There is an attitude among many parent-peers of mine in the DC metro area that frequently astounds me – parents I meet feel that by being “color blind” themselves, that somehow (magically?) their children will be open-minded, accepting, and capable of navigating complicated racial situations.
There really is no other way to say it…it’s a huge parenting failure. Maybe in an Utopian society we could all have the privilege of being “color blind,” but we live in the real world and only a fool thinks that color doesn’t matter on this planet.
A recent study by the Children’s Research Lab at the University of Texas backs up my POV on the subject. Austin area families participated in a study in which the goal was to determine “if typical children’s videos with multicultural story lines have a beneficial effect on children’s racial attitudes” (Newsweek).
There were three groups of families involved in the study. The first was group was sent home with just videos, the second group with videos and talking points, and the third group of families were given only the talking points. The last two groups were told to have conversations about race with their children every night for five nights.
At this point, something interesting happened. Five families in the last group abruptly quit the study. Two directly told Vittrup, “We don’t want to have these conversations with our child. We don’t want to point out skin color.”
Vittrup was taken aback—these families volunteered knowing full well it was a study of children’s racial attitudes. Yet once they were aware that the study required talking openly about race, they started dropping out.
“We don’t want to point out skin color.” Does that stop anyone from noticing skin color? Does that stop children from forming opinions on their own? In the absence of a guiding influence, children will substitute their own poor judgments, or worse, the hate-filled judgments of someone else.
The study went on to say:
It was no surprise that in a liberal city like Austin, every parent was a welcoming multiculturalist, embracing diversity. But according to Vittrup’s entry surveys, hardly any of these white parents had ever talked to their children directly about race. They might have asserted vague principles—like “Everybody’s equal” or “God made all of us” or “Under the skin, we’re all the same”—but they’d almost never called attention to racial differences.
They wanted their children to grow up colorblind. But Vittrup’s first test of the kids revealed they weren’t colorblind at all. Asked how many white people are mean, these children commonly answered, “Almost none.” Asked how many blacks are mean, many answered, “Some,” or “A lot.” Even kids who attended diverse schools answered the questions this way.
More disturbing, Vittrup also asked all the kids a very blunt question: “Do your parents like black people?” Fourteen percent said outright, “No, my parents don’t like black people”; 38 percent of the kids answered, “I don’t know.” In this supposed race-free vacuum being created by parents, kids were left to improvise their own conclusions—many of which would be abhorrent to their parents.
Are these parents really surprised? If you have values to impart to your children about equality, it will take more than vague statements about everyone being “the same.” Kids are smart. They know very well that we are not all “the same.” What they need to hear is that we are all uniquely different, and they need reasons to value that uniqueness. You, parents, need to find ways to value people of color. Find ways to compliment and seek out positive statements to impart to your children. Have frequent, open conversations about race. Talk about slavery, talk about segregation, talk about miscegenation, talk about stereotypes and hurtful language…talk, talk, and then talk more! Kids need to know what is acceptable and they need to see with eyes that are wide open, not color blind.
At first glance, the study appears to be a dismal failure. Many of the families did not talk about race at all, or changed the talking points. However, there was a ray of hope:
Of all those Vittrup told to talk openly about interracial friendship, only six families managed to actually do so. And, for all six, their children dramatically improved their racial attitudes in a single week. Talking about race was clearly key. Reflecting later about the study, Vittrup said, “A lot of parents came to me afterwards and admitted they just didn’t know what to say to their kids, and they didn’t want the wrong thing coming out of the mouth of their kids.”
In ONE short week, all six of those families improved the racial attitudes of their children. By TALKING. Imagine that.
I understand that parents are hesitant to talk about race for fear of saying the wrong thing. I encourage you (beg, really) to try. Seek out some material if you need it. There are books, websites, and blogs with plenty of good advice. The simplest (and most obvious) thing to do, is to seek out some interracial friendships of your own, and then talk to your friends about how to discuss race. I guarantee they will be happy to help you have positive discussions about race with your children. Also, it’s worth saying that if you espouse a desire to have children who embrace multiculturalism, and you have no friends of color, then you should practice being what you desire your children to be. If your children never see you have a meaningful friendship with someone of another race, what does that really tell them? Just food for thought.
What I do know, is that doing nothing is the wrong answer. Clearly, not talking about race leaves children confused and unsure at best, and harboring racist thoughts at worst. It’s up to parents to guide our children through complicated racial issues. It’s time to embrace the task, rather than dread it. What could be more affirming than to teach your children how to walk in this world, not colorblind, but with an appreciation for diversity and a sense of value for all people.
originally posted at Golden Acorn Homeschool » Blog Archive » Why You Should Be Talking About Race.
- Is It OK to Point Out the Differences Among Races? (race.change.org)
- Colorblind parents could handicap their biracial kids (thegrio.com)
- Getting to Post-Post-Racial (theroot.com)
- Starting the conversation (psychologytoday.com)
- Wray Herbert: Colorblind? Or Just Blind to Justice? (huffingtonpost.com)
My heart has been grieving over the immigration battle brewing in the state of Arizona. SB1070 is nothing short of government sponsored terrorism toward people of color, particularly our Mexican brothers and sisters.
I do consider both Mexican nationals, and Americans of Mexican descent, to be my brothers and sisters. I try to think of all the people in this world as my extended family. Why? Because I am a Christian and the Bible tells me that my God created all men and women in His image and calls us His children.
And while I do understand that some of the people who are being terrorized by this law have come to America illegally, I also understand that many American citizens are being terrorized as well. I wonder how this law can be applied without resorting to racial profiling, effectively making “brown the new black.”
As I have researched further into the issue, I have discovered the racist origins of the new law, and the [un]surprisingly stacked deck against people of color being able to immigrate legally to America. I encourage all Americans to uncover the truth of these things for themselves and give it serious thought.
But beyond the origins SB1070 and the legalities of immigration, I feel very strongly about this issue from the human rights perspective.
You see, America rapes and plunders the world.
We steal the resources of third world nations. We rob the people of these nations by paying shockingly sub-par wages. We industrialize and mine in them without following our own environmental standards. We wage wars and make refugees out of the citizens.
Doesn’t it make sense that the people we steal from would attempt to follow their wealth and resources to America? Mexico and Latin America are being destroyed by America’s drug war. Latinos are having their homes and neighborhoods taken over by cartels and gangs and we did this!
We have made them refugees and when they come here seeking the freedom and opportunities that we have denied them, we treat them like the worst kinds of criminals. Most of the people who immigrate illegally into the US are not criminals – they are hard working, honest, and good people. The supposed crime statistics just don’t add up.
So how can we, who call ourselves Christians, support the violent offenses against our brothers and sisters? Do they deserve to have their homes raided? Do families deserve to be torn apart? Do children need to lose their parents? Do honest, hard-working people (who otherwise would never be allowed to come here, check the history!) deserve to be treated like the scum of the earth?
Let me just say this before moving on – Manifest destiny is not proof of “God’s blessing” on America. Manifest destiny is the rationalization of theft in the name of God. Think about it. How would be feel about Mexico’s “manifest destiny” to take back their original lands? Yeah, I thought so.
Just because we are experiencing difficult economic times in our nation, does that mean it’s ok to develop a mob mentality and start going after “those dirty Mexicans who steal all of our jobs”?
Those who claim to be Christians should be doing anything in their power to alleviate pain and suffering on our planet. Starting with how we treat those people who are already here, and then extending that grace to the nations we have been destroying. Why? Because Jesus tells us to to bring heaven to earth!
“This, then, is how you should pray:
‘Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name,
your kingdom come, your will be done on earth as it is in heaven.
Give us today our daily bread.
Forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors.
And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from the evil one.‘
For if you forgive men when they sin against you, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive men their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins.”
Jesus asks us to pray for God’s kingdom to be on earth as it is in heaven. We have been bringing hell to earth and robbing the people of this planet of their peace and joy. Do you think the kingdom of God is so divided? Will there is Mexico Heaven and America Heaven and Canada Heaven? I think not! We are one planet, one people.
“The entire law is summed up in a single command: “Love your neighbor as yourself.” Galatians 5:14
The entire law, which Jesus came to fulfill, can be summed up as loving your neighbor as yourself.
I have read this carefully, and I haven’t found that is specifies only white neighbors, or “good” neighbors, or “nice” neighbors, or Christian neighbors. It just says neighbors. Whether your neighbors are the people who live next door to you in your neighborhoods, or they are the neighbors of our nation, this text applies. We are to love them as we love ourselves.
We have destroyed their homes and stolen their resources. We have done the opposite of loving our neighbor. Would you steal, destroy, and pillage your own family? Would you condone the ripping apart of loved ones? Yet, we do! As long is it’s a mentality of us vs. them.
So, maybe you can’t see immigrants as your neighbor yet. Although you should, I understand we are all on varying stages of acceptance. I know many ‘Christians’ who see immigrants as enemies who steal jobs, burden our economy, and reap the benefits of American tax dollars. If that is the case, you are still without excuse!
“You have heard that it was said, ‘Love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I tell you: Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you.” Matthew 5:43-44
Because we are called to love even our enemies and to pray for those who persecute us! Love them, for God *is* love, and God created us all. There is divinity in every person on this planet. We all bear the image of God.
Your hatred and treatment of immigrants is the same as murder. Did you get that Christians?
“You have heard that our ancestors were told, ‘You must not murder. If you commit murder, you are subject to judgment.’ But I say, if you are even angry with someone, you are subject to judgment! If you call someone an idiot, you are in danger of being brought before the court. And if you curse someone, you are in danger of the fires of hell.” Matthew 5:21-22
Those are strong words, but they are needed. We humans are pretty thickheaded. Christians, I fear, even more so. We read these words, but fail to even come close to living up to them. We are supposed to be the radical ones on this planet. Not living life in judgment of all those around us, condemning them for their sins. No, we are supposed to be radical in our love, radical in how we treat one another, radical in meeting the needs of those who are weak, hungry, sick, poor, and downtrodden.
Christians in the first century church sold all their possessions and gave to those in the community so that none had need. Think about what America does. Rather than give up even some of our possessions and wealth to those in need, we steal even more! We are so far from the calling of Christ.
I challenge you to rethink what it means to be a Christian and what stance you should be taking on immigration. Think about how you need to change yourself and your thoughts first, and then focus an eye on changing the hurts of our world. Immigrants don’t need to be vilified…they need to be loved, treated with respect, and shown the true light of Christ’s message. Sadly, all they see from us – supposed Christians – is darkness, hatred, and fear.
The word ‘sin’ in the original Greek means “to miss the mark” Christians are indeed missing the mark on this issue, and many more that relate directly to how we treat others. Not only are we guilty of this sin, but we make the message of Christ unappealing. You represent Christ….so, how are you doing with that?
I have been meaning to ask a dear friend to crosspost as a guest blogger for some time, and the only good thing about the Reebok ads is, they provided a golden opportunity I couldn’t pass up. So, uh… thanks Reebok. Sorta.
I have always preferred Nike running shoes and athletic gear, but I have owned a few things from Reebok in the past, such as swimsuits and a few outfits and pieces of clothing. Not anymore!
As of yesterday, Reebok will no longer be getting any of my family’s hard earned dollars. Here’s why:
and the worse one yet:
I am so disgusted, I can barely string a coherent sentence together. Why (someone PLEASE tell me why), a commercial for athletic shoes needs to be sexualized like that?
Why is it OK for Reebok to tell my daughters that the “real” reason for exercising is so a man can appreciate their assets?
Why is it OK for my son to absorb the message that he should ogle women and only value them for physical appearance?
I have no problem with a shoe that helps tone the butt and thighs. That’s a good thing, really, and with a smart marketing campaign I might have been interested in these shoes.
I am definitely not interested in contributing to the misogynistic view that women are nothing more than bodies to be objectified, and that the only reason to be fit is to be sexually appealing to a man. What about good health? What about strength? What about endurance, self-esteem, and pride?
So, Reebok, you have decidedly FAILED in my estimation. I am sure there are many men who appreciate these “commercials” you have created. I’d be willing to bet there are plenty of women who see “nothing wrong” with wanting to look sexy so men will notice them.
I want to look attractive for my husband, too, but for more than my body! I hope he is attracted to my intelligence, my humor, my personality…as well as my physical appearance.
The real problem with these ads is that they feed into an already warped sense of value in America. Media images such as these lodge themselves in the minds of young children (and adults), and continue to perpetuate the dysfunctional idea of women as mere sexual objects. Girls begin to believe the message and their self-esteem becomes wrapped up in how sexually appealing they can be. Boys continue to embrace the message because it lets them off the hook in regard to their behavior and having to respect women as equals.
These might seem like “just commercials” to many viewers. But what does it say to us, as a society, if it can be so blatant, and yet we sit around asking, “What’s the big deal?”
“The eye is the lamp of the body. If your eyes are good, your whole body will be full of light. But if your eyes are bad, your whole body will be full of darkness. If then the light within you is darkness, how great is that darkness!” Matthew 6:22-23
Many thanks to Cyndi for alerting me to these “ads.”