This past weekend, most Americans gathered to celebrate our Independence Day, or 4th of July. Families gather for BBQ, fireworks, and we get decked out in our Red, White and Blue. This year the American Flag and patriotism was more fashionable than ever. But when is the USA not fashionable tho, right? We are all proud to be Americans. America’s birthday is one of the most important holidays we celebrate because we are the land of the free and the brave. We enjoy more freedoms than anywhere on the planet. Remembering our history and the men and women who fought for our country and those soldiers, who still continue to protect us, is imperative to the celebration.
Like many of my fellow Americans, we had an annual BBQ with family and friends. We swim, have copious amounts of delicious food and drinks, then head out to watch fireworks after the sun goes down. I have enjoyed this tradition since I was a little kid. My cousins and I would stand in front of my Papa’s American Flag that my parents hang on our fence and sing 4th of July songs whilst swinging sparklers. The adults were using some highly illegal gun powder cannon to shoot bean cans across the yard. Oh wait. Is that just my crazy family?!? (think early 90’s) Well I am thankful that my parents continue this tradition, and my boys get to experience it.
This year was a little different. My little nugget wasn’t feeling like himself after swimming and I feared he started to get a fever. Big brother was all about the fireworks. I don’t know if it is a guy thing, genetic, or what, but he has been a pyro and into fireworks since day one. Little brother was shaking in my arms from hearing the tiny poppers. Needless to say, I decided it was best if we left early and tended to my weak little one. Daddy stayed back with big 4 year old and looked forward to the nighttime fireworks.
I woke up to several texts from my hubs explaining he was in the midst of dealing with a parenting nightmare. My initial thought was there was a fireworks accident and someone lost an appendage. Thankfully, no. But the words that I read caused my heart to sink into my stomach and then fall out my butt. The emotions I felt ran high; embarrassment, sadness, anger, and fear along with the 3 letter abbreviations OMG, WTF, FML.
Sooo what happened you ask? Our four year old well mannered, smart, kind, peacemaker, sweet, little, OCD, boy made a racial comment to a loved and respected person in our family. My brother’s girlfriend is African American.
“I dont like that you are black.”
How do you react?
Since I was not there at the time of this interaction, there was swift discipline, a forced, quick apology, and then the “I think its time to go.”
Of course I immediately think, “WTF!?! Why is my baby acting racist?” He has NEVER made a comment before, and we are NOT racist people. We have another African American family member, and also I am proud that my cousin recently married his husband. Agree or not, this is the world we live in.
The point is that kids notice differences. They are learning the world around us. Instead of ignoring them and acting like it doesn’t need to be addressed, it is our job to explain these ways of the world. They do NOT know unless they are taught. And if we do NOT teach them, someone else will. I do not know if this is something he picked up at school, watching TV, the news, or family or friends making off the cuff remarks. Regardless, this happened. Instead of brushing it under the rug and not addressing the elephant in the room, we decided to take this issue head on. But how do we teach our children about racism today?
It’s so taboo. I am not without sin nor will I throw stones at glass houses. I will cop to using bad words, a slur or entertaining an inappropriate adult joke but NEVER have I ever encouraged hatred of another human being.
Hell I grew up going to a private catholic school and knew every word to TuPac, Biggie and WuTang just to name a few. So imagine a bunch of skinny white girls in school uniforms bumping to gangsta rap trying to be cool. So if that’s not a clear enough image think Britney Spears mixed with Ghetto Cowboy. Anyway I digress.
With all the racially charged violence going on in our world today there is a need for us to educate our kids and also for me to make a conscious effort to set the correct example. After seeing these 2 horrific, tragic acts of violence where white police officers have killed 2 innocent black men in 2 days makes me want to vomit. Prejudice exists. Racism exists. (This was written July 5 before Dallas and before the last 10+ racially charged acts of violence)
We explained our disappointment and just because we have differences, that does not mean we do not like people based on the color of their skin, their religious beliefs, language, or sexual orientation. Today he said, “The mommy is a girl and the daddy is a boy.” I said, “Well sometimes there are 2 mommies and sometimes there are 2 daddies. As long as babies and families are safe and happy we cannot be angry at differences.” My journalism ways, of course, decided to delve into this a little more deeply. I found that parents fear talking to their kids about race as much if not more than talking to them about sex.
I took him to my parents the next morning after we had a talk in the car on the way over. I said, “I am not going to tell you what to do, rather, I am going to explain why saying you didn’t like her because she was black is wrong.” He had to figure out how to ask for forgiveness and for her to accept his apology. My mom also talked to him and they prayed about it. She and my brother accepted his apology. That night I went to have some brother-sister time and some one-on-one with her. Again, rather than act like it didn’t happen, I wanted to make sure she knew how mortified I was and that I am so sorry for hurting her feelings.
Much to my dismay it did hurt her very deeply. She said she had felt judged about the color of her skin since she was a child. Most people do NOT acknowledge it, and just want to act like it didn’t happen. The whole
“kids say the darnedest things” thing. In my opinion, it is almost worse not addressing it. It almost accepts and encourages the behavior. It is also lazy parenting because talking about this shit is hard. It is real and hard. NO ONE wants to admit that your kid called someone out for being different for NO reason at all. Race, sexual orientation, language, religion we are all the same inside.
We have a toy giraffe that teaches colors, shapes and numbers. It sings a song “red, orange, yellow, green, blue, purple, pink.” I explained all colors are beautiful and there is no right or wrong color. We also watched an episode of Sesame Street that addressed the differences in skin color.
Sesame Street Color Of Me song
I have been writing and editing this post for 4 days now, and I decided to share it because I feel like it is something that many don’t want to talk about. But it is something very important and, honestly, vital to our foundation as good parents. Don’t be like me, waiting until it’s too late. Even tho we are moving past it, and it was a very tough lesson to teach and learn. I implore you to explain that differences are beautiful and acceptance is crucial for peace.
Civil Rights Info on talking to children about racism
Just Happy Mommy
This is dedicated to my friend who was brave enough to let me share this story.
7 thoughts on “How do we teach our children about racism today? ”
I don’t know you Kristy Eller DeBoer but I love you. Robinne Burrell is my best friend. She shared her pain with me about this incident and I wanted to cry. Thank you for writing this and thank for righting a wrong in such an enlightened way!
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Awe that makes me smile. Robinne is so special to me. Xoxo
Ok. I read your blog tonight and I am very offended in your comment about 2 innocent black men being shot by white police officers. U have no idea of the circumstances involved. You have probably only heard what the main stream media is saying and the so called video that was on face book, which only shows a small bit of what happened. I guess you have forgotten that I have a daughter and son in law in law enforcement that put their lives on the line everyday. They have to make split second decisions every day. This has been a horrible day in our country with 5 police officers shot and killed, and you r more concerned about what your child has said. Yes, racism is wrong, but it goes two ways. And yes, it is important to talk about it with your children. But it is also important to teach them to show respect and to not believe everything they hear on TV. Maybe that is a lesson YOU need to learn.
As if the recent events were not enough, the idea that even talking about racism is a statement against our brave men & women who serve & protect just makes me weep. ..again. Although I cried when I saw the videos what has made me keep crying is that the America I grew up in hid these things from me and told me anyone trying to address issues of racism and social inequality was whining because they were lazy & wanted special treatment . I was told that because in America everyone is treated equally because that’s what we believe in. The feeling of disillusionment is overwhelming for me & many others. And I believe that some people are turning away from it because they don’t want to have to feel sad they don’t want to have to believe that America doesn’t deliver on the promise that all men are created equal and deserve to be treated as such. As hard as it was for me to face the truth. I knew I would not turn away from the videos. Because turning away & not addressing real issues that exist is what we have done for generations. And now we’re here…2 innocent black men are dead, 5 innocent officers who were serving and protecting Americans while they were exercising the very freedom that makes this nation great – those humble heroes have fallen as well. We must change. No matter what the “circumstances involved” the state of race relations in our great nation is unacceptable. No one seems to realize that taking a black side or a blue side just makes the whole world black & blue. We must stand together as a nation. We must address issues of inequality and hate.
Gayla DeBoer I hear the pain in your post. Please don’t look to blame anyone but the sniper for the deaths of those officers. Instead I plead with you to start with your circle of influence and lead us towards the America we really want, the one we believed in before last week, the one we know we can have if we all head there together. United we will stand. Divided…that’s what we saw all over the news last week. Innocents will die, children will be raised without fathers, mothers will weep to lose their sons, more pain and strife will be brought if we do not stand together as Americans. Your life matters, my life matters – all lives matter, both black and blue. That’s my America. That’s the one I want to live in.
Kristy Eller DeBoer you will receive many comments both positive and negative for the post on parenting against racism. God bless you for your courage – I meant to tell you how extremely inspired I & my whole family were when we read it. Stay strong, we believe in you!
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Way to go, Kristy. Saying the right thing isn’t as hard as doing the right thing. You and Josh and your whole family took this one on and I bet in spite of the fact that it was hurtful, in the long run knowing that your whole family reacted to help your little one understand why what he said was wrong and take responsibility for it is so important! You have shared a huge lesson for all of us!
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Thank you so much Aunt Terry. Love you to the moon and back
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