over. Bland. Boring. Not worth our time. Then all the keys were restored to the piano. 88 black and white keys, all unique and different—from the lowest rumbling tones, to the highest tinkling pitches at the very top. And the musician sat down and played a gorgeous piece and showed us the difference.
All the notes. Unique. Different. Beautiful. Stacked in rich, lustrous chords and articulated in all their possible rhythms and combinations, from blues to classical to ragtime to pop. This is what makes music amazing. Diversity.
This is our world. This is race and color and ethnicity.
Everyone is not the same. We are all different. And we are awesome. Let’s own it. But let’s play together nicely. Can we handle it?
For more info …
Want some extra help starting the conversation about racism with your children? Check out the book, Conversations With My Kids: 30 Essential Family Discussions for the Digital Age (Lesson 8, “Racism and Tolerance,” and Lesson 14, “Getting Along and Standing Up for Others”).
This book ROCKS! How do I know? Because I’m a co-author, y’all. (Yeah, it’s true. I’m a little biased. Ah, well … ) Actually, I wrote the chapter on Racism and Tolerance. So if you like my stuff and you’re reading my blog, then chances are, you’ll dig the book too. Woot!
Above all, start talking! Open conversations are the key. You got this! 😉