Saturday, January 23, 2010

Kids and Race



“Mom. Who was Martin Lu… Martin Luf… Who was Martin…”

“Who was Martin Luther King?” Kay asked, anticipating the name our 5 year old was having trouble with. After having just had time off from school, lots of big dinners, presents, and decorations, our daughter is very interested in holidays. She knows she has a holiday coming up but she doesn’t know anything about it.

Kay told her that a long time ago black kids weren’t allowed to go to school with white kids and they couldn’t play together. My daughter stared at her Mom with mouth open and eyes wide.

Kay continued that white people could sit in the front of the bus, black people in back, white people anywhere in the movies, black kids only in the balcony. At this my little girl looked concerned and with pleading eyes asked, “where did the tan kids have to sit?”

Studies show that white people don’t talk to their kids about race. A group of parents signed their kids up for a study on children’s attitudes about race. Parents were asked their views on race, and black people in particular. All said their opinions were favorable. The kids of these same parents were asked if their folks liked black people. More than half said they didn’t know, the rest said ,”no”.

Turns out kids can see the difference in skin color, they don’t have to be told about it. At the same time kids figure out that we don’t talk about things that are bad.

The prevailing idea among many white people is that race does not matter. Not only does it not matter but it is best to ignore race as if it does not exist. Consequentially we talk to kids about candy, making their bed, home work, dreams, movies, crayons, friends, the difference between boys and girls, all sorts of good stuff.
We don’t talk to them about bad grown up stuff like death and sex. We don’t let them see scary movies and we cover their eyes when bad stuff comes on TV. We don’t talk about war and we don’t talk about black people.

Kay told how Martin Luther King gave a big speech that helped people realize that keeping everyone separate was wrong. She told how he helped get bad laws changed. Our little girl said, “oh, O.K.”, and went off to play.

9 comments:

uglyblackjohn said...

The town next to mine is a Sundown Town.
The town is primarily Mormon and racist.
When I first moved here I worked with a guy from that town.
He'd heard all the stereotypes about Blacks and assumed they were true.

When he first met me he didn't like me.
Why?
He didn't know.
But as time went by he learned that I was better in the things he valued than were any of his friends.
He was amazed that I didn't care about impressing others.

I ran into him at the mall and he was hanging out with his room mate - a Black guy.
He ran to introduce me to his newly found friend and explained that I was the reason he began to view Blacks beyond his previously limited perspective.

When I said, "That's funny.".
He replied, "No, that's sad."

IMOHO - Most racist people just don't know enough people to counter their beliefs.
Most racist people haven't taken the chance of getting to know someone they view as being different.

lyric said...

UBJ - I had to look up what a "sundown town" was.
I'm sure there are many other things that I'm clueless about simply because I don't know that I don't know them. But hey, I'm actively doing what I can to learn.

And even growing up in an all-white area (in the same house as Dalyn) we were taught to be open and kind.

I'm sure we have some racist beliefs because we simply don't have a clue - but we're actively doing our best to NOT be racist.

lyric said...

UBJ - I had to look up what a "sundown town" was.
I'm sure there are many other things that I'm clueless about simply because I don't know that I don't know them. But hey, I'm actively doing what I can to learn.

And even growing up in an all-white area (in the same house as Dalyn) we were taught to be open and kind.

I'm sure we have some racist beliefs because we simply don't have a clue - but we're actively doing our best to NOT be racist.

uglyblackjohn said...

@ lyric - I went to BYU-Hawaii and was the only Black guy NOT on a basketball scholarship.
I grew up in SoCal (half of the time in 'da hood - half the time in the hills) and was exposed to a lot of different groups of people.
I learned that I liked and disliked many from different groups for the same reasons (some people were bad and some were good) - but it never seemed to be about ones race.

Claudia said...

Thanks for this. It never occured to me that not speaking anything negative would still influence my children to believe that I have a negative opinion because I don't say anything. Guess I have to say positive things for them to get the picture.

Dumb as it is, I don't really know when to have this conversation. I don't think my kids have noticed skin color yet, but I am sure that will come up shortly.

Amber said...

Do you know where I can find that study? I'd like to reference it...

Corbie said...

Great post! I started talking to my kids early one about my views on race, homosexuality, and equality of all sorts and I am always pleasantly surprised by how much of it sunk in.

Lindsey said...

Thanks Brohammas, and again for our conversation regarding this. I know that I am ignorant in many areas regarding race, having grown up in a non-diverse place, and it would have never occurred to me to make it a point to openly talk about race with my children despite being a regular reader of your blog. However, reading your blog made me realize that I have to ask someone who does know (you) when I have a question. Love you bro.

Anonymous said...

I've read that study, it's referenced in a book called Nutureshock in the chapter on race. Great read-the whole chapter.
-K.