I’m glad you’re here

Pardon me while I rant a bit…

A couple months ago, flush with excitement about my new editing gig at Anti-Racist Parent, I visited the kids section at my local Barnes & Noble store. There is nothing I love more than a new book with crisp pages and an uncracked spine. Sometimes I like the idea of a new book–and the promise of learning something new–better than reading the book itself. It takes little to convince me that I need to drop a stack of cash on books. But I digress…(Sorry. Books are my vice.) This particular afternoon, I was going to load up on books that teach and celebrate diversity for my nieces and nephews and for reviews on ARP. But after 20 minutes, my basket was still empty.

I asked an associate for help: “I’m looking for good books for kids that discuss race, diversity, equality…that sort of thing.” After staring at me dumbfounded for what felt like a minute, she finally produced three books–THREE. There were books about horses…books on how to make magic…books on decorative nail polish application….books about sports, but there among the hundreds of books in the children’s niche at a major book retailer, only three gave even lip service to the idea of racial equality.

“This is about all there is,” the B&N associate said sheepishly.

I think about this experience often as I search for content for ARP. My various Google alerts about race and families and parenting rarely turn up anything good. There are a lot of bloggers talking about race, but few talking about race as it relates to children, parenting and families. (Lucky for us, many of the few lend their voices here and they are amazing.) And while ARP’s various resource threads prove that there are some exceptional anti-racist parenting tools around, it is clear to me that there are not enough–not nearly enough. 

As a society, we seem loathe to talk to children about race. What’s worse, I’m not sure most of us even think it is necessary. As we’ve been discussing in last week’s open thread, most parents belong to the “I don’t ‘see color’ and so neither will my children” school. We are content to raise our children in homogeneous communities, absorbing society’s inherent biases. And we think that as long as they don’t see us commit any overtly ugly racism, then they will grow into enlightened adults. 

The problem, I think, is that racism today is more covert than overt, more ingrained than in-your-face, more about bias than hatred. But we don’t talk about this sort of prejudice with children. Is it any wonder that Barack Obama’s presidential run has illuminated bigotry that the general populace seemed to think was a thing of the past? If we’re not talking to children about race, what makes us expect to ever see the end of inequality?

I guess what I’m saying, in a totally round about way, is that I’m glad ARP is here, I’m glad I’m here and I’m glad you’re here. It’s nice to know that there is a little corner of the Web where parents are talking and arguing and sharing resources about race. It’s comforting to realize that there is a small band of anti-racist warriors that knows the battle won’t ever be won without the hearts and minds of our children. If only we could make our small band an army.
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About Tami

Tami Winfrey Harris writes about race, feminism, politics and pop culture at the blog What Tami Said. Her work has also appeared online at The Guardian’s Comment is Free, Ms. Magazine blog, Newsweek, Change.org, Huffington Post and Racialicious. She is a graduate of the Iowa State University Greenlee School of Journalism. She is mom to two awesome stepkids and spends her spare time researching her family history and cultivating a righteous 'fro.
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