Writing or talking about the race issues that are going on in our country is really difficult for me. Between senseless shootings, the Ku Klux Klan marching, and things I have experienced as a biracial woman in America, it’s just all too much. There is so much emotion that I am afraid tap in to for fear of dissolving in a puddle of tears right here on this floor. Because of the color of my skin (likely a stereotype in and of itself), people expect me to have strong, loud opinions. Well, my opinions aren’t loud, and they aren’t anything you haven’t heard before, so I will spare you the emotional mess to clean up.
What I do want to talk about is how the issues coming to a head now affect our mothering. I am concerned about our children more than anything else. Mine included. You see, as a child I had the blessing of seeing different races live happily with each other first hand. My mom is white and my dad is black. I also had the blessing (yes, blessing) of seeing the ugly side of people at a pretty young age. I was always aware of prejudice. Regardless of the prejudices in the world, my home was never a place where that judgment continued. My home was a safe space where the ugliness of a prejudiced world could not reach.
As I think about my own home as an adult, I contemplate how much diversity my children are really seeing in their lives. My husband is also biracial, so we often get mistaken for a Hispanic family. My second generation biracial children will have a very different childhood than I did because they look like both of their parents. They don’t have the built in blessing of witnessing the love between different races in our home like I did.
As a mother of minorities, I know there are difficult emotional days ahead for my kids. I wonder if I am prepared for the inevitable conversations that will happen when that first incident of racial discrimination really affects my children personally. How do I help them manage their feelings when they really understand what slavery was? How do I help them reconcile what history books tell us of our “Great Forefathers” with the truth about who they really were, when I haven’t yet been able to reconcile that information for myself?
These are questions that I wrestle with on almost a daily basis.
What Can We Do?
I know I am not the only one wrestling. I am often asked by my friends, “how can we effectively change the temperature?” I think our children’s attitudes will be the ones to reset the thermostat. That makes our job all the more important.
No one wants to raise children who will one day contribute to the issues of ignorance and prejudice.
There is no denying it: children learn by example. You can’t tell a child that smoking is bad for you, smoke a pack a day, and wonder why they pick up a cigarette themselves one day down the line. The same principle applies to social attitudes. Simply stated, you need to practice what you preach.
To me, developing diverse friendships is key. I don’t mean just racially diverse. Developing friendships with people who are different races, ages, religions, and political affiliations is good for us. Not only that, but when our kids witness our kindness toward each other despite our differences, it sets a great example.
The Need for Diversity in Your Tribe
I was perusing a moms’ group on Facebook when I stumbled on a conversation. A woman posted about a “strange” encounter she had at a play date. While at the play date, this woman found out that the other woman held an opinion in opposition to hers. She was very surprised by this revelation, and asked for advice. As the Facebook conversation evolved, someone made the comment that she “needed to find a different tribe.” To my surprise, many women agreed with this notion. Just because of a difference of opinion on one topic, she was advised over and over again to find a completely new set of friends to hang out with.
Trust me, I understand the need to connect with like-minded people. But how can we promote diversity when we are ready to ditch a group of people over one small (believe me, it was small) difference of opinion?
Hey, we are human. Our tendency to gravitate towards people who are like ourselves should be acknowledged. We want our opinions confirmed and our efforts applauded. We want to be around people who think exactly like we do. It’s our default.
But is it best? Surrounding ourselves with people who mirror us does not help us exercise healthy critical thinking. It also does not help us practice respectful discussion with others. Lack of diversity in our friendships does a disservice to ourselves and the little minds we are raising who crave understanding through example.
So moms, I am challenging you: let’s put some diversity in our mom-tribes. It may feel uncomfortable at first, but I truly believe the future is in our children’s hands, which really means it’s in our own. Let’s lead by example, Mama. Reach out. Practice what we preach.