a gay black woman's discovery of her jewish self

Talking about Race with Jewish Children of Color

Posted on: August 22, 2012

Last week I had the privilege of getting some work done in regards to creating Jewish communities that are inclusive, diverse and welcoming for all Jews. Three of us sifted through amazing diversity websites like Keshet looking for inspiration as we started to sketch the blue print for what will become a game-changer in the Jewish community. I feel incredibly blessed to be a part of this process and I’m anxious to get it started (done) because I want it up and running by the time my children are school-aged.

I planned on writing a blog post today, but am cross-posting instead. The author of this blog is not only a friend, but one of the women I’m working on this project with. Her latest post on discussing race with children is an important one. If you have children how have you discussed race with them? If you haven’t, do you plan on it?

End of Innocence

A recent conversation has made me consider something that all people of color eventually have to think about.  When to have the “talk” with your child.  No, not the one on the birds and the bees, but the one where you inform your child that they’re not just like everyone else. That society has preconceived notions on who they are, what they like, and their potential for success based entirely on what they look like.  It is a conversation (or series of conversations) that people of color have been relaying to their children for generations.  A discussion that combines societal realities with the tools they need to both cope with these preconceptions and rise above them.

Now, I’m not a parent yet, so I haven’t had to relay this lesson myself.  But it is a lesson that was imparted to me by my parents, grandparents and other relatives.  It’s a lesson I saw taught to my male relatives, and I recognize its results in the man my husband has become.  It’s the lesson about maintaining a sense of pride in yourself and your cultural history, constantly striving upward and not becoming constantly angry at or fearful of society.  It’s refusing to be regulated to the uneducated, drug dealing, criminal stereotype that society limits black males to or the stereotype of a drug addled, over sexed, unfit mother on public assistance that society often thrusts on black women.

Maybe some people think it’s creating a victim mentality in a child, but parents and people of color call it acknowledging reality.  We do not and have never lived in a color blind society (we can get into why I think the whole color blind concept is offensive at a later date).  It is a reality that children of color encounter racism, prejudice and disparate treatment by law enforcement.  It is best to prepare a child, rather than let them be blind sided or even harmed due to ignorance.  Teaching a black male how to respond to police inquiries, whether they feel such inquiry warranted or not, can be the difference between a brief if unpleasant encounter and a starring spot on the evening news.

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