How To Not A Raise A Racist

How To Not A Raise A Racist
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1. Look back and examine how your earliest racial attitudes were formed. If you are an oldster like me, you enjoyed Señor Wences & Speedy Gonzales. Since you were just a kid, you didn't know these caricatures shaped how you saw people of color. You also grew up loving What's Happening, Good Times, Sanford and Son, Sammy Davis, Jr., The Jackson Five, and Stevie Wonder. They were easy to love because they were happy and entertaining as opposed to those angry fist-raised Black Panthers. What were they so mad about? No one told you.

1 (a). You also went to all-girls religious school where there were only two Black girls in the whole school. You and your friends never spoke to these girls, because it was easier not to mix or even try. Now you wonder what school must have been like for those two invisible girls in a sea of white girls.

2.You learned about the Civil War and the Holocaust and learned slavery and anti-semitism were evil and wrong. But then a family friend casually says, "Blacks just aren't as smart as whites." You feel uncomfortable, but since your parents don't say anything, you ignore it. In the car on the way home, your parents tell you, like it's a secret, that the man was wrong, and that all people are equal. But no one wanted to be rude, so no one said anything.

3. You love I Love Lucy but can't imagine dating someone Hispanic because they are uneducated, lazy and drink a lot. You know this because of Speedy Gonzales and Slowpoke Rodriguez. Or you are told to lock the car doors because you are driving through a Black neighborhood. When white people impersonate Black people, you laugh, because you might be poor, weak and scared but least you aren't Black or have an accent. You have a single solitary black high school friend but dating outside your race doesn’t even occur to you.

4. Then you move away, go to college and make new friends. Your world view expands as you meet people of other cultures, races, and gender preferences. Since you never tried to get to know people of other races, you fear saying something offensive or ignorant, so you don't interact as easily as you do with white people. With people who are just like you, white folks from the burbs, there is some kind of easy code, where if you make a cultural generalization, you all laugh because you know it's just a joke and you aren't really racist, because you are creative and liberal and evolved. (But if you have to look around before you make a joke, to make sure no one Black is listening, chances are the joke is a teensy bit racist. Harmless racism... you tell yourself)

5. Then someone (maybe your father) mocks your new gay friend. And it bothers you enough to defend your friend. This is the beginning of understanding the equality that your parents mentioned in secret in order to not offend a racist. You might use this newfound sense of injustice to defend gay people. You watch (and join) protests for gay rights. You realize that progress and equality and allowing people to be different scares a lot of people who think giving minorities equal rights somehow means less power for them. But when watching TV and a relative asks, 'Why do Blacks have to talk like that?', you feel angry inside but say nothing.

6. Then you get a job with Black and white people. At lunch, the white people sit together and all the Black people sit together. But not together. Everyone works hard to integrate. Everyone respects everyone else but silent segregation is deeply entrenched. You don't even realize that you invite the white people from work but not the Black people, because you never really were that close. The door was there and you failed to open it.

7. You are older. You finally meet your life partner, who is not the person you married in Step 6. But you can't make a baby. You take classes to become foster parents. The brilliant, hard working Black course instructor, teaches Black, white, Hispanic and mixed race people how to be foster parents.

Foster parent classes inadvertently teach you more about white privilege than they do about anything else. White people constantly raise hands to answer the questions. The people of color don’t even try. You know everyone in this room is as smart as everyone else, but you begin to wonder if they feel inferior, less educated, or don’t want to appear ignorant. You stop raising your hand in an attempt to level the playing field. But that also feels wrong.

8. Your child is Black. Her birth family's day to day reality exposes you to life without a safety net. You stay close to your child's birth mother and learn how hard it is for Black people to succeed when economic, medical, educational and legal institutions stack the decks against them. You watch this woman try to do the right thing for her family. Her struggle becomes personal. Then Trayvon Martin is shot and George Zimmerman is set free and you begin to learn how much you never knew.

9. You read Nurture Shock to learn about how to not fuck up your kid. Chapter 3 rocks your world. Chapter 3 is "Why White Parents Don't Talk About Race". White parents are uncomfortable discussing race with their kids, but families of color have to discuss racism when their children are as young as three, because they know their kids will be discriminated against, cursed at, bullied or worse.

If you have a daughter, you instill in her the belief that she can be anything, a doctor, lawyer, President of the United States. That's the same way to discuss skin color. Studies indicate that if white parents don't talk with their children about race, kids will learn it on their own, quite possibly not from credible or empathetic sources. The earlier we teach our kids that there are brown, white and blue eggs, but inside we all look the same, the easier. By third grade children have pretty much self-segregated based on looks.

10. When you do have the race chat, and you discuss how there’s brown and white bread but it’s still bread. Or that there are white, brown, blue and spotted eggs, but inside it’s all the same— it can really be that simple. So-and-so might have different color skin, come from a different culture, a different faith, a different language with different food, but we are all people with feelings who deserve love and respect.

Challenge yourself to go one step further. Ask your kid questions. Make race and equality an on-going dialogue, because as your children grow, so does their comprehension of what is happening around them. See Charlottesville and racism and Neo-Nazis and the Presidency as your opportunity to grow a compassionate, informed, integrated citizen of the world.

11. At the park or playground or through preschool, you make Black friends, and you learn to shut up and listen. You learn to not say things like "You're so articulate!" to a Black woman because she hears the silent "For a Black person" at the end of your alleged compliment. You learn to not tell Black people how much better it is nowadays then when you were young. That doesn't help Black lives right now. Your Jewish friends hopefully learn to not say, "We know about suffering and prejudice." Believe me, it's different when you are judged just by turning a street corner.

PS: And you brace yourself for the day you have to explain racism to your tiny, shining, bright, life-hungry three year old Black daughter.


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