I’m a white woman raising a multiracial family.
Talking about race, the history of race and racism is something that is hard. I want my children to be proud of their roots and their skin color. I want them to identify with their race …but I don’t ever want them to be identified only by it. I want them to know the racial history of this country (and other countries) but at the same time, I don’t want those conversations to be too harsh or too sugar coated. What’s the right balance? Am I doing enough? Am I being too sensitive?
I read and read and read about this topic and I still don’t have all the answers. (Isn’t this the definition of parenthood?)
I can tell you what I do know:
For right now, I choose to teach my kids about race and racism by teaching them what great men like Nelson Mandela and Martin Luther King Jr did about it. I choose to use their life and mission to guide the conversation on this hard topic.
When Nelson Mandela passed away, I took the time to talk to the boys about him. We watched a couple YouTube videos about his life. We listened to South African music. We looked at pictures of Mandela.
Fast forward a month later. Tyson and I went on a little mommy/son date which ended at the grocery store. While in the checkout line, Tyson sees LIFE magazine’s commemorative issue featuring Nelson Mandela.
From his perch in the cart he says, “Look Mom, there’s the guy you like.”
I look over and see the magazine with Mandela’s smiling face beaming back. I pick up the issue and bring it to Tyson.
“Do you want to look at this, Buddy?”
I hand it to him and start unloading the cart onto the conveyor belt. I look up to see this:
His intensity takes my breath away. Sniff. Sniff.
“Mom, why is he in jail?” I tell him.
“Mom, what are all those people in life for?” We talk about the right to vote.
We have a little moment there in grocery check-out line, of all places.
And even though talking to my kids about race is not something I am totally confident in, in this little moment my mommy-heart skipped a beat. Despite my self-doubt and inadequacies, I must be doing something right. I’m calling this a parenting win.
(And obviously this issue of LIFE came home with us.)