Here is a tricky subject to discuss - how do I address the racial bias in our society with my white children? How do I react to their racial statements (especially when they say them in public)? How do I teach tolerance and anti-bias?
We are in Kansas on our family visit to my grandparents. We've gone to a steakhouse that is decorated with long horns and cowboy memorabilia, and Carbon has been asking lots of questions about cowboys and so on, checking out all those props tacked up on the wall above us. Then, a black family comes in and sits in the booth next to us, and he says "what are they doing in here?". My husband reacted pretty strongly to the comment, and shushed him and then looked very embarrassed. I tried to interact with the family "naturally", and made a bit of polite chit chat, but it was strained. After we left the restaurant, we asked Carbon what he was thinking when he asked the question, and he answered that he thought black people weren't cowboys.
We are with my husband's family in Kentucky, and they repeatedly make crass joked about President Obama, in "polite" conversation talk about "the coloreds", and one individual uses the N word in front of me and the kids.
I am driving, and Hypatia announces that she wishes she was black. I was curious, so I asked her why. Carbon interupted her answer to say that he didn't wish he was black, because black people are "rare" and he likes to "be like everyone else".
We are in the library, and Hypatia sees a black man. She points and says "look, it's a black man!"
Have things like this happened to you? I feel a bit vulnerable even putting a couple of these out here, and it's not something mothers seem to talk about much. In each of these situations, we responded as best we could. We talked about how, in fact, there had been black cowboys, and we wondered why the restaurant hadn't put any pictures of them up. We also talked about how it doesn't matter if there were black cowboys or not, that now all types of restaurants are for everyone. In Kentucky, we spoke up when family was being racist, and told them "that's a horrible thing to say" (they just laughed at us though, so I still worry about that exposure for the kids). I talked to Carbon about how black people aren't really that rare, and tried to explain why our town is so majority white. I stopped in the library and said "yes, people come in a beautiful rainbow of colors" when Hypatia pointed out the black man there.
I want my children to be anti-bias, to live in tolerance and acceptance, (in college, we were taught we should be "white allies", but that term seems to have some problems associated with it now). I buy the "multicultural" art supplies and explain that there is a whole spectrum of skin colors, and encourage them to draw people of all colors. I read them multicultural books and books about justice and equity. They have dolls of different races. Our next door neighbors are a mixed race family with a black father.
Yet we live in a mostly white town - in the Northwest which is already pretty white. And our church is mostly white, mostly upper middle class. Our homeschooling group is mostly white, with a small smattering of multi-racial. So the kids really only know multi-racial kids, or transracially adopted kids, and one black adult.
This is a problem, because it would be so much easier, and maybe better, if they were growing up in a multicultural community. When I was browsing TeachingTolerance (preschoolers and prejudice article here), I saw a review for a book called What if All the Kids Are White?, and I've ordered it. Maybe it will give me some good tips, not just for my own children but for the other kids at church.