Written by Laura Hay
My name is Laura Hay and I am the Youth and Young Adult Intern with OEP. In collaboration with Priscilla, Grace, Tamera, and Marie, I have been leading a webinar series entitled Raising Race-Conscious Kids. I led the first session which was an introduction to the topics: color-blindness, diversity, and race-conscious teaching. Coming to this project, I must admit I felt wildly under-qualified to be a leader on the topic of raising race-conscious kids. I am not a mother, nor do I have many close family connections with children. The most connected I am to children is through my past work at camps and here at my position with OEP, which I have only just started, so I felt ill prepared to act as some sort of expert and introduce the group to these difficult and highly nuanced topics. But as with almost everything intimidating, I have learned so much through the process. First and most importantly, I think, is that I do not have to be an expert. Harvey in Raising White Kids says that “we don’t have to have all the answers but just need to continue to ask good questions and find good resources.” And I think that is great advice for anyone just starting to understand race teaching and race-consciousness.
Secondly, these teachings are not simply for children but can be very beneficial for adults who were not engaged in these topics as a child. Although I think my upbringing was more educated than many, I was mostly taught with color-blind and diversity teachings and not in a particularly race-conscious way. I struggle with when it is appropriate to note someone's race because I feel so uncomfortable with that being okay. Harvey’s reassurance of the difficulties of these topics and specifically addressing the ways in which white people are particularly ill-equipped because of societal expectations, helped me identify the unease I feel with these topics and begin to take note of them instead of shaming myself for them. Like many, I need these lessons as an adult just as much as kids need them.
My work at OEP so far has been challenging me to grow in my understanding of justice. And giving kids the tools they need to be a force against racism is a powerful and important topic. When we speak out against color-blind and diversity teachings, we break the white-silence so often protecting these broken, outdated modes. I encourage you to view the recordings of this webinar series or reach out to us for recommendations on books so you can start your race-conscious journey. Here is the link for session one: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jIvPTOAdMXI.