8/20/15: We had some race-related incidents happen last year, and when I was looking for resources that might help I came across a book called I’m Chocolate, You’re Vanilla: Raising Healthy Black and Biracial Children in a Race-Conscious World by Marguerite A. Wright. I so wish I’d had this to read when the kids first came home; it would have given me a much better perspective on childhood development regarding color, race, and racial attitudes. Here are a few of the interesting things I learned, specifically about my own children’s experience in middle childhood:
- Subtle forms of racism still exist, even in classrooms led by teachers who believe themselves to be sensitive to gender and racial issues. While students may not be able to recognize racism per se in their class, they feel it when they’re rarely called on for answers, their misbehavior evokes overreactions, or they’re overlooked for lead roles in class projects or plays. (p.154, 155)
- Wright discusses the wrenching decision biracial children face when forced to ‘choose sides.’ “Even if a biracial child physically appears to be of one race, the burden of allying only with that one race can be emotionally costly.” (p.180)
- Often teachers learn relatively little about behavior management, and sometimes the instructions they do receive can be racist. When it’s a white teacher and minority students involved, there is concern about being too lenient versus being an oppressor. In short, “too many teachers react to students’ color than to their status as students.” (p.210)
I think this book is valuable because it provides a clear explanation of how children develop an understanding of color and race, from preschool up through adolescence. As the white mom of two biracial children, it’s given me a perspective I simply didn’t have.