Let’s Talk About Race, Baby



Sweet Kate. Every day I think about such a thing, and soon enough, my sons will be thinking about such a thing as well. The impedance of race is an undeniable weight.

Conversation about race with our boys is a progression. Our sons love all people, just like we taught them. One day, sooner than I prefer, we will have talks about the words and actions of people they innocently love and trust. We will discuss specific institutions and patterns of behavior. At some point, we will have to use examples from our own portfolio. Who needs national, sensationalized TV when you can reach into your own backpack of experiences? Our boys are becoming more aware. They pick up inequality between the two of them in who gets the bigger half of the apple and compare their number of Christmas presents. It makes sense to accept they will pick up differences among their peers. It is important for us to speak directly to their questions and challenges. We will acknowledge how race and class, often intertwined, are both systemic and isolated issues. Race must be addressed to help our sons navigate through life maturely.

One fundamental principle we teach our sons is people deserve to live life without bias from others. Another fundamental principle we teach our sons is people will live life with bias from others.”

Withholding or denying respect and opportunity from others because of personal bias is shameful. My own heart bled for the accused as I recently watched ESPN’s 30 for 30 Fantastic Lies documentary about the Duke Lacrosse team scandal. That was 10 years ago, and the lessons still ring true: What we see on the outside is never the real story. Parents are the primary example of human dignity. We must step up, even when it is most difficult, most humbling, and most annoying. Once, a cranky, older, peach-colored woman nudged my boys with her grocery cart because they were apparently standing between her and her favorite ice cream. I wondered if she simply had a problem with brown people. Because, really? Who randomly nudges children with their grocery cart? I chose to give her the benefit of the doubt. She was just cranky. I guided my boys away from the freezer section and kindly told her she should say excuse me next time. After all, they are just young children. Her cranky and wrinkled face relaxed a bit, and she apologized. Bless her sweet heart. My boys never missed a beat.

If only every scenario was so easy . . . so meaningless. Unfortunately, this is not the case. As they grow, we must have a strategy. Here is a peek into our approach.

  1. See it from their side – Sometimes, I make a point to get head level with my boys and follow their eyes wherever they go just to see life literally from their view. For whatever reason, race and hair go hand in hand and it has come up several times in our home. Interestingly, my youngest son has a head full of loose curly hair, often the attention of every friend’s mother, no matter whom. My oldest son has tighter curls, which I love, as his hair feels like soft cotton. My oldest has noticed, with the help of his well-meaning friends, how his hair does not fly in the wind like theirs. I cannot emphasize enough how important it is to lovingly see things from a child’s perspective. Do I panic? No. All he wanted is hair that moves when he runs because he thinks it is cool. It is pretty cool. When unfamiliar conversations come up, we can not make a bigger deal of them than what they are. We tell our boys what makes them super cool and we address their curiosity about others. We highlight the glory in differences. We responsibly help in shaping their view.
  1. Tame the tongue, cleanse the heart – Injustices will occur, and ignorance will be experienced. There are many things to say, but the most important thing is what not to say. We do not jump on a bandwagon of our own bias, speaking negatively about an entire group of people. We model an understanding and respect for authority and rules. We may feel many things, but what we say is everyone makes mistakes, and it is important to forgive. An eternal perspective helps us as we journey through this unjust world.
  1. Know our fit – My husband and I know what it is like to be told in some way, at some point, we do not fit because of racial bias. When it happens to our boys, they will know the truth. They will know telling people they do not fit no matter the reason is simply another way of saying, “I am insecure. I like things my way. Inviting you in makes me feel vulnerable. I do not desire to grow.” We intentionally provide safe places and relationships that flow with love and ease for our sons. Fit comes in doing the right thing, and the only place we want them to belong is with others who do the same. A moral axis is always trendy.

1522886_10152317369669727_1326264215_oThe same lessons I consciously teach my boys through race are the same lessons Kate or any mom can teach her children through any challenge in life. Find the good. Forgive. Trust God. We will teach our children to educate themselves about others from reliable, unbiased sources. We will engage with people who embrace growth and diversity so our sons will do the same. We will confront our own bias and help others without bias. Our boys will see our resources are not threatened but enhanced in doing so.

It is a journey. Dialogue helps.


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