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  • Carrie Lobman

    Thank you for your very thought provoking post. I am a professor of education and a former preschool teacher. I also work with the East Side Institute, a not for profit research and training center that works to develop more humane, progressive, and developmental approaches to human development. As I preschool teacher in a predominantly white and middle to upper class preschool I also found the response to suddenly talking about segregation and racism on MLK Day disturbing and unhelpful and I began having more open and honest conversations all year long.

    And yes these conversation are messy and I would add that they are assumption filled--as adults (of any race) we assume we know what children mean by the words they are saying and we tend to respond to them as if they have had the same life experiences we have and therefore mean the same thing by the words. I think the messiness (and power) comes in working with the children to create the conversation/the environment where we can, together, discover what a conversation about race is like between very young and not so young people in this moment in this context.

    I remember an African American girl in my class (Eupha Jean) who went around saying she wished she were white and the work I did to not deny her feelings about that but to explore with her why she might feel that way and to not just assume I knew what she meant by that and to also giver her that it made me sad that she felt that way. The conversations required me being open and honest with her instead of politically correct.
    This post reminded me of a workshop I led over ten years ago for a preschool in New York City. My colleague and I (both of whom were white) were called in to work with the parents and teachers of the children in the 4 year old class because, as the director said, there had been "a number of racist incidents among the children." An African American colleague urged us to help people to see that a 4 year old saying something about "the black kids" did not have exactly the same meaning to either the white children or the black children that it had to the adults and that responding to it as if we knew what it meant would shut down the conversation with the kids, rather than open it up.

    Thanks for the chance to respond.

    I liked the link to math instruction, although we both know that math isn't taught very well either, but I know what she means. Its a challenge to the hypocrisy and dichotomy between color blindness as a politic and the politic that is taught around the history of racism.

  • Hannah Kim

    This is a great piece! Even though the discussion of skin color and racism can be very charged and messy that doesn't mean we shouldn't engage students in the conversation. Education can open people's minds and help them have a clearer understanding of the issues that surround them. I think we have a tendency to ignore issues such as these but it just exacerbates them.

  • Christina Malm

    Even in your article you are uncomfortable with race. You refer to your children as biracial, you are white and your husband Ghanaian. Ghanaian isn't a race; I don't even know if it's an ethnicity, not being a socioligist. Black is a race but from your statement your children could be white and asian. I point this out not to make you angry but to point out just how charged this conversation is. I work in a predominately white school district with a minority population of less than 15%.It is tough to teach 17 and 18 year olds about this when the groundwork isn't taught at younger grades too. Thanks for your article.

    • MadeleineR

      Thank you for this comment, it is true that my daughters' racial identities are not Ghanaian/White but Black/White. The cultural identity piece is also important, but should be termed as such. Thank you again for this comment as it helps me think more clearly about these issues. All the best.

      • Erin Michelle Threlfall

        Madeleine, My son is also white American (me) and black Ghanaian (Dad), and I found connection through your cultural reference as it adds more information about the identity of your children. This is an excellent article. You have given me a lot to think about- both for my son and for my classroom.

  • jaddadalos

    This is very much related to a concept that my friend/colleague and I have been discussing and developing. Discussion of race, skin color/colorism, and how these concepts have developed and been valued in our society SHOULD be part of our schooling. Intentionally. For us, it took a series of conflicts based on skin color and race for one of our staff members to request that my friend and I address a group of 6th and 7th grade Black and Latina girls. By this age there are so many messages and misconceptions to tackle, we knew that our 2-session workshop was not enough. And then, I consider various age groups and what would need to be done to address these topics at various levels of understanding. Plus, group makeup is important - we worked with self-identified Black and Latina girls. Adding boys, white students, or other dynamics is important to consider. Context and history are crucial. It's overwhelming, but exciting. We plan to formally tackle this explicitly via curriculum development and resource gathering and would enjoy further discussion, collaboration, and resource sharing.

    • MizTee

      I would really like to share resources and curriculum development on this topic. I teach Kinder-8th grade art classes. Cheers!