During the weeks after the Michael Brown and Eric Garner non-indictments, various White friends asked me whether I thought they should be talking about these issues with their school-aged children. My daughter was just two-and-a-half at the time and I was not talking about it with her…but to my friends with four and five-year-olds, I answered unequivocally “yes.”
A friend of the family gave my daughter the book “Madeline” by Ludwig Bemelmans along with a Madeline doll. We looked at the Madeline doll together and noted that she has red hair. As we opened the book and started to read, we looked for Madeline but couldn’t find her at first. We then realized that she has blonde hair on some pages and red hair on other pages.
I am a White educator of third grade students in Brookline, Massachusetts. I teach in public school within a very wealthy and somewhat diverse population. Our minority enrollment is 41% (mostly Asian, and only 3% Black). I am also the mother to a one-year-old boy. A few years ago, I took a class called Empowering Multicultural Initiatives (EMI ) that changed my life. This class challenged me to confront my White privilege and find ways to have courageous conversations about race.
My daughter has been playing with her vintage Fisher Price people on a daily basis since she was about a year old.
In one routine game, she puts the “children” (who are slightly shorter) in a circle and sings the “goodbye song.” Then, each“adult” (a slightly taller figure) picks a child up from school. When she first started playing this game, she would assign adults to children randomly, almost never putting them in the same pairs, and with no consideration to their physical appearances. The only thing she was emphatic about was that every child had to be paired with one adult.
As a born and bred New Yorker, I expect an occasional terrible experience with a stranger. My worst stranger story involves a White man who spit in my on 5th avenue. So it isn’t always about race…but sometimes it is.
Last winter, I was sitting on the steps in the lobby of an apartment building in my neighborhood, trying to get my one-and-a-half-year-old to put on her shoes. I had just gotten her to sit down and was forcing her feet into the shoes and fastening the Velcro when a Black man entered the building and commented “Stairs are not for sitting.”
Celebrations are a big part of our family: the Jewish holidays, the anniversaries of the day we met and the day we became a family, Guatemalan Independence Day, and National Adoption Day. Each of these celebrations helps us reaffirm our multiple identities.
Last month I had a stomach flu and succumbed to my daughter’s request for more minutes than usual of watching videos. First, we watched “Los pollitos dicen,”, a song about chicks and a mama hen.
There was once a little baby boy named Moses. Moses was Jewish and he lived in Egypt where the king, who was called the Pharaoh, did not like Jewish babies.