Next week is Catholic Schools Week, and we will be raising funds for our parish (St. John’s). St. John’s gives the school an annual subsidy (this year $100,000). I have a donor willing to match all funds that are donated during the week, so please give generously to our parish. Please also take time to discuss with your children why we give to our parish and the importance of such giving.
Last Monday was a day dedicated to Martin Luther King, Jr. I have included in this week’s blog a letter from Deb Chester, a St. Joe’s parent and the RCIA coordinator at St. John’s. She shares the importance of having conversations about race with your children. Please read her letter and the attached articles.
As a parent of a child of color, the celebration of the Martin Luther King holiday is a poignant day for me. I realize that not very long ago, we as white parents would not have been allowed to bring a child of a different race into our home. I realize also that she would not have been allowed to play with friends of different color, let alone attend the same school. We are incredibly thankful for the opportunities we and our daughter have because of those who fought for justice, who promoted civil rights. Yet, we also realize that there is much work to be done; we have not yet developed a society free from prejudice, from stereotype, from unconscious bias.
In addition, we are raising our daughter in a city that is not overly diverse, and she also sees little diversity in the school she attends. She recognizes that she is “different”, and she doesn’t like it. The one we thing we can do is talk about why. Although the conversation can be hard to begin, we do try to talk about our skin color, why hers is brown and ours is not. We talk about the variations of brown skin color and variations of white skin color, and we have a few books on hand to help us with these discussions. One of our favorites is for younger kids, a Sesame Street book called, We’re Different; We’re the Same, which gives the message that while we all have different colors of hair and eyes and skin, the hair and eyes and skin all do the same thing for each of us—the function is the same. We also love the book, The Colors We Are: The Story of How We Get Our Skin Color (for younger elementary age kids), which quite scientifically tells us that we get our skin color from three things—our parents and ancestors, melanin, and the sun.
One thing all parents can do is have uncomfortable conversations with your children. Talk to your kids about skin color; kids notice skin color, but they are often prevented from asking about it for the sake of being polite. But silence does much more harm than good; silence can breed prejudice. As Brigitte Vittrup explains in the first article linked below, when we don’t talk with kids about race, “It sends a very loud message to the children that this topic is taboo. While the intended message may be “Shhh… race is a sensitive topic in this country, so be careful what you say out loud, because we don’t want to offend anybody,” what the child is more likely to hear is “Shhh… there’s something wrong with these people, so let’s not talk about them.”
Please take the time to read the articles linked here and to have conversations with your children about race and color. Together, we can make strides towards justice, right here, right now.
From Deb Chester