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Daddyinastrangeland tipped me to the article “Why is Obama our first black president” on Slate. In it, Emily Bazelon and John Dickerson discuss the challenge of discussing the historic Barack Obama presidency–and why  Obama’s presidency is historic–with children.

Garth and Christy Ross supported Barack Obama from the start. They raised money for him and knocked on doors to rally voters in Northwest Virginia. They involved their 7-year-old son and 5-year old daughter as much as possible, so when Obama won, it was a family celebration. And then, after the election, their son asked during dinner, “Why was he our first president with brown skin?” For the next 45 minutes, the couple, who are white, carefully described America’s racial history, trying to add to what they’d already taught them without giving their children more of that history than they could handle. “We didn’t want to give them an explanation that was laden with all of our baggage,” says Garth.

For the Rosses, us, and we’re sure other parents of young children, the tension in describing Barack Obama’s victory is not whether to explain the racial context. If kids ask why Obama looks different from the parade of presidents before him, there’s no sense pretending he doesn’t. The challenge is just what to talk about—how intensely to focus kids on the historic nature of this moment and how deeply to delve into the legacy of racism that preceded it. Read more…

 

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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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