Raising White Kids by Jennifer Harvey

This was one of the first books I read that lead me down the substantial rabbit hole of trying to understand the history of racism in this country and how myself and my wife were going to explain to our kids what was going on. My wife found this one — I had never heard of it — but I would say it is probably the most impactful book I read on this topic over the past year-and-a-half. The title itself sort of smacks you in the face — as it should — and Harvey is compassionate but firm in her beliefs that race needs to be tackled head on with kids, that kids are much, much, MUCH smarter than we give them credit for as they see and hear everything we say and do, and they need to be told the truth about was is happening. We, as white parents (which my wife and I are), have not done nearly a good enough job educating the next generations as to how we got to this point and what we need to do to tackle the racial reckoning that has happened over the past few years. This is probably the first book I recommend to others on this topic and I can’t recommend it highly enough for parents and anyone who wants to learn how to talk to kids about race in America.

  • Black is capitalized in the book. black identity is a conscious collective, intentional, historical and constructive way to self identify. Black and not black
  • nuanced, complex and challenging conversations are a fundamental necessity of parenting children of color; no parallels exist for white families
  • a child who’s only been taught addition is going to fail calculus
  • white youth struggle to find or experience a truly meaningful place from which to participate fully in conversations about diversity and multiculturalism
  • racial development is no different than physical, intellectual, or emotional development
  • when we bring up white children who are engaged, high functioning when it comes to matters of race, diversity and anti racism, we are parenting in ways that are good for everyone’s children
  • color blind teaching and a focus on diversity is inadequate because it doesn’t address the unique issues faced by whites when we move past color blindness
  • engages racial differences and racial justice with chidren/anti racism
  • non racism is not the same as anti racism; non racism isn’t enough to create equity or justice
  • actively countering and challenging racism
  • race conscious parenting means talking about race and racism early and often in our children’s lives
  • color blindness can be used to shut down racial discussions before they even get started — “We’re just human after all so get over it”
  • address such unevenness, we have no choice but to notice race
  • color blindness actually causes harm to white children’s understanding of race
  • we cannon not see race
  • race is a social construction
  • there is no racial DNA
  • but it is real
  • constructed realities are real and cannot be ignored; my house is constructed, just because it was built at some point doesn’t mean it doesn’t exist
  • race goes beyond just our minds — at six months babies, when shown pictures of different races, babies pause. eyes linger longer on pictures
  • noticing skin tone difference — prejudice is learned, differences are assigned meanings, negative ones
  • noticing racial differences is simply a part of neurological development
  • color blindness cannot teach children equity because it does not line up with how their brains actually function, they notice racial differences
  • as early as age five, children recognize different groups are treated differently
  • gender and gender messages are everywhere, so are race and racial messages
  • children notice patterns — if children aren’t taught the causes of inequity they see, we need to help them understand what they witness, experience and or participate in every day
  • we can’t intervene if we’re teaching color blindness
  • color blind parenting approaches leave our children to their own to use keep breathing in societies “smog”
  • being unable to see race renders us unable to see and address racism
  • children often hide racialized play — parents and teachers need to step in and give children language, tools and support
  • generic teachings like we are all equal don’t counteract racism — too vauge
  • taking people’s specific, diverse experiences of their humanity very seriously
  • consciously and explicitly teach them about difference
  • color blindness is harmful — damages their ability to embrace equity
  • the child knows his or her parent is not being truthful
  • for parents of children of color, at rates two to five times more often than white parents, teach their children explicitly about how race matters in their lives
  • if white children can’t identify with what their black friends identify with in some way, meaningful friendships across racial lines are difficult
  • color blindness implies that there is something wrong with color
  • “all races as good as one another” received by kids as it doesn’t matter that a person is black or latino, which implies that blackness or browness is somehow undesirable or shameful
  • race conscious parenting is an approach that insists on noticing and naming race early and often
  • thinking about, talking about, noticing, seeing, admitting
  • enables particular responses and postures
  • child is likely to infer there’s something wrong with racial differences itself and with blackness specifically
  • when little kids make “awkward” remarks, they are doing what they should be doing developmentally
  • we need to affirm and encourage the fact that little kids notice race and give a positive description of that difference
  • noticing itself needs to be affirmed, supported and even celebrated
  • “it’s not polite to point at people but yes, that woman’s skin is a beautiful shade of brown”
  • direct engagement of other people if or when we have been disrespectful is no less appropriate in racial fraught situations than it is in any other situation
  • positively characterize dark skin and teach our child about the importance of being polite to others
  • more we e gage, the more we develop emotionally intelligence and resilience for navigating the many racial tensions and challenges that exist in the world
  • early and consistent race conscious parenting makes situations like this less likely to happen
  • white americans social networks are 91% composed of white people
  • less likely we are to impose adult anxiety on to our children
  • invite and open up conversations with them
  • valuing diversity has proven inadequate
  • without a carefully cultivated race conscious approach to being white, valuing diversity doesn’t offer white children anything positive to claim or hold on to
  • we are not all just different — we live in a society which white people receive privileges benefits and protections in systemic ways while children of color do not
  • by age 5, children of color are aware of and have accepted to some degrees negative assessments of their own race
  • teaching kids to value diversity doesn’t include attention to the fact that racial domination is the norm in our society
  • white cannot be celebrated in the same way as black/latino
  • specific attention to identity as white people, vulnerable to becoming deeply disaffected from and disengaged with diversity
  • diversity is leaps and bounds better than color blindness
  • address racism — proactively and on a regular basis
  • actively model and teach the importance of work against racism and for racial justice
  • reading of the actual racial environment
  • kids need to and can be taught about this dimension of the experience of african americans
  • want our children to celebrate the blackness of their loved ones — society as a whole does not
  • honest dialogue about the inherited experience of being white as well as the history of whiteness
  • advocacy and anti racism combined with the values of equality and justice
  • we cannot not see race
  • prejudice is learned, seeing racial differences is natural neurological develop[ment
  • telling children not to notice race or that race doesn’t matter actively distorts their interpretation of reality
  • race conscious parenting = noticing and naming race early and often
  • if we wait, our children and youth will have already moved through various racial experiences that will have impacted them
  • there is no too young in terms of introducing race and racism
  • schemas are deep underlying organizational patterns through which we make sense of the world — conceptual frameworks
  • how things simply are
  • race is always visible to children and is just assumed by them to be something that we should notice and name
  • author’s children has always knowns families can have two moms — knowledge was part of their schema
  • kids schema has long since already assumed two mom families are normal
  • actively knitting a race conscious schema with them from the beginning — shapes their intellectual development and explicitly forms their powers of observation
  • race talk itself and antiracist commitments become a normal, necessary part of life
  • constantly and early name aloud and describe as beautiful the different colors of skin
  • race talk is welcome
  • studies that show that being surrounded by diverse images, media and toys doesn’t teach children to value diversity — need explicit conversation
  • we’ve fallen into the trap of only naming darker skin tones or pointing out difference when it isn’t white
  • kids learn early to hide race talk from adults
  • if our kids notice difference but we’ve never talked about difference, they will notice that silence
  • observations of difference into normal, everyday terrain of life
  • when we call an elbow an elbow but call a vagina a private part or penis a wee wee children notice
  • accurate language about bodies is a way to support and nurture curiosity while also teaching privacy and respect
  • seeing race but not making assumptions about people is also important
  • open ended inquisitive responses can direct a childs attention back to individuals and away from group generalizations
  • specificity and avoid generalizing language — “Yes, he happens to be african american.”
  • Doc Mcstuffins is an african american female character produced by Disney
  • Creator: “Kids who are of color see her as an african american girl and that’s really big for them. And i think a lot of other kids don’t see her color and that’s wonderful as well.” — this implies that black children are somehow more predisposed to naturally notice color when other kids don’t/racially charged description of black children
  • false belief that white kids don’t see color
  • see her specifically as a black female and embrace her as such
  • be specific — talk about Doc’s brilliance, kindness, being a girl, being black, etc.
  • a protest is an example of proactively shaping our kids schema for understanding justice and resistance in ways that precede their ability to understand racism conceptually — experience learning must be repeated and sustained to have an impact
  • white guilt — from being white and benefiting from injustice while believing equality should be the state of things
  • name the complexity
  • we went to a protest because we really want everyone to be safe, we want black people to be just as safe as white people (talking to kids)
  • introducing the reality of the existence of racial inequality early
  • notion of race as visible and normal, an awareness of racial injustice and a working presumption that people can and od take action against racism
  • specific and nuanced
  • teaching about racial injustice and inequity as much as it does racial difference
  • what does a healthy white kid look like?
  • comfortable in their own skin but who are able to function well and appropriately in racially diverse environments — neither ignore nor pretend not to notice the racial identities of others wubt who also do not make assumptions about people based on race
  • strong moral commitment to interrupt and challenge racism when they witness it, both in interpersonal and day to day life moments as wells in its larger structural and societal norms
  • white racial identity development theory — presume that just as human beings develop physically, emotionally and intellectually, we also develop racially
  • racial identity develops as one moves through and in response to various racial environments, experiences and messages
  • relationships between internal and external — interaction between the internal selfhood and the external world
  • paying intentional attention to racial development isn’t optional — if we don’t pay attention and nurture children explicitly, the external environments in which our children are exposed daily to radicalized messages will do the shaping in our absence
  • contact/disintegration/reintegration/pseudo independence/immersion emersion/autonomy
  • racial identity is not a set of life stages that can be closely associated with chronological age
  • stages are not firm, fixed or static
  • contact to disintegration = kid on a playground overhears racial teasing
  • older = videos of black youth describing their encounters with police
  • we disintegrate because we have an encounter in which moral dilemmas posted by racism become impossible to ignore or deny
  • disintegration often brings stress
  • options are to reintegrate the experience of racially differential treatment into our prior framework or to embark on the more difficult and uncertain work of creating a new framework
  • reintegration stage is movement along a pathway that embraces or internalizes various justifications for racial disparities and inequity
  • fear of or anger toward people of color
  • pseudo independent = if racially disparate treatment exists, then the prior framework was wrong — something must be wrong with society after all — unjust systems and inequitable
  • learn about structural racism and how it functions
  • this stage can also bring stress
  • intellectual understanding often comes more quickly than emotional understanding
  • guilt is normal and predictable part of white development but it doesn’t help in the fight to end racism
  • immersion immersion stage = who am i racially? who do I want to be?
  • actively committing to antiracism changes the experience and feel of that relationship
  • impact and challenge the power of racism participate in antiracism resistance to it
  • growth and change — i do not have to reduced to only being racist just because i am white
  • begin to challenge racism as if our lives depend on it because they do
  • autonomy — desirers of learning, learn from people who are different from ourselves because we know and will grow if we do
  • a journey — never over
  • our own abilities, agency, language and facility around race and antiracism
  • checking in, learning more being open to crucial feedback from and to the leadership of people of color
  • teaching white children they are white
  • not mean wandering around wracked with guilt and feeling uncomfortable in ones own skin all the time
  • never downplaying how embedded in injustice whiteness is while knowing that we ourselves are not only and always bad — all at the same imte
  • raise white kids who are neither overdetermined nor underdetermined by being white
  • not downplay whiteness
  • continuously aware that this radicalization effects what and how i see, what i feel, how i understand, how i am perceived, and so on
  • i am aware that i am not the sum total of my mistakes and can learn and do better, learn and grow
  • active, dynamic, constantly attended to
  • teaching our children about bad things white people have done — honest about white complicity, agency
  • shared justice commitments across lines of racial difference while not downplaying difference itself
  • comfortable in her own skin while also being empowered as an advocate for justice
  • everything a child observes and experiences in his or her racial environment deeply informs identity and selfhood
  • bravery on the part of parents and other caregivers for whom decade of racial silence and tension can make such encounters difficult
  • whites can only be healthy to the degree that antiracist committment and practice is at the heart of how we live
  • intention of the person doing something perceived as racists often takes center stage rather than center stage being given to questions about the impact of the incident, event, symbol may have had on others
  • to avoid directly engaging with racism doesn’t reduce these risks
  • children can and do understand racism much earlier than adults give them credit for
  • surface, name acknowledge and inquire further into their own experiences of racism
  • telling the hard truth
  • far more likely our children will hurt their friends of color if we don’t give them words and analysis
  • listen carefully and follow our children’s lead — stand next to them as partners
  • stay engaged with kids day after day and moment after moment
  • accept the inevitability of discomfort, when we stay engaged we teach our children to do the same
  • regularly experience a lack of closure
  • three and four year olds asked to draw a picture of native peoples had feathers, tomahawk, violence
  • context for what they already know
  • important to teach white kids not just about racism but explicitly about white peoples participation in racism
  • kids can’t just stay innocent, part and parcel of the injustice we have to address head on if we are going to raise healthy white kids
  • talk about discrimination occasionally rather than often/pride in racial identity
  • black children who’d heard messages of ethnic pride were more likely to engage in school and more likely to attribute their success to their effort and ability
  • explicit teachings about racism and white perpetuation of racism decreased bias against black people and reduced white kids vulnerability to internalizing a sense of white superiority
  • vision of the kind of world they want to live in and a sense that their behavior and actions can help create that world
  • not to feed into a sense of pity, charity or white savior syndrome
  • endless accounts about and relentless emphasis on the resistance and agency being lived out by people of color
  • teaching our kids about past and present heroes and shheroes
  • diverse ways people of color have resisted and continue to resist injustice
  • expose our chilean to fiction and nonfiction stories by and about people of color that have nothing to do with racial injustice
  • main characters who are black
  • also need to find white heroes as well
  • what do i want to affirm?
  • we get better at understanding seeing and responding the more we simply try to do it
  • call it out as such
  • name, acknowledge, inquire further into their own experiences of racism
  • be persistent and authentic
  • challenge it — talk explicitly about racism
  • in a world full of racism there’s nothing innocent about letting white kids remain innocent
  • our racialised bodies live learn move and work play in larger racial scripts
  • they directly and deeply shape our day to day lives
  • when I pass an african american on the street i am just another white person
  • racial scripts are about intergroup racial relationship and histories
  • racial scripts contain highly predictable patterns — patterns repeat
  • white students are afraid to talk about race — for their peers of color, white students per form “white disinterest” and “lack of care
  • racial scripts — more about the ways being white has put white people in a particular location in a system that is larger than we are individually, but which continues to damage and harm people of color. our being white communicates complicity in that system long before our true character can be revealed
  • white kids are being raised by white adults whose social networks are 91 percent white — more likely to spend most of their time in contexts that are demographically mostly white
  • children imitate and respond to adult modeling, much more than they do what adults say
  • adults haven’t figured out how to address and reduce racial tensions among ourselves
  • we have to model disruptions of racial scripts and have frank conversations about their existence and impact
  • diversity in my life requires actions and behaviors that constantly attempt to prove otherwise (to prove that you are not just another white person)
  • we have to talk with them about the ways diversity is hard
  • no fear in talking about scripts
  • parents cultivate understanding of the specific ways structures and larger collective narratives shape the racial lives of the communities of which are children are a part
  • white parents need to be active, visible anti racist allies t parents and children of color at school
  • race is in the way we move and hold our bodies in shared spaces (she used an analogy of dueling black vs. white birthday parties at chuck e cheese)
  • the bodily dimensions of race are always context specific
  • white privledge does not just impact white peoples way of thinking, but our ways of bodying — bodying, the physical correlate to thinking, is produced by the ongoing experience of being white in a white racial hierarchy
  • what we do in spaces, how we are treated in and navigate spaces, what we do day in and day out, which creates habits, which creates environments, which bodys us again
  • body language, eye contact, non lingual communicates create, sustain and/or disrupt racial dynamics when we are in a collective group space
  • ask any young person — they will tell you they feel different in their bodies, spirits, and emotions in these distinct places
  • where we spend out time and where we ensure that our children spend time matters
  • seek out spaces in which our children can experience being a demographic minority — diversity is important
  • sustained and ongoing participating in communities and contexts in which people of color are not only the majority but are also the leadership is a practice that deserves to be prioritized
  • what kind of media do we consistently listen to? which public thinkers do we follow online? what authors do we read and how often?
  • environments that help shape a persons habits and on which a person can have some impact
  • most of us have had few to no experiences with good, productive dialogues about race — many of us have had experience with hurtful dialogues
  • talk with kids about how they feel about being white, what it does or does not have to do with being racist, and even about how confusing diversity can be for them, given their whiteness
  • white students have a pervasive fear that they might be seen as endorsing racism if they say what their race is — white identity and white dominance are so tangled up together that asking about one automatically raised the other
  • whiteness, in one school, example, associated with “cultural blandness and lack of coolness”
  • in this context, you can’t embrace your race while everyone else gets to do so (for students especially)
  • challenge is white kids experience of diversity relative to their own specific identity
  • diversity provides no meaningful way for white people to plug in
  • not having access to a meaningful “ethnoracial identity” — white students don’t have an embraceable, postive, meaningful racial identity in a context where everyone else gets to have one
  • race conscious parenting means creating opportunities for our children to reflect on the emotionally difficult truth of whiteness
  • dialogue about white complicity will be at some point the center of discussion, which is good and important, but hard
  • support children in creating distance between “being white” and “racist” in larger contexts in which these are conflated
  • we are all impacted by the racism we breathe in and benefit from as white people
  • sharing with them models of white people who live agency against racism — John Brown
  • white people show up to protest with and in support of black communities as they challenge violence
  • being explicit about whiteness — what actions could we take as white people in that situation, would our action change how it feels to be white?
  • reflection on the experience of and more embodied self awareness of being white
  • cultivate a meaningful sense of their identity as people who live for justice and in resistance to racism despite being from a people whom such behaviors are rarely expected
  • support white kids in cultivating ways to experience antiracism as a way to make sense out of and gain a foothold in their relationship to their own white racial identity
  • living and experiencing agency mitigates the experience of being white as being sentenced to a permanent state of uncoolness at best, racism at worst
  • involve kids in deeply committed justice work outside of school
  • “I’m white and i’m also an antiracist committed person active in taking a stand against racism and injustice when i see it” — goal
  • world we live in is often fair to people of color simply because they are people of color and that persisting racial ethnic inequalities are unjust and morally wrong — make it clear that racial ethnic prejudice and discrimination are part of a larger society that needs reform and not just something that individuals do
  • racism as a moving walkway — white people are riding the walkway whether we want to or not
  • structural racism is the thing that built the walkway and put us all on it
  • running in precisely the opposite direction from the one the moving walkway is taking us
  • we are no the moving walkway itself — we didn’t build it, but we are on the walk way whether we want to be or not
  • not guilty, but something we inherit
  • understanding of equity, in contrast to equality
  • being white is a painful and vexed location in the context of awareness of injustice — particularly for kids — makes it difficult for whites to authentically embrace diversity let alone embrace it deeply
  • white people are all complicit with racism and we must help our kids content with this even while we quiet them with lots of explanations about concepts like inherited privilege, equity in contrast to equality, analogy of racism as a moving sidewalk
  • depend our active commitment to everyones children by drawing more of us into the larger movement of social racial justice
  • scaffolding — kids build upon what they’ve already built, which itself is built upon what came before that
  • what our children are going to teach us if we allow ourselves to be vulnerable enough to to make it possible for them to do so
  • create space for them to literally feel injustice and feel, touch and ache from its real costs
  • specific things specific white people actually did
  • we teach enslavement, we teach Washington, but never connect the two — dangerous to our children’ sense of history and to their consciousness overall
  • we are people “who don’t even know how to begin to feel what we feel”
  • teaching our children about white peoples complicity with racism
  • same people they learn about in school as heroes are the same people who committed violence as well
  • it’s always worth asking whether there is more to the story
  • taking action gets more difficult and more complicated as they grow
  • participating with them in the changing world
  • pronounced silence makes us all more likely to go along quietly with injustice — that alone is a hugely significant reason to protest
  • child learns what it means to value on kindness into action only as she watches the adults in her life model responses to challenges, conflicts, pain difficult decisions and uncertainty
  • early in life is the time to bring our children into spaces where they watch us, with others, model available and appropriate responses to injustice
  • engaging them in various forms of resistance now, they experience and witness dissent as a value
  • teachers need vocal and supportive antiracist parents who give them cover and enable them to teach in ways that run up against these broader cultural currents
  • not uncommon for one white person breaking silence to free others up to do the same
  • engage our children explicitly about racism and racial injustice
  • all of us to be all in
  • feel the ache and hurt of the harm that injustice causes
  • challenge myths about nations history and heroes that aren’t true
  • more to the story
  • people in authority positions and with power aren’t always correct
  • we are all wounded when we remain in the clutch of which is unhealed
  • being white in a system of white racial hierarchy negatively impacts white peoples humanity and health every day, even as it harms and negatively impacts people of color every da
  • bring them along with us — as we work to change this world, activism is required

I love books, I have a ton of them, and I take notes on all of them. I wanted to share all that I have learned and will continue to learn. I hope you enjoy.