kids and racism

Message Bookmarked
Bookmark Removed

how do you deal with fucked up shit your kids get told by other people? and/or misguided attempts to understand the world by short-cut categorizations based on skin color? this is something i posted on the "kids say the darnedest things" thread..

"daddy will there be black people where we're going?"

"what? uh, yeah, sure, probably. why?"

"i only want white people"


"cause black people eat too much candy and sit around and get fat"


TracerHandVEVO (Tracer Hand), Wednesday, 16 July 2014 09:09 (nine years ago) link

had a couple of weird/unpleasant moments when mine were little. explained v. clearly in terms that they could understand that it was incredibly rude and not ok, tried to teach them to understand and respect difference, as they got older they got it. i guess if you hear stuff that you think is coming from school/nursery/whatever you might want to raise it with the people there.

Daphnis Celesta, Wednesday, 16 July 2014 09:17 (nine years ago) link

think some of it is more "small brains jump to weird conclusions when processing difference" rather than interacting with junior racists, but you don't know what horrible shit other kids pick up at home or elsewhere

Daphnis Celesta, Wednesday, 16 July 2014 09:19 (nine years ago) link

"small brains jump to weird conclusions when processing difference"

this is what i'm going with, for my own sanity if nothing else

TracerHandVEVO (Tracer Hand), Wednesday, 16 July 2014 09:24 (nine years ago) link

Racism is fairly childish, like poop jokes. Parents can make it clear whether or not they approve of poop jokes in explicit or implicit ways. There will still be childish poop jokes, but what the parents think about poop jokes will have a big long-term effects.

Three Word Username, Wednesday, 16 July 2014 09:30 (nine years ago) link

Only time I ever had something like this was when my kid said he didn't like black people, but after some back-and-forth he admitted that he was talking about Darth Vader. But yeah, what TWU said. The things you say to them will matter.

how's life, Wednesday, 16 July 2014 09:47 (nine years ago) link

to them.

how's life, Wednesday, 16 July 2014 09:47 (nine years ago) link

I could've sworn there's some lengthy discussion of this on another thread...? Primarily about how if you don't address race up front in pretty clear terms that little kids (and we're talking from a v young age, like, 3 or so) will draw all kinds of weird conclusions of their own. It's not enough for them to be around a diverse group of people, you have to actually talk to them about what race is and what it means.

Οὖτις, Wednesday, 16 July 2014 16:19 (nine years ago) link

Have definitely had several in-depth discussions about discrimination, slavery, racial stereotyping, history of racism, etc. with V. I think she gets it but it's hard to tell. She hasn't spouted any random racist blather yet so I guess that's a good sign.

Οὖτις, Wednesday, 16 July 2014 16:20 (nine years ago) link

Not a parent but this might be helpful even though it doesn't speak directly to your situation:

, Wednesday, 16 July 2014 16:38 (nine years ago) link

Shakey otm there.

Orson Wellies (in orbit), Wednesday, 16 July 2014 16:46 (nine years ago) link

Kids are like the litmus test of all the racist messaging around us, they absorb it and repeat it back explicitly because they haven't yet learned that it's "inappropriate"/"shameful" to talk about race. So maybe someone said something in their hearing, or they repeatedly viewed a tv ad or a movie in which a Black character ate candy or w/e, and extrapolated from that plus another mystery source.

Just TALK ABOUT IT and they'll probably tell you, and then you can decide how to dispel or what point you want to make.

Orson Wellies (in orbit), Wednesday, 16 July 2014 16:50 (nine years ago) link

I've already sat my daughter down and explained to her who Orval Faubus was.

pplains, Wednesday, 16 July 2014 16:54 (nine years ago) link

Yeah Evie was doing this thing for a bit where she would point at pictures of black people in magazines or whatever and say "ew ... yuck" and then giggle which necessitated some conversations. Its weird because most of her teachers at day care are black and she likes them and the student population is pretty diverse too. I think some of it was shitty Disney princess mind control because she also was just talking about how she likes blonde hair more than brown hair.

Immediate Follower (NA), Wednesday, 16 July 2014 16:59 (nine years ago) link

yeah. i mean, i talked about it w/him, trying not to make him feel ashamed of himself, or like i was angry with him, but also trying to make him understand that it was really wrong to think that way. it's hard to put into words that make sense to a 5-year-old!

TracerHandVEVO (Tracer Hand), Wednesday, 16 July 2014 17:03 (nine years ago) link

we talked about it again tonight. I think he's getting it. I let a little time pass and in the middle of talking about swimming I was like, hey, do you think black people are good swimmers? and he looks at me and kind of smiles like he knows what I'm doing and says "black people are good AND bad swimmers".

TracerHandVEVO (Tracer Hand), Wednesday, 16 July 2014 19:03 (nine years ago) link


Orson Wellies (in orbit), Wednesday, 16 July 2014 19:04 (nine years ago) link


how's life, Wednesday, 16 July 2014 19:04 (nine years ago) link

My kids are in a very diverse public school. This has led them to do some stereotyping. Some harmless ("Spanish" kids are goods at soccer), some problematic (Black kids are meaner, more likely to swear, etc.).

Unfortunately, in their school, many of the black kids are coming from some pretty fucked-up family situations, and ARE the ones getting in trouble and saying way inappropriate stuff. My boys seem to want to stay away from the jerky ones and have some good friendships with the non-jerky ones, so I'm not sure if there's a conversation we need to have...?

schwantz, Wednesday, 16 July 2014 19:29 (nine years ago) link

i used to tutor these two kids who were convinced that lil wayne had recently opened fire on innocent people in a mall but wasn't prosecuted for it because he was "rich". they thought lil wayne was a mass murderer.

Treeship, Wednesday, 16 July 2014 19:53 (nine years ago) link

my kid said he didn't like black people, but after some back-and-forth he admitted that he was talking about Darth Vader

This genuinely made me LOL

ornamental cabbage (James Morrison), Thursday, 17 July 2014 05:58 (nine years ago) link

apparently my daughter just said something at art camp about asian skin being yellow and we have to have a talk with her tonight.

I sort of suspect this isn't anything more complicated than her thinking of what color pen to use to color in a drawing of an asian person but we'll see

Οὖτις, Wednesday, 23 July 2014 23:26 (nine years ago) link

Yeah but would she reach for the same color pen when drawing a white person

, Wednesday, 23 July 2014 23:30 (nine years ago) link

Sorry that came off as brusque; she probably picked it up from some other kids, is all I'm saying

, Wednesday, 23 July 2014 23:30 (nine years ago) link

she draws/colors A LOT (like, hours a day) and has no compunction about using different colors for different types of people - pale pink, dark brown, gold, whatever. My suspicion is that she said something about yellow skin color without being aware of the racist history of the term. which is kinda my fault I guess. I suppose it's time to go into how ethnic divisions based on reductive skin color designations came about (white, black, yellow etc. even though next to nobody really has skin those specific colors)

Οὖτις, Wednesday, 23 July 2014 23:38 (nine years ago) link

Yeah but would she reach for the same color pen when drawing a white person

pplains, Wednesday, 23 July 2014 23:41 (nine years ago) link

That isn't some sort of a-ha! clever image post. Just... throwing it out there?

pplains, Wednesday, 23 July 2014 23:42 (nine years ago) link

Characters in The Simpsons are yellow because creator Matt Groening wanted to get the attention of people who were channel hopping.

, Wednesday, 23 July 2014 23:43 (nine years ago) link

Pretty much every other animated sitcom and cartoon uses shades of pink / beige / 'fleshtones' tho, including

, Wednesday, 23 July 2014 23:44 (nine years ago) link

I give 'em credit for going one way when you think they would've gone another.

pplains, Wednesday, 23 July 2014 23:45 (nine years ago) link

Also thanks pp for pointing out that the Simpsons is racist against pirates

, Wednesday, 23 July 2014 23:46 (nine years ago) link

Here's my daughter's exposure to animated Asian characters:

She did tell me one time that when her best friend smiles real big, her eyes crinkle up "like a Chinese girl's."

pplains, Wednesday, 23 July 2014 23:47 (nine years ago) link

Our eyes do crinkle up like white people's though when we laugh, it's true

, Wednesday, 23 July 2014 23:53 (nine years ago) link

so this turned out to be what I thought. they were drawing/coloring and Veronica said she was going to draw an Asian person so she was going to use yellow. We talked about how Asian people's skin is not really yellow (just like we aren't really white, we're more of a pinkish/orange-ish and black people aren't really black etc.) and how/why that's talking about their skin color that way is hurtful to them, the history of it etc. I tried to make it really clear that she was not in trouble, she hadn't done anything knowingly wrong, this was just stuff she was previously unaware of and that she should be aware of so that she doesn't hurt people's feelings.

Οὖτις, Thursday, 24 July 2014 18:54 (nine years ago) link

fwiw she said it was a pastel I don't actually know what shade it was, maybe it was more of an orange bronze or something and she just called it yellow? she knows asian people aren't yellow. I dunno. misunderstandings.

Οὖτις, Thursday, 24 July 2014 18:55 (nine years ago) link

, Friday, 25 July 2014 19:46 (nine years ago) link

man those kids look nervous

results about what I would expect tbh

Οὖτις, Friday, 25 July 2014 21:14 (nine years ago) link

so my daughter expressed an interest in my Little Nemo in Slumberland books, I've read her a bunch at this point. Felt compelled to spell out that the Imp character is a racist caricature and why/how common it was in print back then. She didn't seem to care (get back to the laffs, old man) but I couldn't let it go by unremarked in good conscience.

Οὖτις, Tuesday, 29 July 2014 17:30 (nine years ago) link

I think that when we were little kids, we were exposed to a lot more in-your-face racism. I wouldn't have been caught dead saying racist stuff - I even learned the word "racism" at a very young age. Racists were very bad people who did cruel things to people who weren't white.

I get surprised with what kids come up with today, but I suppose that's the reason. How many opportunities do you have to address the issue to children?? What is the "right time"?

You could hire some of your beer buddies to hold a cross-burning on your front yard- after that, your children will never even think a racist thought! (They might never want to leave the house, though!)

Legs Hates Me (I M Losted), Tuesday, 5 August 2014 17:53 (nine years ago) link

two years pass...

so guess who went to a school meeting about race and racism last night

Οὖτις, Thursday, 29 September 2016 19:53 (seven years ago) link

prompted by a specific incident which we were instructed not to address directly (privacy concerns etc.)

Οὖτις, Thursday, 29 September 2016 19:54 (seven years ago) link

What was the incident??

illegal economic migration (Tracer Hand), Friday, 30 September 2016 09:00 (seven years ago) link

You need to address the specific incident here directly please

my son goes to a very diverse middle school, wrt to ethnicity and socio-economic status, and has learned a lot of racial jokes told by people in those racial communities, about themselves. so we have to keep going over that these jokes aren't cool for us to use about them, even though they're hilarious; and that this goes the other way, so that we can tell jokes about our ethnic communities that aren't ok for others to use about us. He gets it, but it requires developing a pretty high sense of abstraction, and I can see how unstable these situations could be when that degree of abstraction isn't attainable.

droit au butt (Euler), Friday, 30 September 2016 09:08 (seven years ago) link

This summer my son watched Blazing Saddles for the first time over at his grandma's. We were all taking a hike while out on a camping trip. We had just cut short a discussion of Trump and Sanders and Trump and the election, because it's pretty heavy subject matter and it had been eating up our souls for the last year and we were hoping to just get away from it and enjoy nature for a weekend. So we're walking in peace for about two minutes when he decides it's funny to reenact Mel Brooks' "Can't you see that man is a ni-?" scene. My wife BLEW UP at him. I think she was over-the-line, but she was kinda bent out of shape from the Trump discussion and trying to hike with two kids in the heat.

I would have liked to have had a deeper conversation about humor and racism with the kid, but I had to put all my energy into defusing the fiasco. Like, if you've seen the movie which we all have, you know that it's totally a pointed satire of racism. You know that Brooks' character is a racist dunderhead. But I probably would have liked to have talked with him about tone and context and timing and when it might be appropriate to re-tell such jokes from the movie.

how's life, Friday, 30 September 2016 12:09 (seven years ago) link

The kids go to an elementary school where they're usually one of only a couple or so white kids in the classroom. In the boy's room, he and his buddies all call each other "Bro."

Ok. I've heard it more from frat boys "bro'ing down" in the past decade than from its original roots, but ok. If everyone's cool with it, then why not. Certainly worst words he could learn.

At least that's what I thought until we went to soccer practice last week where the racial ratios are completely flipped. During a two-on-two drill, he set the ball up and passed it to his teammate, one of only two black kids on the squad. Kid kicked it in for the goal, and my boy turns around to his pal and says, 'YEAH! That's what I'm talkin' about, BRO!"

I think I may have been the only one to wince, but then again, I sit apart from all the other parents during practice.

pplains, Friday, 30 September 2016 17:45 (seven years ago) link

i don't think there's any awkward racial thing going on there, though.

dylannn, Friday, 30 September 2016 17:53 (seven years ago) link

this thread makes me wonder: what were the things our parents were this anxious about while raising us & how did it affect us?

ogmor, Friday, 30 September 2016 18:01 (seven years ago) link

eh "bro" is pretty harmless and not ethnic-specific in my opinion.

to get back to my thread revive (lol don't wanna leave ya hangin Euler!) - an incident occurred that my wife and I were made aware of via an e-mail thread that popped up on the PTA list. So our knowledge of the incident was all second-hand and since it did not involve my daughter's class or grade or anyone we personally knew I was inclined not to get directly involved, but when I heard there was going to be a school-wide community meeting thing to discuss racism and how to handle it I thought sure, I'll go.

My daughter's school is heavily latino. There is a smattering of white kids, a smattering of black kids, and a larger smattering of kids from mixed-backgrounds. Apparently in one of the first grade classes two latino boys threatened to shoot a black girl and called her the n-word. This happened in class, the teacher witnessed it, it was reported to school authorities, who attempted to handle it but appear to have failed - or at least have not yet resolved it to the satisfaction of the African American family. People on the PTA email list were up in arms that the administration was not, in their view, appropriately punitive or proactive in making the African American family feel safe and welcome. I am not sure specifically what was done/what should have been done, because (of course) those interactions/meetings/mediation/whatever between the aggressor, the victim, and the administration are private.

The larger community meeting was interesting to me, in that it was your basic "feelings circle" sort of meeting where everyone expresses their wishes about having a multicultural community that does not accept intolerance etc. And that was great. Honestly when I hear people like working class immigrant latino dads expressing, in Spanish, the same feelings and thoughts I have - there is something really powerful in that. And it was cool to see all these different people describing their personal experiences and finding common ground.

What it didn't do (of course) was address the specifics of the incident that prompted it. What should happen to those two latino boys? Where did they even pick up the language + idea that they could/should do such a thing? How do you combat that? It made me think that my daughter doesn't even know what the n-word is - and while she would have recognized that what was happening was wrong if she had witnessed it, she wouldn't have necessarily grasped the racial component (just like I don't think she fully grasped the racial component/theme of Zootopia, which we watched at the school's movie night a couple days after the incident in question).

So that made me think that maybe it was time to address racially loaded language, what ethnic slurs are, where they come from, how they are deployed and why. But, of course, you can't discuss something like this without *using the actual words*. I started in on the topic last night at dinner - just asking my daughter if she had heard kids making fun of other kids based on ethnicity, what words they had used if so, if she understood what a racial slur was. But before I got down to specifics my wife cut me off, insisting we talk about this ourselves before we went too far. My thinking was that I would start off by going into slurs that she might get directed at herself, so that she understands it on a personal level first. Because at some point someone - either at school, or on the internet, or on the street, or whatever - is going to call her a dirty Jew or a kike or something. And when that happens I want her to understand what is happening and be prepared for it. And then from there we could expand the discussion into other ethnicities and language etc. (I'm not planning on covering all of this in one conversation, mind you). As far as the n-word specifically goes, my wife and I were casting about for how to even cover it without fucking it up somehow - I half-jokingly suggested Richard Pryor records or speeches by segregationists, but I think we settled on this book by Desmond Tutu called "Desmond and the Very Mean Word".

Anyway. Shit is tricky!


Οὖτις, Friday, 30 September 2016 18:08 (seven years ago) link

what were the things our parents were this anxious about while raising us & how did it affect us?

nuclear armageddon

Οὖτις, Friday, 30 September 2016 18:08 (seven years ago) link

Apparently in one of the first grade classes two latino boys threatened to shoot a black girl and called her the n-word.

that is insane

nomar, Friday, 30 September 2016 18:20 (seven years ago) link

i mean i can easily guess where a couple of first graders might pick that up, unfortunately

nomar, Friday, 30 September 2016 18:21 (seven years ago) link

community is justifiably in an uproar about it, but idk how productive it is to have parents not directly involved attempting to stick their noses in (which is what is happening - "let's write a letter to the District demanding A, B, and C!" and I'm like "you don't even know what the fuck you're talking about." Basically my opinion is that unless one of the families involved has specifically appealed to you for help, butt out, you're meddling from a position of ignorance).

Οὖτις, Friday, 30 September 2016 18:25 (seven years ago) link

I would like to chime in on pplain's much less serious story and say that you are delusional if you don't think there's a racial component to the way "bro" and "brother" gets used in American society

The number of times I have been referred to as "bro" or "brother" by a clumsy white dude attempting to signal that he's Down With The Brown in contexts that make absolutely no sense (examples: holding open the door; receiving change after making a purchase; asking for directions; soliciting for a charity; walking down the street), particularly when the dudein question has referred to everyone around me as "sir", "ma'am", "mister", "miss" or "ms", would fill decently-sized paperback novel.

¶ (DJP), Friday, 30 September 2016 19:06 (seven years ago) link

I dont think "brother" and "bro" are interchangeable - the latter gets deployed (including by me) in all kinds of non-racial contexts. Maybe thats a west coast/surfer/hippie/tech thing idk.

Οὖτις, Friday, 30 September 2016 19:16 (seven years ago) link

I live in a town where both are part of the general lexicon and it's still blatantly obvious when someone is using it because they use it all the time with everyone and when someone is using it because they saw a black person and panicked.

I'm not saying pp's kid falls into the latter camp given the history as laid out; I'm saying I 100% understand why he would wince when he said it in a different context in front of a different audience.

¶ (DJP), Friday, 30 September 2016 19:19 (seven years ago) link

Sure, fair enough

Οὖτις, Friday, 30 September 2016 19:24 (seven years ago) link

I've been kind of wondering how to handle this as my daughter goes from a nearly all Jewish preschool to a public school that will be like 40% white, 40% asian, and the rest hispanic or black. She has non-white friends at the playground and in our building sometimes does promising things like directly identify with a non-white character in a book or show. She does tend to make comments like "there are a lot of Chinese people here!" when we, say, go to Flushing -- I feel like she is still a little young for me to say "that's not nice to say out loud" because I don't want her to think there is something wrong with there being a lot of Chinese people or shameful about noticing that. I don't think raising her to be "color blind" is realistic. I try to point out that "your mom speaks a different language, just like her mom," or "your mom was born in another country, and you are an American, just like him." Four year old minds can tend to get confused about these things, so my biggest goal is to just have her feel comfortable with there being many different kinds of people around and with it being ok to notice but not ok to make fun of or discriminate.

the last famous person you were surprised to discover was actually (man alive), Friday, 30 September 2016 19:27 (seven years ago) link

sounds like the way to go :)

illegal economic migration (Tracer Hand), Friday, 30 September 2016 19:32 (seven years ago) link

Maybe thats a west coast/surfer/hippie/tech thing idk.

Bro, dude. Not "brah". ;-)

In case any of you didn't already have a snappy answer to your country cousin's question of "How come they can say it and we can't?", feel free to use my son's experience as one practical, everyday easy-to-understand example, which I admit, doesn't even begin to scratch the surface.

pplains, Saturday, 1 October 2016 01:34 (seven years ago) link

ugh what a drag this is. daughter is only 3, blissfully unaware of any such stupid thing as race but she is mixed herself so there will be conversations I'm not particularly looking forward to.

"kids and racism" is all that needs to be said really, of course the only way we will end this nonsense is via the kids, but instead of treating it as a silly fun thing like star sign or blood type I'll have to weigh her down with endless explanations and history and old, old baggage and it makes me ill but oh well? can only do so much to prepare the road for her but I can certainly prepare her for the road, and so on and so on

erudite beach boys fan (sheesh), Saturday, 1 October 2016 07:02 (seven years ago) link

The thing is, if EVERYONE had these conversations as opposed to just minorities, the conversations would get easier

¶ (DJP), Saturday, 1 October 2016 11:46 (seven years ago) link

I don't think raising her to be "color blind" is realistic.

Yeah I would just want to add - nor desirable

illegal economic migration (Tracer Hand), Saturday, 1 October 2016 11:57 (seven years ago) link

You must be logged in to post. Please either login here, or if you are not registered, you may register here.