Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Talking to kids about race


The recent bullshit brouhahas about race ("Is Santa Clause white?") have gotten me thinking about how to explain it to kids. I'm sick of words like "black" and "white" being treated as meaningful categories, when they are just the remnants of an system of exploitation.

I found several websites providing advice on how to speak to kids about racism, and describing scenarios about how the discussion might come up:

katie couric
Hand-in-hand parenting

One thing I will not do is tell my kids that "we're all the same on the inside". I find that idea to be demeaning; we are different, and it is our differences that make society work by allowing us to complement each other's strengths and reducing the competition that occurs when we all seek the same thing.

I'm hoping I'm lucky enough to get a straight-forward question from my kids, like "Joe says he's white, what does that mean?"

My answer might go something like this...

"Long ago, a group of greedy people wanted to steal from other people. They labeled their victims "black" because of how they looked and called everyone who looked like themselves "white". They said that it was okay for whites to steal from blacks. These greedy people were in charge for a long time, so they convinced everyone else to use labels like "black" and "white". They aren't in charge anymore, but people still use those labels because they've gotten used to the labels. Now those words are just a quick way to describe how a person looks, but they are sloppy words and you should be more detailed when describing what a person looks like."