OK, so if this is your first time here, some quick background info: I live in an inner city neighborhood and am a free range mom of three. My son will be 15 at the end of the month, my elder daughter 12 in August, and my younger daughter is 8.5. All three use the city’s public transit system to varying degrees. My oldest is perfectly capable of planning a route to anywhere he wants to go (volunteer work downtown or a sporting goods store in the neighboring suburb) by using the transit book, my middle child travels mostly direct routes with the occasional transfer on familiar routes in our neighborhood, and my youngest is always accompanied by at least one of the older two. We’ve talked about the difference between making conversation and fishing for information and what they should and should not divulge. We’ve discussed the unlikely possibility of abduction or assault, what they should do if they are threatened and what they can do to prevent being targeted in the first place. They stay home alone regularly while I run errands in our neighborhood on weekends and occasionally while I’m at work, which is only 10-15 minutes away. One of my next door neighbors is retired as is the couple across the street, and there is a police substation less than a quarter of a mile away, should an emergency arise that needs addressed faster then I could get home. They know where the power breaker is, how to shut off the water supply to each toilet as well as the main water supply to the house. They know that unless I have told them I’m expecting someone to drop by, they are not even to approach the door if someone knocks and I am not home. We’ve discussed what to do or not do if there was an attempted burglary.
So this is my little free range success story. Short version: My three kids were home alone, making ramen (on the stove *gasp*) when someone came to the door. I had actually stepped away from my desk to speak to a coworker and missed two calls and a text from my son that someone was at the door and wouldn’t leave. When that someone entered the back yard, my son called my direct number at work but I didn’t quite make it back to my desk before it went to voicemail, but seeing the missed calls on my phone, figured it had been the kids and called right back.
“Mom, why haven’t you been answering your phone? This guy just stole my bike.”
So it takes me a second to gather that this is actually still in progress and the guy is still in view of the house. I figured was a good time to take my lunch break, told my son to hang up, call 9-1-1 and that I was on my way. I got home 15 minutes later, and as I approached the turn onto our street, the burglar was being apprehended around the corner from home and my kids were in driveway giving a police report to another officer. They’d already given a detailed scenario as well as descriptions of the stolen bike, what the guy was wearing, and his general physical features. The officer asked about how old the guy looked, and Tyler said, “eh… 35 to 45 years old. Halle chimed in, “I’d say he was in his late thirties.” Daija was pouting because they made her hide in the closet and she didn’t get to see him at all. Both girls were green with envy as Tyler left with the officer taking the report to ID the suspect and the property. When they returned, the officer explained our options, and I was proud again that Tyler indicated a desire to aid in prosecution.
When one of the officers that apprehended the burglar returned Tyler’s bike (and an empty propane tank… don’t know why he didn’t take the nearly full one from the grill?) a half hour after that, he asked me to tell my son (the spokesperson at the old age of 14) how proud he was of him, and all of them, and what a great job I’d done preparing them to handle an emergency.
I basked in the knowledge that my kids stayed calm and handled the kind of worse case scenario most parents cite as justification for helicopter parenting, then went back inside to share his praise (as well as one or two things to do better if we ever find ourselves in that situation again).
As I headed back to work, they had already resumed their lunches and promised me they were going to make sure to clean up the kitchen & dining room as soon as they were done (oh, they lie so earnestly…). Just before I shoved it into my purse, I looked down at the police report information the officer gave me before he left…
The suspect will be 37 in a couple months.
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)
Blue gel doesn’t turn white. It just stays blue, and stains the wall. It will also cause your mother to spew obscenities, after which you will get a lecture from your father that lasts a solid 45 minutes (and counting).
I mean, we already talk because the bottom line is if you don’t talk to them, Lil Wayne‘s going to talk to them. So, I mean, really.Somebody’s going to talk them – I love New York – somebody’s going to talk to them. So the point is, who’s going to talk and what’s going to be said? And I like what he did because what was said needed to be said. It was from personal experience. I’m anxious for part two, okay? There’s nothing like being able to share with your daughter what you went through, you understand? Because she’s looking – my daughter’s looking at me. You know, she may like Michelle Obama, she may like her grandmother, but she’s looking at me.
Let that last sentence marinate… I mean, really, really marinate. When our daughters are looking at us, what are we showing them? Regardless of what we tell them, what do they see? Read more…
I know you’re being pulled in a lot of different directions. I know that you don’t want to disappoint me, but you don’t want to look like a baby to your friends. I know that sometimes it’s easier to go with the crowd than create a conflict. I know that sometimes it’s easier to let someone else take the lead rather than make a tough decision. Sometimes it might seem like if you let someone else set the pace, then they’re responsible for whatever happens.
I know sometimes it seems that way, but it’s not. People are generally going to treat you the way you allow them to treat you. So YOU have to decide how that’s going to be. YOU have to decide what your expectations are for yourself, and YOU have to communicate those expectations. If you don’t, you’re going to find yourself being treated in ways that you may not like, and in situations you don’t want to be in.
Your friend found herself in a compromising situation today. She had the power to have completely changed that dynamic. It’s not going to be that long before you girls are dating, and it really bothers me to see a trend developing where 11yo girls are letting 11yo boys make decisions about how their bodies are going to be touched. I hope you never give your power to a boy that way.
You looked surprised when I said you have power. You’re becoming a woman, and that’s the most incredible power. Someday your body will be able to create and sustain a life. Someday THIS BODY will make a miracle. Your body is the source of your power. It’s yours and yours alone to decide who you will share it with. Intimacy is a gift, one to be shared with someone that you care about, not something to be taken lightly by someone who just wants to see how far he can go or what he can get away with.
So a couple weeks ago I was invited to be a contributing blogger for multiracial families at The Next Family. My contributions will actually start waaaay back in 1999 when I first started blogging, so readers can kinda follow along with our family story. So, if you happen to have missed the last ten years of my wit, wisdom, and sheer brilliance… by all means, hustle on over there and subscribe to the RSS feed.
What is The Next Family?
The Next Family is a diverse community where modern families meet. It is the start of an on-going open minded and sincere dialog between urbanite families, adoptive families, in vitro parents, interracial families, same sex parents, single parents and so on. It is a way to remind people that the Next Generation of families already exists in larger numbers than the old model of a “family unit”.
The Next Family is the foundation of future families.
As you navigate through our site, please start the dialog with us by offering input as to the ways today’s Modern Families aren’t being served. Let us know what products you wish you had access to or cool stuff you would like to be created just for your “Next Family”.
This site will have resources available and answers to those tough questions you are asked about your own family or the family around the corner from you. The tough questions are asked, and the answers will be as diverse as our community.
We look forward to hearing your stories, and meeting your family!
You can check out my introduction at The Next Family — A Diverse Community For Modern Families.
Folks, I want to talk with parents – mothers or fathers – who feel basically comfortable with their teenager(s) being on social networking sites like Facebook, Twitter, or MySpace, etc. There are lots of parents who feel pretty passionately about watching over their teenagers in one way or another – by “friending” them, keeping their passwords, and just flat-out telling them they can’t be on these sites. These are not the parents I hope to talk with. If you are aware that your teenager is on these sites (or at least one of them), and you pretty much trust your teenager and do not intervene, I’d love to talk with you.
Please e-mail me (firstname.lastname@example.org) or leave a comment here (http://karenrayne.com/2009/11/17/parents-and-teens-and-social-networking/)…
Please feel free to post this request anywhere you feel would be appropriate.