A white mother recently penned an article for Slate titled “Teaching Tolerance: How White Parents Should Talk To Their Young Kids About Race”. She started off by saying that her family recently moved from Brooklyn to a suburb in Hudson Valley. And although she loves her community, there’s one thing that’s not so great about it.
And that’s when I halfway stopped reading the article.
So you’re concerned about teaching your children about tolerance and race, but you move them from one of the most diverse areas in NYC (albeit she probably lived off in Williamsburg aka hipster city) to the polar opposite, where there’s probably 1 1/2 non-white people? And now you’re looking for advice?
For many minority parents, talking about race is not an option—it’s essential in helping their children move through a world that sees a “black kid” and not just a kid. Although I talked to researchers with diverse backgrounds while reporting my piece, I’m guessing that my findings and advice will apply predominantly to white parents like me. Still, I would love to hear from all readers on the issues discussed in this column, so please, send your thoughts, advice, and feedback to [email protected].
Why? I’ve avoided talking about race with my kids mainly because I’ve thought that racial bias is learned by direct instruction and imitation—and that if I don’t talk about race or act in explicitly racist ways, my kids won’t pick up prejudices. My sources told me that this notion is pretty common; research suggests that nonwhite parents talk about racial identity much more frequently with their kids than white parents do, but that even minority parents often avoid talking about racial differences. “There’s this idea that if you do call attention to race at a young age, you’re poisoning kids’ minds,” says Erin Winkler, chair of the department of Africology at the University of Wisconsin, Milwaukee.
I also found it interesting that throughout most of her article, the only race she mentioned was black people. As if the world isn’t filled with Asian or Hispanic people.
So I took it upon myself to send the author a short email, since she did include it in her post. I told her the best way to teach your children tolerance is to teach them not to be racist a-holes by looking at people from different backgrounds as if they’re aliens, don’t ask to touch a Black person’s hair, don’t make mention of an Asian person’s slanted eyes, don’t assume someone who speaks Spanish is automatically from Puerto Rico, and just because someone wears a turban doesn’t make them a terrorist. I also thought it would be a good idea for her to never write about her white guilt again.
Also, Sesame Street is a good place to start since her son is only four-years-old.