Racism – Am I Teaching It and Implicit Bias To My Children?

Am I Teaching Racism and Implicit Bias To My Children?
Am I Teaching Racism and Implicit Bias To My Children?

Racism – Am I Teaching It and Implicit Bias To My Children?

Kristyn Meyer is on a journey to make herself the best human that she can be. These posts are a reflection of that. She welcomes your support via reading and through commissioned affiliate links within her posts! To stay up to date on all of her shenanigans, please subscribe to her email list! (psst…there’s a free gift involved)

This is a follow-up to the post I wrote a few weeks ago, Am I Racist? For Sure A Recovering One.

But this is about my kids. And this is about my kids not being the same as what I was, and am.

One of the biggest things for me was growing up surrounded by only white people. I went to school with only white students, all of my friends were white, all of my parents’ friends were white. It was a very bland color palette amongst my circle of peeps. My surroundings contributed to racism and implicit bias.

So guess what?

I’ve changed nothing.

Racism – Am I Teaching It and Implicit Bias To My Children?

My kids go to a daycare that is all white. My daughters preschool – all white. Her elementary school that she will start attending next year – all white.

White, white, white. SO MUCH WHITE.

Now yes, white people are the majority. There is going to be mostly white people almost anywhere you go. And yes, I didn’t just go with any old daycare, preschool or school. I strategically chose them because I knew they were good. A colleague of mine knew that I was looking for daycare when I was pregnant with my daughter. She knew I had called a bunch of different ones – including an in-home daycare run by a Middle Eastern woman who spoke fluent French. I had visions in my head of my little girl growing up, spouting off words that I didn’t understand.

However, she had no openings. And for that, I am grateful. If she had, I would have put Parker into her care. That would mean that I wouldn’t have gotten a recommendation for Sonya. Without Sonya in our life, I don’t know that we would be able to survive parenthood. She’s essentially the third parent to our children, and they both adore her.

Racism – Am I Teaching It and Implicit Bias To My Children?

When it came to preschool, we toured two that were Montessori based. The first one we absolutely loved. I wanted to go there and learn, it was impressive. And the price was right as well. However, they ended up sending an email later on saying that their director was stepping down and the future of the school was unknown. Another Montessori that we toured was just meh. I wasn’t impressed. The price was right, but that doesn’t matter when it comes to your kids.

Then I decided to look in a completely different area, one by my work instead of by our daycare. I picked up the phone and called the preschool that my friend’s daughter went to. She always raved about the place, so I figured I should look into it. My husband, daughter and I went to see it and we knew it was where she needed to be. Parker inserted herself into their activities and even invited herself to join them for breakfast.

She started there two weeks later.

When we bought our home, we planned to do school of choice and send our daughter to a school about 20 minutes away. I went to a small school growing up and I was bullied a lot. Also I didn’t feel like there were enough options available to me there. With my oldest son, we sent him to a bigger school and I could not believe what opportunities were at his disposal. I was almost jealous that he had the chance to learn all of these different things.

Additionally, I wanted my daughter to have the ability to find a group of friends that she truly clicked with and not have to be friends by default, meaning that she had friends just because she saw them every day for her entire school career. I did have friends growing up that I genuinely clicked with, but not many. And with having a very small class (68 students), if you did one weird or crazy thing in kindergarten, it followed you until graduation. In addition, this school was more diverse. Not just straight white.

So that was the plan. We were good to go.

And then we went to Christmas in the Village.

Christmas in the Village is a yearly event in our town where all of the stores and businesses have activities for kids. There are Santa Claus visits, horse-drawn carriage rides, a parade, and the annual tree lighting. It’s like a real-life Hallmark movie. I’m not exaggerating. Think of your favorite Hallmark Christmas movie that is set in a small town with snow. Add in the local people that everyone knows, the little coffee shop that everyone frequents and the kids that all know each other.

That is Christmas in the Village in our town.

How could we send our daughter to a school farther away when she could be a part of all this? Part of this community?

It really struck my husband and me when we were watching the parade. A float went by with a bunch of kids and a man dressed in some sort of costume. As it went by us, everyone around us was like: “It’s Bill! Look, everyone, it’s Bill! Bill’s the one in the costume! Hi Bill!”

I felt completely left out. I didn’t know Bill. But at that point, I really wanted to know Bill.

It made me think of growing up in my small town. We didn’t have Bill, we had Jimmy. Jimmy was our SuperFan, and he was at every school event. He cheered on the students as they played basketball, football, track, and soccer. To top it off, he was an honorary graduate every spring. He was a staple of my childhood. If you didn’t know Jimmy, you were clearly an outsider.

I had made myself an outsider in my quest to avoid racism.

In my quest to seek an option for my kids that would make it easier to interact with a more diverse crowd, I forgot to pay attention to something just as important – a sense of community.

Growing up, I struggled with my small school setting, but I also didn’t feel like a stranger. Literally, every person in the school knew my name. Teachers who didn’t even have me in their classes knew who I was. That is something that I will never have again. There are people that I work with that don’t even know my name (I actually have more people in my organization than I did in my entire high school). Many people that I went to school with still live in the same town, and I get it. Although I love my new town, there’s a lot that can be said for being in a place where you’re not a new and shiny object.

I still want for my children to have a better hand in this journey of life that I did, but I don’t think I need to be as hardcore as what I originally planned to be. What I really want is for it to happen naturally, I don’t want it to be taught. And as always, my children are the best teachers of that.

As an example, last summer we went to Chicago for a week. My husband went for a training for work and the kids and I tagged along. I planned activities for our time there, including trips to the library, aquarium, and several parks. One day we went to this amazing park in the middle of the city.

Amazing?

I say amazing because it’s the only park where I felt safe to actually look at my phone for a few minutes without fear of my children being snatched away, and it was in downtown Chicago, of all places. Right next to a fire station and across the street from a children’s hospital, it had two separate areas, one for little children and one for older children. Both were fenced in and locked. For someone to get in, they would have to unlock the gate at the far end and then walk about 15 steps to the play equipment. There was also no way to reach over the fence and grab a kid.

So anyway, my daughter ran off to play and I stationed myself on the outside of the equipment, between my daughter and the entrance/exit (although I felt safer here, if any parent decided to haul off with my kid under their arm, they would have to get past me before getting to the exit). I was playing with the baby and checking my email and glanced up to see what my daughter was up to. She was playing with a little boy. He was about her age and of Middle Eastern descent. They were running around playing some kind of made-up game that involved a handful of sticks and running to different areas of the equipment.

I then realized that this little boy didn’t even speak English. He would shout things out in words that I didn’t understand, and Parker would respond, either by excitedly running along with him or saying something in English. And they were happy as could be.

She will be just fine. She will not perpetuate racism.

Now I realize that she is just fine. She’s not me, she’s her own person. I was projecting my childhood onto her, especially about racism, and my own shortcomings.

I obviously shouldn’t have worried about her. From this experience I could see that she clearly interacts with others based on her own desire to do so, no matter their race or ethnic background. She is the picture of what I hope for everyone in this world. She naturally sees people as just people but also celebrates what differences they have, without prompting. This child will be one to help end racism.

When it was time to leave, she came over to me and told me all about the games that they had played. She then told me that the little boy spoke differently than she did, and I explained that he was from another country where they have a different language. She thought about it for a minute and then said:

“I want to go play at his house next!”

And that’s when I realized that I want to be my daughter when I grow up.

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2 thoughts on “Racism – Am I Teaching It and Implicit Bias To My Children?

  1. Susan Nies says:

    We were in the same situation with our daughter during her younger years in school. Luckily, as she aged up to middle school and high school her peers became much more diverse. She now attends a college of 64,000 students and moves in and out of many groups.

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