S1: This ad free podcast is part of your Slate plus membership, the following podcast contains explicit language.
S2: Welcome to Mom and dad are fighting Slate’s parenting podcast. Thursday, June 18th, the Let’s Talk to your kids about racism division. I’m Shmuel Mbewe, a writer contributor, Slate’s Care and Feeding Parenting column. Communications consultant, newbie, screenwriter and mom’s name. Seven live in Los Angeles, California. I’m Elizabeth New. Can’t I write the Homeschool and Family Travel Blog? That’s that’s. A mom to three. Little Henry eight. Oliver six. And Teddy three. And I am in Navarre, Florida.
S1: I’m Rebecca Levoy. I can’t believe I also have kids named Henry. And Teddy goes by gas. I am mom to Henry, who is 18, going on 19. Teddy, who is 17. And my wonderful stepdaughter, Lily, who just turned 20 this week.
S3: Rebecca, we’re so glad to have you back this week. You agreed to fill in for Dan a while ago.
S4: And it just so happens that you’re here on this show or we’re gonna be talking about all things racism.
S1: Can’t wait. Talk about it all the time. I honestly can’t wait. I’m super excited about it. I’ve been getting so many questions from people who know me, like from a former parenting podcast persona about this. I’ll frickin love talking about it. So I am down. Thank you for having me on.
S4: And for most of you out there listening, you are probably aware that we wanted to set aside a show to focus on the current worldwide conversation about racism, police violence and equality. There’s been a recent uptick in activism inspired by the deaths of a mod arbitrary Rihanna Taylor and George Floyd. And it’s resulted in sustained Black Lives Matter protest in all 50 states, which is incredible. As a result, people have a renewed sense of urgency when it comes to addressing issues of racism within their own lives. And that includes parents who are figuring out how to talk to their children about systemic institutionalized racism, something that a lot of parents have either chosen not to talk about with their children in the past and haven’t felt like they had started their children about these things in the past or simply did not know how. This is, of course, a conversation that black parents and other parents of color have had to navigate for centuries. So today all of our questions are going to be concerning race, privilege and policing. Well, before we get started, we, of course, have our triumphs and bills. Rebecca, why don’t you start us out? Do you have a triumph or fail on your return to the show?
S1: I got so many things I could catch you all up on. I was trying to think about what I want to talk about this week. There’s just a lot going on in my kids lives, in my life, and it’s been a long time since I’ve been here. But then I passed upstairs in my kitchen. The sign that my son Henry had made to bring to a student led Black Lives Matter event happening in our tiny New Hampshire town tonight. And so my triumph is a what he decided to do with his sign, which is super Janki, by the way, he made on a pizza box, but also the conversation we had about it. So he took this pizza box and I had this on my Instagram. You can see it there. He also tweeted about it at Reb Levoy, if you want to check it out. And on the outside of the pizza box. So if he holds it close, it just says defund the police. You know, a slogan which I think, you know, even people who don’t understand what it means, I think it’s easy to coalesce around the fact that it’s an amazing slogan because everybody is talking about it, which is kind of the point of a really, really great slogan for protest. But in the inside of the box, he’s chosen to target his favorite racist, Ben Shapiro. And he posted this little photo of Ben Shapiro on the inside with a meme that says facts don’t care about your feelings, which I guess is something that Ben Shapiro says, I wouldn’t know. I wouldn’t waste 30 seconds of my life listening to Ben Shapiro. And then he made this big screed, which I will show you guys on his side. I’ll see you. Which sort of belies the point of a sign to hold up at a protest. It’s not easy to read. Oh, responding to Ben Shapiro, who he says Ben Shapiro, professional opinion, have her. OK, Ben, here are some facts. In Minneapolis, 19 percent of the population is black. Yet they’re on the receiving end of 58 percent of police use of force incidents. Black men are two and a half times more likely to be killed by police than white men. Innocent black people are 12 times more likely to be wrongly convicted of drug crimes. I’m sure if you had more space, he would have gone on and on and on. But this led to an interesting conversation. He went to walk with me this morning with our dog. And I was just like, why are you targeting that guy? And he really seems like did this like, really interesting job. I was just sort of talking about and this is the thing that we talk about a lot in our house, the extra toxicity of smart white people who have just monetized hate and being mean. And we talked about Ben and Henry’s whole thing about Ben Shapiro is that too many reasonable people think he’s a credible source to listen to to hear another side. And Henry is like the problem with Ben Shapiro in particular. Aside from all of his. Views which I disagree with and which are virulent is that he’s just the opposite of nice at every given opportunity. He takes every opportunity. And he told me about an interview that Ben Shapiro did with a trans woman who had served in the military, who had lost a leg as a fighter pilot or something. And how, you know, Ben just felt the need to be like, well, why do you think you need to, like, win an award for being trans when, you know, I self actualize all the time? And Henry, my wonderful super Wolke and still learning son, said, Mom, there are a ton of things I don’t understand about social justice. And I have a lot of questions about things when I come across something, I understand. But the one thing I do understand is just basic niceness, that when someone comes on your virulent podcast and you know, it wants to engage you in like a reasonable conversation, the first thing you don’t do is try to one up them by talking about your stupid college frat boy self actualization when they’re pouring their heart out to you. And he’s like, so for me, that gets him to my top of my toxic list. And that’s why I chose to put him in the inside of my pizza box, because not only is he horrible and racist and monetizing it, but he’s also not particularly nice. So I’m very proud of my son for having that well-rounded view of the guy he put on his protests.
S5: I love that my kids are obviously much younger, but had a similar ability to have a conversation in making the signs for our. There was like a kids rally here held by the young philosopher society. And just having them sit down to make the signs was such a great opportunity. Like we’re all doing art and that’s something we do together. But to, like, talk about what we want to put on these signs and why we want to do that. And since there are three of them and obviously Teddy is little has no idea. You know, he just like wants to paint the whole thing, all the different colors. He’s like, I’m painting this all the time for, like, nothing but decided on painting. Like, we hear you, we see you, we stand with you. Like we being the three of them that they feel like they together can help by bringing other people into them. And I thought what I like lovely thing for a seven and a five year olds to be talking about and to watch that conversation and having them process why they’re out there standing there talking about things and why, you know, their advocacy matters. I think that’s like so lovely to have that opportunity and get to see kind of like our kids hearts in that way. Mm hmm. Yeah, I agree.
S4: We appreciate you for raising the next generation of white men because the current ones aren’t working out so well.
S3: So Dan is doing his best then. Is this OK?
S4: Elizabeth, what about you? Do you have a trial for Bill this week?
S5: I have a trial. So I am my middle child. Oliver, this is easy. Talk about him because we won’t get confused about whose child. But so Oliver loves like pink and purple and unicorns and ice cream and all of these things. And we can never find boys clothes with those things on. It is like a constant challenge. He is always anytime I take him anywhere at night. There’s a couple brands that like do OK, but they’re limited production really don’t allow for a whole lot of options and buying girls clothes. I mean, the girls clothes. I mean, you both have girls like they’re all cut so different in that they really don’t fit his body or I’m asking him to choose this girl cut girl thing, you know, with this thing you like or this thing that is like boy cuts, but stuff you don’t like. I’ve just really struggled with this and I find to like choosing clothes in the morning has kind of been like, I don’t whatever, I don’t care. But when he has like one shirt that he loves, you so excited when the options wear it. So for my birthday, my parents are gone. I love to craft. Got me to be like cricket’s little cutting machine. And I discovered that I can, like, cut out my own vinyl stuff and order t shirts and have just made him a little wardrobe of all the things he likes. He went with me to the online craft store to pick out the different shirts, and then we talked about what he wanted. And now he has this little wardrobe of shirts that are things he loves and colors he loves. And he’s so excited. And he picked out things like kindness matters and asked for a pig pink unicorn, which is the thing he’s into. And I was just able to make that happen because at six, I feel like what you wear is like one of the few things you have absolute control over. And so to be able to give him things that he’s excited about wearing and that he has chosen and that fit who he is feels like very satisfying as a mom and seeing him. How about that? I love it.
S1: I love those iron on vinyl things. I love them. Yeah. Bye bye. To this day, my kids don’t make their own clothes. Henry, what is talked about is this, like, perfect kid when he was in high school, made a shirt of just his own face with one of those, and it’s just like him right below him. And it was so stupid. That’s so funny.
S4: You know, it’s funny. I saw a picture on Twitter recently of a girl getting her shoes that a tax requires older, richer with her boyfriend. And he was getting her. Name tattooed on her. But the best part was that she was also wearing a shirt with her name on it.
S3: And I byatt’s that level of self involvement. She’s involved other people in her self. Self-involved grace.
S4: I think that’s wonderful exhibit. He’s very lucky to have those shirts in the concern section. It’s weird we haven’t tried. I mean, I’m definitely guilty of going toward things that are coded for girls for Nyima quite often at this point. It’s a response to what she’s interested in, you know, so I know what they are marketed toward. Boys show like and I know that, you know, typically the things that push toward girls she would prefer. But when she was younger, we tried really hard to experiment with, you know, quote unquote boy clothes. And so often, like, the cuts are often different. It’s just like a girls shirts don’t always have to have those little delicate sleeves either. A little cap sleeves situation. It’s not always the most comfortable thing for them, their kids. Yeah.
S5: If he wanted to wear that, it would be fine if she was. He wants, you know, a shirt like he sees his brother wearing or whatever. It’s more comfortable. But he wants it to be pink or light blue or one of these colors. That boy’s clothes are just not always made available in boys clothes.
S3: Also just a little bit in general, so many dinosaurs, so many bright, like they don’t all love dinosaurs. OK, so give me a triumph or fail.
S4: I have a triumph this week. Really. I didn’t do anything. Well, I did a lot of things, but it’s not my triumph. But Nyima is officially a second grader. Fourth grade is. It’s over. She made it through. They had Spirit Week. We asone. So the kids were different, you know, cool outfits every day. And there was a closing ceremony for the year on Friday on Zoome. And each kid, she was with her dad. So I’m going to assume they were each given some superlative.
S3: Sorry, I know I was deeply interested. I really wanted to be.
S4: I went up there because lot of regular mom, the cool mom, I went to her dad’s house the day of the ceremony. I wanted to watch it. I had back to back Zohn calls like starting like 30 minutes later. So I ran over there. But I brought her and her brother Target gift cards to congratulate them for finishing first grade in kindergarten. So I’m making up for my absence.
S3: I have a song.
S4: So I assume that all the kids got some sort of superlative from the teacher. Because I saw the one that was placed, the name class dojo folder, and it’s a certificate and it says ambitious activist and has her name on it. And this and her teacher wrote name on the progress you made this year is incredible. I’m so proud of you for all of your hard work, your excitement for learning and the kindness that you showed to everyone in our class. You’ll do amazing things in second grade and beyond. I can’t wait to listen to a Nyima podcast in the future.
S1: What part of that makes you the proudest is the kindest part, isn’t it? The kindness part?
S3: The kind of smart. Me too. I was like, wow, this is a very different name to really, you know, she.
S4: She gives her parents a hard time sometimes and our brother. But she is really a very sweet girl. And it especially shows me she’s dealing with her peers. She’s just so thoughtful and so sensitive to their feelings. It’s really something to watch. So I’m very proud of her for stepping on up into second grade without even having a without having to set foot in a classroom for four months. She made it so best social promotion ever. Before we move on, let’s do a little business as a reminder, as Slate’s parenting newsletter is the best place to be notified of all of our parenting content. In fact, it’s the only place to be notified about all of our parenting content, including mom and dad are fighting and beating and so much more. It’s a planned personal email from Dan and on occasion, other Slate contributors each week. It’s in your inbox keeping you abreast of all our cool stuff. So please sign up for it at Slate dot com slash parenting email. And actually, that e-mail is not the only place to stay up on all things slate parenting because you can go to the Facebook page. Slate parenting is a super active community. I tap in every once in a while, say something, and then I just disappear into the wind and it’s well moderated so it never gets out of control. And there is a life care feeding show with the coke lifts. So to catch it. Go to Slate’s parenting page on Facebook on Tuesdays at 11:00 Eastern and you can find previous episodes on Slate’s YouTube page. So we’re gonna get started with our listener questions. And as I mentioned earlier, we have a special guest who’s here to offer some sage advice. Trina Green Brown, who is the founder and executive director of parenting for Liberacion. Which is a virtual platform for black parents. She’s also an activist and a mom to two children. I’m so excited to have you here, Trina. I found out about your platform when a mutual comrade of ours recommended you for the show, and I am over the moon. So thank you so much for joining us. Race is important conversation. And thank you for the work that you do.
S6: Thank you so much for having me. I’m honored to be here in this conversation with you all as parents and as we’re navigating this moment and set out to Salame satellite and a long walk home for the invitation and making the connection.
S4: Yes, the brilliant salamu should salute you. I’m sure we’ll hear from on the show at some point. Definitely. Absolutely fabulous. OK, so we’ve gotten quite a few questions recently about discussing race and racism with children. We’re going to start off with one. And it’s being read, as always, by the fabulous Shasha Leonhard.
S7: Hi. Mom and dad are fighting. My husband and I have three children ages nine, four and twenty months through books, school celebrations and ongoing conversations. We work hard to instill values of tolerance and kindness in our children. We reinforce the idea of equality regardless of skin color, gender, sexual orientation, religion, ability or other differences. We have had surface conversations with only our oldest child about racism as we discussed the killing of George Floyd. The protests and the movement that these events have galvanized. It was difficult for her to even grasp why anyone, let alone a police officer, would intentionally hurt another person, especially based on race. Her incredulity speaks to her innocence, but also her position of privilege. I’m grappling with how to introduce her and eventually our younger kids to the implications of systemic racism and why it is so important that these systems are dismantled. If I’m honest, I can say that although I don’t hold racist attitudes, I have benefited from racist systems of viewpoint to which I was blissfully ignorant until well into adulthood. Like many of your listeners, it is important that I raise conscious and mindful citizens. I want them to eventually understand the vicious impact of institutional racism. How do I introduce these complex but important concepts to young children? And what advice might you have beyond protesting for what we can do to address them as a family?
S4: Serena, I’d like let’s start with you. And I just have to add, as a former black child, current black parent, it is really kind of overwhelming how little even conscientious, thoughtful folks have been speaking to their children or some, I should say. I’ve been speaking to their children about racism specifically because, you know, the parent says that they talked about tolerance and kindness and equality, but you wouldn’t necessarily have to talk about equality with your children. Were there not races that were there, not homophobia, whether or not all these these other awful systems of inequity. And so how would you recommend that someone who has somehow managed to talk about equality and kindness with their kids all this time to now have to introduce the concept of racial animus?
S6: Oh, that’s a good question. I think you’re right. Right, it’s heavy us as black folks. Right, being tapped at this time to be like, how do we do it? And it’s a lot of labor on our part. So I will name that. First off, I feel like the conversations that this pair has been having with their child around equality is not rooted in the conversation around equity. And I think when you start to talk about equity, you have to name the fact that there aren’t people in this country and across the world if money is explicit to us. But some people are impacted by systems of oppression in ways that other people aren’t. If you name it as equality, it’s like everyone’s equal and we’re all treated the same. And that’s not really the way that this country operates. And so how do we talk about children, about equity? Right. Which is less about each person getting the same thing. It’s really about what are the root causes that limit access for certain bodies of people or certain groups of people to certain systems. Right. And I think I could appreciate this pair for naming later down in their question that they experience privilege and they benefit from privilege. And I think that is the best entry point is to go from your own lived experience. Right. And so if this parent can share with their child like I’ve benefited from these systems are I’ve been evicted from having white skin or from being white, presenting in the way that I’m treated when I go to shops or what the way that I’m treated when it’s time to buy a house. Right. Or the way that I have access and educational systems. Are you been on the job that I get these different privileges because I have white skin that that other folks do not get access to? What I think of being able to tell those stories are children similar to how like black folks have to share our stories with our children. Right. I have to tell my child my experience of being called out of my name are not necessarily getting access to things because. Because I’m black. Right. I have to explain those stories so that I can prepare my children for potentially experiencing racism. And so I think that white folks need to be preparing their children for how they might experience preferential treatment. Our experience, white privilege and actually to name it and not just make it seem like, oh, it just happens like I just actually got this job or I just want this house or, you know, like things just come to me. It’s not by luck or sound by happenstance. I systematically set up that way. And I think when we tell our children utilizing stories, it’s more helpful as stories that are rooted in our personal experience. But then you don’t have to be an expert about all the concepts. Right. You’re just able to situate your own lived experience within a larger context of racism.
S4: Rebecca, I’m curious to hear how you started this conversation with your children, with you having junior adults at this point? Well, were they when you started talking to them about racism?
S1: Very, very young. I would say as soon as we could talk. And there’s a reason for that. And I should explain, like, I grew up in a very integrated place and I moved to New Hampshire, which is not an integrated place when I was in my early 20s. And I can confidently say it is a racist place. I think white places without a lot of people of color where everyone thinks that they’re well-meaning and not racist end up being sometimes more racist. I’ve had argument people were there like you guys. You really think Boston is more racist than, like places the Deep South and like I do. And here’s why. Because the casual racism that infuses our lives all the time and goes unchecked, because people think no one will care. No one will hear it or who cares is so much more poisonous in the long term than when I was a kid growing up in a community that was like 35 percent white. If a kid said a racial epithet in school said the N-word made some sort of offhand comment that they had heard from their uncle or whatever they got in trouble, like they got to sensuously office. It was like a community like rift. Like they would it was a thing. And here it’s like, let’s have a quiet talk and not talk about it again. And that’s a freakin problem. So the one thing that I tell people all the time is I don’t understand why, you know, growing up as a kid in the 70s and early 80s, I got this. But it doesn’t exist now. Is this sort of tender footing around skin color with little kids and discrimination and racism and hate and violence? Parents of a two year old have no problem intervening when their kid hits another kid on the playground or they talk about biting or they talk about other behaviors that are ugly that they don’t want them to bring into three years old with them and four years old. But they never talk about a thing that if you’re a black kid, you can’t escape and you know about from the time you’re born. So I do think that you have to understand, as a parent of white kids and especially in a predominantly white place, that parents have black kids and black kids themselves don’t have a choice other than to talk about this from the moment they could start talking, why people treat them differently, why some stores like where I grew up have a doorbell ringing system just so you can be let in. The answer is because they’re making a judgment based on what you look like, whether let you in or not. These are conversations that people of color can’t escape. So I think it is inherently supporting privilege and. Some ways supporting the systemic white supremacy we have in this country to let little white kids escape it until we think they’re old enough to understand. So when my kids were very, very little, I just always remembered segments on Sesame Street, which for some reason didn’t seem radical in the 70s, shows like Sesame Street, Mister Rogers, where adults would say to kids and puppets. Some people hate people because of the color of their skin. Some people hurt people or kill people because of the color of their skin. And that’s wrong. And if you see someone saying something, if you see someone hurting someone, if you see someone doing anything, just like if your friend is being hit, you need to intervene because it’s wrong. To be fair, like, that’s just sort of how I started. And I remember, like, people telling me, aren’t they too young or whatever. I just I don’t think you can give your kids a pass just because they’re not black. From having them hear about the thing that if you are a black kid, you know about from the moment you’re conscious. So that’s how I think about it. I think it’s great that you’re talking to your nine year old. Start talking to your four year old. You got some catching up to do and start talking to your 20 month old as soon as they’re able to have a conversation with you. Do not delay one of them.
S5: Major stumbling blocks that white parents have is not like thinking of this as like a a thinking of addressing racism as this like topic at some point that you will become an age at which to address when there are so many other things, like when I think about like the list of things that we teach our children from the beginning about like good food and taking care of our bodies and like recycling and things like that. And then when you really come to think about why then would treating other humans not be part of that list, especially because your kids give you so many opportunities to have this conversation. They notice people, they notice what’s going on. And when they’re little, they ask about it. And I think that there is this hesitancy, and I can say that because I have definitely felt the anxiety that comes up when your child says, like, why does that person look like this? Or why do you look different? All of those conversations. But I think that you have to, as a white parents, be able to open that into this conversation. And those conversations happen less or feel less awkward if, like your home library is full of books in which people are of different colors. And I’m not talking about, like, getting a book on Martin Luther King. I’m talking about that. Some of your princess books. The princesses are not white. Some of your books about engineers and astronauts and whoever else, those people are not white. Look, it’s important to study the black historical figures or, you know, really of any color. But it is also important that the everyday people that they are seeing and if you can’t do that because of where you live or whatever that situation is, you have control over the media that your children are exposed to.
S1: I mean, that Edgemont kind of question for you. Like, I even read this question and it and it’s not a letter writer in his five minutes, she’s doing her best. So we’re saying right now everybody’s in their best, if maybe. But like, even when you have somebody writing in a question of being able to choose when to talk to their kids about things like it, do they understand that that is privilege? You get to choose at what age? You just you get to the forum. You get to choose your moment. Like that is the privilege right there is that you get to write to a podcast and ask us how to choose like that. I mean, what if this is benign? You can imagine how I must make a black woman, a black child feel. I mean, I’m curious. Is it. Do you ever get angry when you read questions like this? And this is I don’t want to make it personal about this. This earnest person who wrote to I did ask these people to write. It’s true. It pisses me off. I imagine it pisses you off. Am I right or wrong about that?
S4: I say. Me and I’m curious to hear what training has to say. I’m tired of it. It doesn’t piss me off because at the very least, they’re saying that they want to have the conversation, you know. And I’ve so often come across, you know, white folks who’ve said, I teach my children not to see race. Right. That pisses me off. So it’s refreshing to hear, you know, even, you know, like so much of what’s happening now with corporations and celebrities coming forward. And folks are saying like, well, this is pandering. I’m like, do you realize no one felt that they even had to pander to us before? Just this baseline level of recognition and acknowledgement of our struggles. Can’t you can’t help but feel like there’s a level of win here or progress because the bar has been so low, because it’s been completely acceptable. Like six years ago, when Black Lives Matter burst into the national lexicon. I remember very clearly how different these conversations were. Right. I remember how readily, you know, even a lot of black folks in the public eye felt the need to redirect to all lives matter. And you know what I mean? And at a sense of perhaps pressure, you know, to maintain their public personas or because they didn’t feel comfortable, even themselves saying something that sounded so quote unquote, radical, even though it’s not radical at all to say that somebody’s life matters. That is literally the lowest form of acknowledgement that you can give to a human being, is to say that their life matters. Right. That doesn’t mean that everything that a life should have comes with it. You simply say your life matters. So, yes, it is tiring to know that I was not able to tap out of this conversation. And there are black parents who do attempt to shield their children from the pain of racism and train. I want to ask you about that next negs or to wait as long as possible or to sanitize these conversations down to a point where they leave their children perhaps open to being terribly surprise or overwhelmed when they are able to really grasp the level to which racism controls the world and so many of the experiences that they’ll have. So, Trina, I wanted to hear because I think because black parents have to have this conversation. Right. We don’t have long before our children will start to notice that things are different for them than they are for for white people. But with that, that also doesn’t mean that we all know how to have the conversation. You know, we’re not all race experts just because we are experts on the lived experiences that we’ve had. But we are not all trained in doing this work in a way that always makes it easy for us to effectively communicate to our children about both our struggles, but also our beauty and our power. So with that, for black parents that struggling in this moment. Do you have any tips for affirming the self-esteem and the personal worth of our children and the richness of our history while also making them aware of the world in which they were born? In a way that is clear. So they’re not surprised.
S8: All right. Question. Yeah. And I do want to just answer. I think it was Rebecca’s question, like, are we pissed off? Right. I feel like I’m sad that I feel a little bit of gratitude that this parent is asking the question. Right. Like like, oh, I’m grateful that you’re actually at that place of asking the question about how can I do it? It’s that that I actually have to have gratitude for that. Right. I think what I am frustrated about in this moment is the fact that folks are saying, OK, I want to talk about it. But if it’s scary or or I have anxiety about it, it’s like what? You have anxiety because you have to talk to your child about privilege. Do you know the anxiety that black people feel to have to talk to their children about murder and death and violence? The white fragility around these conversations is what pisses me off. It’s like, OK, why is this scary? Why is it scary? Why is this hard? And so that is the frustrating part for me connected to this piece about black folks having to talk to their children about, you know, what does it mean to be black in the United States of America? I will definitely name that. That’s part of the reason why I started this organization, because I was not doing it well. I was definitely having these conversations that were not age level. I was definitely talking over my three year old’s head in ways that were making him fear what it means to be black. Right. Making him feel like, well, this doesn’t seem like a good body to be in. And I knew that that was not the way I wanted to engage my children. And so when I do this work on Haack in the great Audry Lord, who says that raising black children in the mouth of a racist and sexist and suicidal dragon is perilous and chancy if they cannot love and resist. They probably will not survive. And so all of the work that I do and talking to my children and in this work is about teaching my children to love and resist simultaneously, that they’re both needed. And the love is really the love of their blackness, the love of themselves, the love of their history, their culture, the love of their brilliance. Right. So that they love themselves so much that I affirm them so much in their blackness and black culture and just all things black, black, black, black. Right. We would. I love being black. I love my hair. I love my skin. You know, I love our resilience. That’s the love of blackness. Right. The belief that Black Lives Matter is not a question. Right? Yeah, we matter. And so having that strong, grounded belief and loving upon themselves, that then when anything is contrary to that, right. When systems when racism, when they experience people that say things that are counter to that narrative like, no, I love. And being black is beautiful and I’m black and I’m proud when anything comes up against that, that they feel this level of like resistance. Right. That they will resist anything that tells them otherwise, that they will resist an institution that says, oh, your history is not needed in the school books. Right. That my child will be like, hey, you’re missing a part of this history lesson. What about this, that they feel this this fire burning within them? They love themselves so much. Right. We have to be rooted in that black love so that anything that that says something doesn’t look like that. That’s the truth. And that’s bullshit. And I have something to say about that. So the way that I would say how to talk to your children about these issues or about these challenges is to first make sure they’re rooted in love and not in fear, because that’s my original conversations were rooted in fear. And I was actually victim blaming. Right. Black folks in the way that I was talking about it. Right. If I’m telling my son that Trayvon Martin was murdered because he had a hoodie and so you can’t wear a hoodie. That means that I’m blaming Trayvon Martin for his own death. In reality, I need to be saying it’s not about what you wear is not about what you’re guillain. It’s not about you being black. Right. It’s a system that’s against black people. And it’s not about you changing anything about yourself. It’s not about you trying to code switch. It’s not about to change anything. I want him to be unapologetically black and be able to identify the systems, the people, the institutions that are intentionally trying to uproot him because of his blackness. Right.
S9: That’s kind of the evolution I’ve had to have from shifting from like doing this out of fear to keep him safe and protect him.
S8: And really shifting to this idea that in order for him to survive and thrive, that I need to teach them to love themselves and resist anything that does it, that tells them that they’re not worthy of that self-love.
S5: You mentioned the like burden being placed on black people, particularly like you in Jameela, who are out there and have, I think, a platform to do the work for white people. And I mean to that I can just say there’s a million Internet resources of Google. But how are you guys taking care of yourselves in this also? Because it seems like being confronted every day with. Yes, the negative. But also like it seems like there is some trauma and also turning on the news and seeing people have to be yelling. Black Lives Matter. And you talked about how you dealt with that with your children, but also having to have these conversations. I think you can be traumatic. So can you give advice to like our black listeners about how to provide some self care for themselves during this time?
S9: The question. That is one of the foundational elements of parenting for liberation. Right. Our work is really grounded in this idea that parents doing our own work around healing from our own trauma and healing from our experience of being black in the United States, that there’s some healing work that we need to do. And so we do definitely support black parents in the holding space. So we have done things since. Since the pandemic, we posted a lack of virtual care sessions for black parents. We’ve posted sessions that are about creating affirmations and moderates for black parents. We’ve created spaces around grief, right. And grieving the loss. We had a wailing circle a couple of weeks ago after all of this. And so we create space and sensual space for black parents to really tap into their own care. And we do that in community because we know that it’s not about only self care, that we have to actually be really rooted in community care. And then we actually started a care for caregivers wellness funds, where we actually were matching black parents and caregivers with black healing practitioners so they can get one on one sessions. And as soon as we opened up the applications like we were, we were tapped out within the first seven days. And so that really was has been impactful, I think, for parents to create practices that they can sustain themselves because this is a long shot. Game. Right. Some folks are just entering into this. So this work are really fast entering into this conversation about Black Lives Matter. And we’ve been living it. And so we want to make sure that black folks lefthander specifically have the space to actually care for themselves so that they can show up for their children as whole liberated beings themselves. So, yeah, we definitely center the healing work of black parents.
S4: They’re going to link to parenting for Liberacion daughter, which is trying to say and there are some amazing resources here. I’m newly being introduced to your work. But in general, I have not been a consumer of a lot of parenting content. The stuff that I came across organically on occasion typically was directed toward black parents. But the parenting space is not you know, there are not enough of our voices here, which is why I was excited to be asked to join this podcast and Slate’s parenting team, essentially. But on the flipside, even when there were things that were directed toward black parents, I often I don’t know. I think it perhaps was me holding on to the vestiges of youth as best I could. And so, like, not wanting to like diving to myself care time where I’m thinking of my. So that I wasn’t going into parenting where, you know, I wasn’t thinking of parenting, I was thinking of other things, and so I’m really excited I do this. You’re thirty nine episodes into the Parenting for Liberacion podcast, and I want to listen to every single one of them because each one sounds more fascinating than the last. I’m grateful to know that you are here, and I’ll just say that for me. I think that because I’m sure trained to some extent you would agree with this as well. When your work is connected to these themes, in addition to just our experiences being rooted, you know, even black our whole lives. So there is a level to which this isn’t as this is this moment is a shock to the system, but it’s not that much of a shock considering all the precedent. But when your work is connected to talking about race or gender in an issue related to race and gender, comes up in the media and becomes a flashpoint for all these national conversations, it feels like you don’t get a break. It went from constantly being present to three hundred and sixty degrees adjusted margin. So my parenting schedule allows me self care in ways that a lot of other parents don’t have. And I always acknowledge that that is a privilege. And it’s something that for our family, as part of our strategy for parenting, for liberation, that my daughter divides her time. And half is Wayne myself. Her dad is that mother. And so when I am off from her and I allow myself times to be off and working or the stress of caring for other people or the kind of sick folks that, you know, I need support and, you know, I need someone to talk to and which so many of us women, particularly black women. But I think this is the kind of mother experience that people call you when they need to talk or when they need, you know, some healing. I tune all the way out. You know, it sometimes it’s it’s a very short amount of time. They may only be a 30 minute nap where I’m just reading my horoscope or, you know, reading a book for pleasure. It may be a little bit longer, but I go out and I just give myself time away from everything that is a stressor. You know, if it’s putting my phone under and I deserve to just read my book and eat my little Lean Cuisine Anti’s is doing that. If it’s taking the time to cook myself a meal, I’m really going to enjoy. I cook for the both of us. And during that time, I’m not looking at my phone or I’m not watching the news and not consuming anything. I’m just out of it. I’m just here. I’m just present, you know, by myself or just present with my child. And obviously fact that many of us are still are or still should be living under shelter in place. Rules right now has made certain access health care a bit more difficult. But just having that time away, I think also driving for me, since it’s one still I have a new thing in my life as a West Coast transplant. And to that, because you can’t go to as many places when you get outside of the car as you once could, like that time in the car is valuable. So sometimes it’s just me and some music and I’m just off.
S6: It’s beautiful. Make you do it all. All the stuff we named is so important when you do this work that it’s like you the space to turn off. And I definitely resonate with that. It was because of the work I was doing and the like violence against women’s movement and youth organizing work that pulled me into this parenting work because I became a parent and I was trying to like practice my values and my organizing principles. And I was this cell misalign, like I was coming home saying, no, you can’t do this, stop doing that. I was just like, oh, I was like, but I’m at work talking about young people have a voice and people have agency, a Yankee by power. And I was just not living my value. Felt like I’m going to make a commitment to practice liberation and my parenting. And then boom and celebration. And so I don’t know. I’ve got to figure out my way of like, how do I turn this off? Because parenting is a 24/7, seven days a week. I do have the privilege of also co parenting across multiple households. And so whenever this Colbert thing kind of settles and he can return to those, you know, those weekly rotations, I’ll have more space to get to check out. You know, I think we do deserve the moment to check out the lobbying on 24/7.
S8: OK. Thank you, letter writer.
S4: We hope that that was helpful for you. And we’re going to move on to our second listener question, which is again, being read by Shasha Lee and Nas.
S7: Dear Mom and dad are fighting. My two year old son is obsessed with all things related to cars and trucks. He loves to talk and is learning so much right now, which means he has a million questions. And my husband are struggling with one in particular, with everything going on in the world and everything we know and are learning about police brutality and the militarization of police forces. How can we explain what police officers do when teaching our young son up to this point? We identify police cars and he likes to point them out on walks as we see them often, but we really haven’t said much else about them. We live in an area that has been hard hit by wildfires in recent years. And so he has lots to say about fire trucks and firefighter. Firetrucks save the day. Fire trucks help people, firemen fight fires to keep people safe. However, my husband and I are in agreement that we do not think it is appropriate to use the words heroes or helpers, one referring to police cars or police officers. Of course some are. But we’ve been horrified by some of the actions we’ve seen during recent protests and heartbroken by the seemingly unending string of violence towards unarmed black men and women. As he gets older, we’ll talk to him about more of the nuances. But do you have any advice about language we can use with him now that that seems appropriate? My concern is that there may be a situation where we do need him to trust a police officer. If, heaven forbid, we were all in a terrible car accident or needed to go through another wildfire evacuation. But we are struggling to find words that will make sense to a toddler that we feel are accurate. Thanks for any ideas or advice you can give. Sincerely. Mom. To a mini vehicle fanatic.
S5: I feel like I really empathize with some of the things that this letter writer talks about. I have talked before about my experience in the kids experience with that, with the police are fundamentally different. And some of that comes from having lived in the Netherlands, which, although still riddled with racial problems, has more of like a peace officer system. And only some of the officers are allowed to use force. So just kind of a different structure and that’s kind of viewed differently. In fact, like a couple years ago, they they actually disarmed all traffic police just saying that it was unnecessary and that’s worked out pretty well for them. But that has informed, like my view on this. And so I am very interested in how to address this because my boys do like to play police and I always try to put an end to it. And we’ve talked about the violence that is happening. But she brings up good points that, like police are still part of the system. So I’m kind of interested in the conversation that happens here because I’m at this point in parenting, too, and I’m not entirely sure other than just telling them the truth about what’s happening, how to proceed forward.
S1: I mean, is there also I look at this question and I see there’s a bunch of, like, aesthetic stuff that we all deal with as parents. We’re talking about gendered clothing and sort of like the things that kids are sort of naturally gravitating to. And there certainly is a lot of police stuff in toys and marketing aimed at kids, boys in particular. I think about Lego and I think about all the. Yeah, the ways in which, you know, cops sort of manifest themselves through play. And one of the things that I keep thinking about is how different cops look now versus how they looked when I was a kid. Not saying that like things were good then because they weren’t. However, I saw this video the other day that was supposed to be one of those, like, uplifting. Everything is gonna be okay. Videos on social media where a young black girl saw a cop and immediately burst into tears and the cop who was a white woman pulled over and sort of comforted her and said, I’m here to protect you and I am your friend or whatever. And I’m like, is problematic that those videos become like the symbol of hope or whatever it would be. I was just looking at this cop in this video, this woman who was saying nice things to someone in her community but who was dressed like a soldier. She was, you know, a traffic beat cop wearing a huge Kevlar vest, a huge belt, his tactical sunglasses. She looked like four times as wide as her body probably was. And I have been concerned also seeing some of that tactical police militarized aesthetics or trickle down into toys as well. And I think with a little kid who’s to having the conversations that, you know, we talked about her important being honest, infusing everything you talk about with conversations about racism and social justice. But when they’re attracted to something because of the aesthetic, that’s also a good place to start. I mean, I keep thinking about how if a Lego set, like, you know, what they call a bearcat, which is actually an armored vehicle, was something that one of my kids wanted. I could say, okay, look at that top. Let’s talk about why that’s not a toy. I want you to play with. Because that actually opens up a conversation about what police need, what they don’t need, how they look, how they sort of appear in public. So that’s just this was question was making me think about I think a lot of the answer is similar to what we just talked about in terms of just being honest early and often and knowing that it is a privilege to be able to choose to have the conversation about whether or not police are good or bad, because for a lot of kids, there is no choice. Their view of the police in our experience with them is so different. But I do wonder where the kid, this young who’s looking at it from this aesthetic point of view, whether or not that might be an entry point to have conversations about guns and militarization and equipment and, you know, play acting. You know what those interactions should look like versus what they do. And talking about it through play might actually be kind of interesting approach. I could be completely off base, but that’s what I was thinking about when I first read this question.
S4: I think that yes, that using the example, you know, being able to point to toys and being able to point to things in the media that are designed for children and saying, look at this, this is not something you have won your community. Wouldn’t you be afraid if you saw a vehicle that looks like this driving behind us? Wouldn’t you be afraid if you saw officers wearing these guns, you know, walking through a shopping mall or walking to the grocery store or harassing you on the street and then using that as an entry point to talk about, like how the police actually function? And I’d say I think that parents, not like parents, should be having conversations about the police, much like the ones that black parents have with our children. So many of us have been taught and many of us have taught our children about the evil of the police, about the danger, about the threat on an immediate level and on a systemic level, while also still raising. Our children, so that if they’re involved in a car accident, in a situation in which there is no alternative but to engage with the police, that they know how to function with them. There’s a very high probability that they’re going to be uncomfortable, even for those of us that oppose code switching, still understanding that you have every right to have a contentious attitude toward the police. However, if you are involved in a traffic accident in which you’re gonna have to get a police report, you have to be able to politely engage with this person. Right. So that you can get through the encounter if you’re pulled over. You have to be able to you know, these are some things that you can do to perhaps minimize the risk of detainment. And we can’t guarantee that. And there, you know, police do what they want to do, essentially, that they are lawless and in many ways not even lawless. They are bound by laws that protect them, you know, and protect their ability to rule over communities that they, as white parents, begin to have that conversation with their children. It’s important that you emphasize the privilege that they have and knowing that it is a lot more likely that a friendly cop will let you off with a warning or perhaps they treat you with kindness as opposed to a person of color. However, the police are increasingly hostile to white folks, sue, at this point. They feel under attack. They feel that it is us against them. It is the world versus police and they are showing themselves. And it’s why I’m glad that everybody else can see what we’ve seen. Finally, that this is not a system that works in the best interest of the masses and that our need for protection and order and safety is not being met by this body of people. If the money that was invested in putting them in those barricades and putting them in those militarized costumes was invested in actually solving crimes, not just property crimes and actually making communities safer, that their lives would be better to solving problems, solving problems like so many of the things that cops are called for right now are not crimes.
S5: They are prop like small problems.
S4: Yeah, I mean, a lot of white folks use nine one one like a personal complaint line. Like I’m just tall. I’m calling the manager. Right. The police are the managers. I’m calling the manager. This person is not where I think they should be and I don’t think they should do. And then I’ve called my manager because they’ve been gone.
S3: So what?
S4: And because they believe themselves to be the manager, they’ve been allowed to be the manager because they can solve this issue. However they see fit and it does not result in safety or justice. And if your community is not one that has a lot of what is recognized as crime or violence, it’s easy to be blissfully unaware of how the police function in larger places in most places. But they’re not a good institution. I think it’s OK to tell your children that you’re not going to destroy the child. You’re not going to make them fearful, you know, to the point where they’re not able to function, you know, that they’re let them know that their privilege is something and a tool kit that they may have to use on behalf of other people, that they may need to be the person who sees something going on with a black, you know, peer or even with a black adult. And that they are they may be in a position to say, officer, that’s not what happened. You know, I need to step in and protect this person. They also need to be prepared for the possibility that the police are going to treat them with contempt and rudeness and entitlement and. That’s why we don’t buy police Legos.
S10: We don’t buy. Please not.
S5: I mean, how can you argue that?
S10: So what you’re talking about is the role of police. Right. And as the conversation has expanded to talking about defunding the police or like abolishing the police state, you know that those are the questions that I want to be in conversations with people about. And that’s the conversation that I think parents should be having right now. Like, what is the role? Their role is to protect and serve, but to protect this. Are who like who are they created for? Right. And when we talk about the history of policing in the United States is deeply embedded in slave patrol. Right. Is deeply embedded in the history of like trying to keep black folks who they felt like did not deserve to be free. Fugitive slaves are for runaways. Right. Like their job originally was to capture black folks. And so in that regard, that’s the origin story. That’s the kind of origin story of the policing state. And so so it’s deeply connected to these questions about like who are they? Who are they sworn to protect and serve? They’re sworn to protect and serve white supremacy and maintain the current system. It’s never been intended to maintain the safety of black and brown folks. I mean, as you said, like right now, white folks also experience it like, oh, well, that actually made the preserve you made to preserve the state. They’re sworn to maintain law and order. But then the question is that we should ask, what laws are they? Are they acts to maintain and who are the laws created for? Right. The laws are never meant to serve black people or brown people. Right. And so so those are the conversations, I think, in terms of talking to your child about it. There are like all these conversations about how do we shift to talking about who actually keeps the community things like I don’t think as a black person. I’ve never held the belief, even growing up as someone who’s indirectly impacted by, by and large, mass incarceration and like overpolicing and the war on drugs in the 80s maybe who was in Los Angeles. Right. Like, my family was deeply impacted by the war on drugs, in the overpolicing. So I’ve never seen cops are policing something that was helpful. Right. I thought something that tore my family into our black communities, a conversation that I had with someone on the podcast with about a murder that happened nearby their home. And I had to talk to their six year old about policing and their child to actually engage in a conversation around visioning what the world would be like if we didn’t have police. The police resources were actually diverted. And this is a conversation that they had in 2016. Right. So these conversations have been happening. So instead of being like read, all these resources go into policing, which is and then working, actually trying to understand what is the underlying unmet need. Right. Like homelessness isn’t. Is it something we can police our way out of poverty is not something we can police. Our way out of domestic violence is not something we like. None of these solutions aren’t police and jail. Right. You know, kids can imagine new things. Kids can imagine. Tell your child the problem and ask them what they think the solution will be. And I’m imagining police will not be on the top of the list. So, you know, that’s the kind of conversation that I want to invite parents to engage their children in, because there are alternatives that we need to be thinking about and tintern in this moment.
S1: I just want to make a quick recommendation based on what you just talked about, trying at the origins of policing in America. It is a great opportunity. People are always asking, like, what can I read? What can I do? Well, one thing you can do is you can listen to a podcast called A Through Line from NPR. Is an episode called American Police. It will take an hour of your life and you will learn everything you need to know. Not everything, but most things you need to know for you to have a foundational understanding of the origins of policing in America. And if you know it, it’s a little easier to understand why it’s important to have these conversations with your white kids.
S4: Absolutely. Thank you so much, letter writers, for your questions. And as a reminder, our show relies on questions from you, our listeners. So if you have something that you want to hear on this show, please send it in. Send us an email to mom and dad. It’s late that Sharina. Thank you. So, so, so, so much, my sister, for joining us today. Means a lot. We really appreciated your voice and your perspective. And there’s a link to parents ain’t reliberation in our show notes. So everyone, please check out Strainers Work and follow her. Thank you.
S10: And I should also name. I’m going to plug that. I’m a new author and my book comes out on June 28th. It’s called Parenting Reliberation A Guide to Raising Black Jazz. So also pick that up at a black owned bookstore and this bookstore. And if you know, there’s other chains that also carry the book. But definitely encouraging folks to pick that up.
S4: Thank you so much and congratulations on the book. I’m looking forward to getting my own copy of it as well. Thank you. And now it is time for recommendations. Elizabeth, what do you have for us?
S5: So mine is a two parter. You know, I love podcasts and we use them so much for our family. And since Stanson here, I can recommend another podcast that’s not ours. I am recommending for kids. It’s a podcast called So Get Me from the Grammy nominated children’s hip hop group, also about rockers. They only have five episodes that they put out in twenty nineteen and I’m not sure there’s going to be another season, but these are like a great way to have a conversation about race and about social injustice and about trans people and just all of those topics they talk about here with fun, music and kids and in a just like really fun way. And they also like sort of teach the kids how to practice intervening. And it is just an absolutely joy full thing to listen to with your kids. And my kids have responded, like, so well to it. And if you’re nervous about how to bring up this topic or any of these or don’t know where to start, these five episodes are great and a good way to do that. And then for adults, I am recommending something actually about Djamila. I got off of your Instagram that you had posted called the Black History Bootcamp from Girl Track. And I do encourage you to go sign up for their e-mails. But if that seems like too much, just download the podcast. Each episode is 30 Minutes about a woman in black history. You’ll find a couple of names that you know, a lot of names that I was completely unfamiliar with. And I have found so many wonderful women that fit into the curriculum that we’re teaching that I’m like, I got to add this and I’ve got to find resources on her. I got to teach the kids about her. And they do such a great job of making it a fun, entertaining conversation. I think the goal is to get out and walk while you’re listening to it. And I have used that as my kind of impetus to say, like, I need to get out of the house for 30 minutes, listen to this podcast for me and go for a walk. I just have found it completely lovely, enlightening and educational. So, Jamelia, thank you. That was a recommendation you gave us and now sharing with everyone.
S11: I’m glad you’re enjoying it. I love girls.
S5: Yeah, they have a ton of stuff. So definitely you don’t just stop at the at the podcast on the emails in the morning are like a wonderful way to start your day and know what’s ahead and be kind of focused your day on a woman in black history that did something amazing to kind of inspire you for the day.
S11: Go, Elizabeth. Rebecca.
S1: Yeah, mine is totally trash compared to Elizabeth’s, but I’m just going to go and bully anyone to listen. His podcast back when I used to be on it knows that I think one of the best ways to spend time with your teenagers especially. But I think you can go as young as like 10, 12 with some of these trash things that I love is to watch really, really bad TV shows on obscure networks like the Science Channel and Tru TV. And we just discovered a bananas one that’s been on enough seasons where there’s like plenty of episodes to watch. It’s called Strange Evidence, and it’s this crazy TV show where they show a video of some quote, you’re gonna see me do scare quotes, phenomena like An or B flying across, you know, a security camera or like a person who steps on something and it explodes, but they’re mysteriously fine. And then they have a panel of, you know, two ways with experts talking about what the phenomena could be. And it goes in the craziest kind of like side directions that it’s just hilarious. Lots of earnest X like biologists making rhetorical statement questions like, could this be real? Could it be something planted by the CIA? Like because the kind of thing you could imagine watching making a great drinking game out of. But it’s also just really fun to watch with teenagers. And actually, Kevin and I watched it episode that night together, too. It’s just so stupid. And it’s on my category of shows. Of course, we love Catfish on MTV. Another one we love is this UFO, one of ancient aliens. That’s for some reason on the History Channel.
S3: Yes. Why is it on the History Channel?
S1: Tons of rhetorical questions. You know, it’s just insanely bad, but so bad that it’s kind of great and a really, really fun half hour, like juicy time, you know, maybe after dinner or whatever you want to like something escapist and super stupid. Why you’re all laughing at something together. I really can’t recommend this really dumb show. Strange evidence enough. And there’s plenty of it on. So you’ve got like lots and lots of episodes to laugh about. Just one thing I’ll say is that my son Henry has pointed out that a couple of the episodes, if the experts on them just Googled what happened, it’s very obvious because they have been like news reports about it. There was one where a guy, you know, ran through a parking lot naked and threw himself through a car windshield and was mysteriously unharmed. And I have all his experts ending, like, is he a human terminator? Has he been infected with a bacteria that makes him not feel pain? And Henry is like, no, he’s on bath salts. There was a news story about it like two days later, the local TV station. So anyway, I really recommend the show. It’s dumb, escapist and really, really fun.
S5: But also apparently promotes critical thinking. But dies is falling like an ancient and accidental ancient aliens marathon in a hotel room one time, like a lot, traveling alone for words like come back to the hotel room it was on. And I was just like, I’m in whatever that it I’m in for episode after episode of this.
S1: So my friend Marcia Clark, who is a tenured professor of African-American studies at Georgetown, was on that recent History Channel documentary, Grant, about Ulysses S. Grant and where we turned. And we watched her on it. And I was texting her and I was like, you know what? Until you’re on ancient aliens, this means nothing to me. Nothing ancient aliens. Is it the show to be on? It’s so stupid and so magnificent and great goes.
S4: If you are going to be watching funny shows, as many of us have been doing at night or watching unfund shows like news, you’re probably going to be having a glass of wine or two or three while you watch. So I’d like to recommend one of my favorite wine brands. It’s the McBryde Sisters collection. They have a really interesting story. These two sisters were raids across the world from one another, didn’t know that they know one another existed. So one was raised in New Zealand and one was raised in California. And they found each other, I believe, as young adults and found that they both had a serious passion for wine. And they have since launched the, I think, largest African-American wine label in the country. So and their wines are quite good. They have a really nice Riesling and they also have a collection called the She Can Collection. And it comes in a can some of the proceeds from the she can collection go into the Mike McBride sister. She can Professional Development Fund, which promotes the professional advancement of women in the wine industry, and they’ve given out some forty thousand dollars in scholarships to women through that fund thus far. So check out McBryde sisters that come. She actually was introduced to them by my daughter’s stepmother, who sent me a few of their bottles of wine for Mother’s Day this year.
S11: Very nice. Good stuff. Well, ladies, thank you all so much for another great episode. We had a lot to discuss today and hopefully the conversation that we had was helpful listeners for you and your families. We’re grateful to Trina Green Brown for joining us. And to you all for listening. So one more time, if you have a question, please e-mail us at mom and dad at Slate that come and join us on Facebook. Just search for Slate parenting. Mom and Dad are fighting is produced by Rosemarie Bellson or Elizabeth New Camp. And Rebecca, the boy I able to new.
S12: Hi, Slate plus listeners. Thank you so much for your support. It really means a lot to us and we’re always very happy to provide you with a little additional cause. And so today we thought it’d be great to address some of the other questions that we received in the past couple of weeks that we didn’t get to on the main show. One of them centers around colorism and bias based on complexion, which is a nuance but very important aspect of talking to your children about race and racism. So we had to bring in the big guns. Joining me today is that year, Kiara Banks. She is a clinical psychologist and associate professor at St. Louis University and a researcher on issues of race, racial identity and the effects of discrimination on mental health. Dr. Banks facilitates difficult dialogues, consults on equity and diversity, including for the Ferguson Commission. And on top of it all. She hopes to show raising equity. We’ll have a link to that in our show notes. She’s doing a lot, as so many of us are above ground, not doing nearly as much as you are. Banks. So your work. Thanks for having me. Yeah. Thank you for joining us. It’s such a small world. I met your husband in Ferguson. I was down there doing some work for Ebony in 2014 and we later connected with him to do some photography for the magazine. You are such an amazing family. Oh, thank you. The work that both of you all are doing on behalf of our people is so meaningful and so powerful. So I was really excited when our friend connected you and I. And I realized that you were the doctor cure of banks.
S13: Well, yeah. I mean, it is a small world. And he was he was definitely out there more than I was in Ferguson. I was doing a lot of behind the scenes work in terms of like mental health support. And so it’s always interesting, like the people that he knows are doing those people that I know. And so the world is so small. And then also we’re sorority sisters.
S12: We are sorority sisters. I didn’t know that, Aaron. Just let me know. Oh, you know, now that you mention I think he told me that when we met. It’s been six years.
S13: Right. Can you believe it? There’s some days when I, like, can’t believe it. And there’s some days where it feels like it was yesterday. It is. It ebbs and flows.
S12: Absolutely. So much work that you were doing at that time and so much more words that have come around since then and so many important conversations that many of us have been having with our children all along. Because, yeah, as we talked about earlier, it’s not an option for black parents to talk about race and racism, something we’re not sheltered from. But finally, other families and folks are bringing their children into these conversations, many of them in ways that are hopefully going to be beneficial impact. And there are some complicated nuances when it relates to how we speak to our children about race. Even those of us that are people of color and have so much more experience. And one of the most nuanced, complicated issues within those conversations has to do with color them complexion bias. So let’s hear the first one and talk about it.
S7: Hi, Mom and Dad. I was hoping you could give me some advice. I’m talking to my biracial children about race and privilege. I am biracial and my husband is white. My 16 and 11 year old daughters look white. My 14 year old son inherited at least some of my melanin and is much more obviously a person of color than his sisters. How do I talk to them about the white privilege their father and my daughter will have based on their appearances? How do I talk about the bias? My son will have to contend with throughout his life? We don’t have black family members to talk about this with, as my father died when I was very young and I never really had any relationship with his family. We’ve talked about racism and the history of black, indigenous and people of color in the U.S. throughout their lives. But I’ve now realized that we’ve never talked about the ways that three of them will be seen and treated differently.
S13: That’s heavy. It isn’t. It isn’t right. So it’s heavy, but it’s fear. As a family willing to have these conversations, you have willing parties who have different experiences right there under the same roof. So it’s an opportunity. Right. You have people who are maybe white presenting or white passing. You have folks who identify as white. You have a young man who is probably identified as a person of color. But I don’t know how he identifies himself. Right. And then mom, who identifies as biracial. And so it’s it’s a real opportunity to simply notice and pay attention to how the world perceives them, but also to make sure you highlight the fact that you get to self identify. Right. Like that as a young man and the young women as well. Like the world might perceive you in some ways. And that’s going to lead to differential experiences and and to be willing to notice that and point it out, but also to make sure that they have the agency to self identify. They get to identify how they want to identify. And oftentimes when you have multiracial families, kids are made to feel like they have to choose who you want to make sure that you don’t make them feel like they have to make a choice or pick. So I think it’s a matter of being open to noticing and paying attention to what’s happening. Oh, do you notice how your sister was treated this way or they expected this from her? But when you came in, they made these assumptions. That’s about them and the things that they think about people. Right? That’s not about you. That’s not a reflection on you. We’re the same family. You know, we have the same values. That’s really something that I want you to understand that you do. You shouldn’t own about who you are. That is their stuff. That’s what they believe.
S12: I think what makes this set of circumstances somewhat unique compared to other letters that we’ve gotten for certain and other stories I’ve heard from families that are grappling with these sort of issues, is that because the letter writer herself is biracial and did not have, from what it sounds like, that sort of foundation in her own upbringing? Right. So that the language is unfamiliar and that perhaps there were not as many complicated conversations about the nature of mixed race identity and specifically mixed race black identity. And so now having to interrogate that with children who, you know, two of whom are white passing and that there is not definitely speaks a set of experiences that she herself perhaps can’t fully identify with because they’re all walk in. The biracial woman has been different because it was guided largely by a white mother.
S13: Right. And so this is an invitation for her to deepen her analysis. And I know that might feel scaring, overwhelming. Maybe that’s a psychologist in me that thinks it’s exciting and juicy and it’s an opportunity to lean in. And I use in my raising equity work, I use this framework to think about how we can raise equity nerds. Right. Like, we think about engaging our kids in select sports and rigorous academics. But we often don’t think about how to get rigorous with them around social issues. And so it’s an acronym that can help people think about how they do that. So you can you can think about how you in name what’s happening. So to name maybe a color ism that’s happening or prejudice or discrimination on the basis of race that’s happening, which will happen differently for the people in the family or to name the privilege that some are getting, that others aren’t in the family. And then you want to educate yourself about the backstory, like how did we get here? What’s the story behind this? So that you can then, ah, reframe it so that it’s okay? Yes, my sister might be being treated this way. This might be some white privilege she’s experiencing that I’m not. But it’s not just about us as individuals. It is. But there’s this pattern rightly. There’s a history in our country that is systematically advantaged white folks and systematically disadvantage black and indigenous folks of color. And so to reframe it so that you can see the pattern and then d dream up solutions like what would it look like for us all to be able to walk into a store and be treated with respect or whatever that is like. How would you dream up a solution to for things to be more equitable and then start to act? What’s the next smallest possible step that you can take that would move us towards equity? So I would invite this mother into reflecting and practicing naming what’s happening so that she can maybe learn along with her children about these topics rather than feeling like she has to know it all. They can learn together and notice together and walk through that equity nerd’s framework together.
S12: There’s a book that I want to recommend, and then I would like to hear what sort of readings you recommend for this letter writer and other parents who may be grappling with issues of mixed race identity as well as just speaking. To your children about race and privilege, regardless of what their backgrounds may be, and I mention this book, I’m sure, a few times on the show at this point, Dr. Beverly Daniel Tatums, why are all the black kids sitting together in the cafeteria? And it takes on a racial identity development in children and talks about, you know, how the way that we see ourselves is constructed as a result of our experiences at home when we go on to school, when we consume media. And there’s a lot of really kind of eye opening information about what that looks like for mixed race children in relation to their parents. So obviously, their children that are very obviously, you know, you can see the parent of color in them immediately and they’re likely to be identified as such or, you know, perhaps as somebody who is of mixed heritage. But the headline, if you will, is that they are black or that they are, you know, Asian. But the mixed part maybe not as obvious to the casual observer or it may not be relevant at all, because if you are perceived to be black, you are black and everything else is in the eyes of the beholder. But what other books do you recommend? Dr. Banks that could be of use to this letter writer?
S13: Well, we’re of the same mind because that’s an oldie but goodie. And Dr. Tatum was a mentor of mine in undergrad, so she’s shaped a lot of my thinking. And so my research on racial identity started with her and it started under her under her mentorship. And then Bill Cross, who’s at UMass AMR’s, also did a lot of research on racial identity for black folks and how we come to understand ourselves. So that’s a great one. And they just came out with a 20th anniversary edition a couple of years ago. So make sure to get the newer edition because there’s more information. Yeah, that’s a solid one that I would say. The other ones that I can think of are more academic in nature. Colorism has become a really big topic in the academic world in the past few years. I have a few chapters that I’ve written on the topic, but it’s all over academic. It’s not really accessible. So I don’t know that I recommend it.
S12: Have you read The Color Complex? I haven’t. I think the first time I read The Color Complex, I may have been in middle school. So it’s been around for quite some time. Is written by a black male, author of Black Female Author, White Female Author. And it takes on this complicated issue of complexion, bias and specifically how it informs the experiences of black folks in something that a lot of folks outside of our community don’t necessarily understand, though they’re quite capable of perpetuating it, is that there is a hierarchy of privilege that in many ways is the line with how dark you are when it comes to most measurable outcomes. Right. When we look at quality of life. Darker complexion, people suffer more. It’s reflected in the statistics around partnership and marriage. It’s reflected in autistics around economics, from employment to success in the workplace. And it is devastating. And it is a system of bias and privilege that black folks are quite capable of perpetuating and inadvertently we’re exposed to. I think a lot more diversity in terms of the complexions and the hair textures that we see in media today, certainly than in the 30s, 40s, 50s, 60s, when you saw most of the fleet, black people that you saw on television. We’re going to have their hair chemically or he’s straightened and you know, nearly all of the women, we’re gonna be of a lighter complexion if they were portraying a romantic lead or interests of some sort. And we still have a very long way to go in changing and diversify, you know, the representation of black people in media. I would argue, particularly as it relates to women know, anyway, the color complex takes a look at what colorism is on a global scale and focuses specifically on how it impacts the lives of African-Americans, say people of African descent in America.
S13: Yeah. And I think that it’s important. Like you said, it’s global. So in our research in colorism, we’ve seen it also manifest in some East Asian South Asian cultures and some cultures in South America, Brazil in particular. There’s a really big color hierarchy. And so you’re right. We developed actually a colleague of mine developed a measure of color ism like thinks into which you endorse those attitudes. And you mentioned right. Attraction, who you are affiliated with yourself concept. Right. So who you want to be associated with, those sorts of dynamics are definitely impacted by those ideas and those messages. And so it is important for us to interrogate that and to not play into those negative narratives based on skin tone.
S12: Many of us are having conversations with our children that are much like the conversations we would have been having if there wasn’t a news moment that forced them. And a lot of parents are having these conversations for the first time. What sort of advice do you offer or helping us to introduce the concept of.
S13: He to our children, as opposed to equality, I think kids are primed to understand it because they they so know about fairness and justice. They know what’s fair and it’s unfair. Right. And so I talk to my children and other children. Right. About helping them understand how things are set up, the rules, for example. And when it comes to schools my boys were in, I think it was chess club and they went around to different schools for meat. And my oldest was maybe seven or eight. And he could tell you which ones had better playgrounds, which ones were nicer buildings. Right. And so we started to talk about the difference in school options and how schools were funded and how in some ways we talked about how property taxes and how much the houses are worth is often linked to how much funding the schools have. And so he was able to say, well, that’s not fair because a kid who has it not as big of a house or doesn’t you know, they should have a good education, too. And so we were able to start to talk about how we have created disparate experiences in our society on the basis of class, on the basis of race. And so that gave us an opportunity to talk about, well, what would be a more fair and just way to do this? What would it be fair to give, you know, every school, new iPads and he’s like, well, but this school might already have that because they have a lot of things already. It would be right. We need to think about what this other school might need. And so kids get it. They get that. It’s not just about making sure everyone has the same. They understand that it’s important to think about what’s in the environment, what what’s fair for what’s going on. And then it’s also important to show them how we’ve created those unfair and unjust circumstances, not just how we solve for them. I also think specific to what’s happening now in terms of police violence. One of the conversations I’ve had with my children is the history of policing. Its roots are are very much intertwined with racism as a way to police the black body during the institution of slavery, during Jim Crow, the way in which we often saw the KKK and the police as one and the same, because they often were one and the same. And so trying to help them understand that the systems have been set up in a way that aren’t fair and aren’t just. And so that helps us understand what’s happening today. But that helps us also understand how we might interrupt that banks.
S12: Thank you so much. We’re linking to Dr. Rice’s Web site and the show notes so you can follow raising equity and the great work that she’s doing. And check out the Raising Equity podcast. We really appreciate you. And thank you so much for being here today.
S13: Yeah. Thanks for giving attention to the important topic. Talking to our kids about race is important. And specifically, colorism is one that we need to we need to be willing to address.
S12: Definitely. Thank you so much. And listeners, again, thank you for your support of Slate. Plus, we’re very happy to bring you this extra premium content after the show. Encourage your friends to sign up so they can have a little bit more. Mom and dad are fighting in their lives as well, too. Thank you so much. And we’ll talk next week.