Hello Meltingpot Readers,
My son is in the fifth grade. Recently they had to take those fill-in-the-bubble tests that supposedly test achievement. As part of the test, the kids have to fill in a bubble that describes their racial background. The teacher sent a note home saying that that requirement instigated a very thoughtful conversation about race and racism in the classroom. The take-away from the discussion, however, was that the kids believed it was just plain racist and always wrong to even talk about race. Yikes!
Faster than you can say NAACP, I was composing an email to the teacher, offering my services to come and lead a workshop to the fifth grade about how to talk about race with ease and comfort. But before I hit send, I remembered a recent study I read about on MyBrownBaby.com that suggested children need to be shielded from stress and strife as much as possible. Here's an excerpt from the article that gave me pause.
"... adolescence in particular is a vulnerable time for kids because
that is when they are starting to isolate themselves from the family,
meaning they have fewer supports available to them. Sinha says we need
to give children time to develop their stress systems, which will
provide them with the tools to deal with adversity as they become older.
But if too much adversity comes at an early age, those tools will
remain stunted and not fully available to them, perhaps throughout their
If there's one thing I know to be stressful, it's the concept of race and racism. It stresses me out when I allow myself to think about all of the injustice in this world that comes at the hands of a racist system. On the other hand, I know that my parents did an excellent job shielding me from the ugliness of racism for almost my entire childhood and I feel I am the confident Black woman I am today because of it. My only gripe is that in "shielding" me from racism, they also shielded me from feeling any pride in my African-American heritage. I grew up feeling like I didn't belong to any particular ethnic group. I had to teach myself what it meant to be Black, a lesson I didn't start to learn until I was 18.
So, back to my own kids. Of course I want to teach them to feel proud of their heritage, both Black and Spanish. And until now, I kind of thought it was okay to give them a hearty dose of honesty when it came to the painful history and lingering injustice that permeates a colored person's life. But now I'm not so sure. I don't want to do what my parents did and act like race isn't an issue, but I also don't want to burden them with the sins of the past.
Here's what's on my agenda for this weekend. We're going to see Red Tails (the movie about the Tuskegee Airmen) and our read-aloud book is about the young Harriet Tubman. This is just coincidence but is it too much? What do you think, dear readers? How do you teach your children about race, without adding stress? I'm so listening.