When it comes to race, it’s a privilege to say we “don’t see color” — and writer Mathangi Subramanian just shared a powerful message about why it’s so important for white parents to talk to their kids about race. Last week Subramanian took her daughter to the playground, where the little girl was told by two young blonde girls that she couldn’t play with them because she isn’t blonde, too.
Although they were in earshot of their daughters and overheard what they said, the girls’ parents didn’t intervene — so it was left up to Subramanian to explain to other people’s kids why their comments weren’t OK. “My intervention was clumsy at best — I told the girls that the playground is for everyone, no matter who they are, and that they have to share the space,” she recounted to Scary Mommy.
That sounds like a solid intervention to us given the circumstances, but it shouldn’t be Subramanian’s job to teach white kids about racism. That’s something their parents need to do, otherwise little girls will grow up into teenagers and then adults who think it’s normal and acceptable to only associate with people who look like them.
Subramanian and her daughter have talked about race before — like when she was two, and came home from pre-school talking about her dark skin. When you have kids of color, ignoring race or “not seeing color” is simply not an option. White parents may have the luxury of not discussing race with their kids, but that’s one luxury that should never be taken advantage of.
One thing that Subramanian thinks would be beneficial is resources that will help white parents learn how to talk to their kids about race — and for those parents to seek out the knowledge. “I think it’s up to white parents to both seek out and demand those resources,” she said. “I knew how to talk to my daughter on the way home because my mother talked about race to me, so I had a model. We need more models for white parents.”
Part of parenting is navigating conversations with your kids that may be daunting because we don’t have all the answers. But if we benefit from white privilege, it’s on us to educate ourselves and our children about the importance of making inclusivity our new normal.
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