Talking About Race
I talk to Roozle about race sometimes. We just chat about all the differences in all of her friends. Skin color, eye color, height, and anything else she comes up with. We talk about how our differences make us special. How our differences weave into our personal stories, race in particular. She knows how each friend is different than herself. All kids do. Because kids notice differences. So we talk about it. She’s mostly concerned with how tall she is compared to all her friends. She always wants to be measured to see if she’s growing. We also talk about how it’s never okay to not be nice to someone because they are different. And how to be a support to a friend if someone else hurts them for being different.
I grew up not talking about race. Not at home or at school. We all knew racism was bad, but never talked about race. We were taught not just that everyone is equal, but that everyone is the same. But we’re not the same. We never will be. I will never understand what it is like to be a black man in America. I can’t even pretend to try. We are not the same.
When I was thirteen, I read Malcolm X for the first time. I was shocked. My little white privilege private school mind was blown. I hung a poster on my door, “By any means necessary.” I was ready to fight. The only problem was, I didn’t know any people of color. And everyone I did know didn’t want to talk about race. Because they, too, were pretending to be colorblind.
So we talk about race freely in our house. We talk about different cultures, different languages, and different skin colors. It’s not always comfortable, but we’re no longer pretending. It’s a start.
This week’s challenge is to talk about race. Black, white, brown, we all need to keep this conversation going. Ask your kids questions. Talk about differences. Learn how to listen. Start small. Start now.