We're starting a new series called: Race and Parenting.
We wanted to start a dialogue among parents in the community from different ethnic and racial backgrounds, about how they talk to their kids about race, racism and their identity.
A recent story Jenna Hanchard reported on served as the springboard to this larger conversation.
On Super Bowl Sunday, a mother named Darnesha Weary, who lives in Edmonds, posted on Facebook about something that happened to her two teenagers.
Her 18-year-old and 14-year-old were out taking pictures with their phone near their home. They happened to be outside of a bar in a strip mall right off Highway-99. The kids said a woman came outside the bar with a bat and said, “The manager doesn't want N-words” on the property.
The kids went home and told their parents. Their parents called the police who eventually arrested the woman who worked at the bar.
While this was a traumatic experience for everyone, Darnesha opened up to us about the conversations she has to have with her son.
“You have to be aware of whose watching you because you are a 6’5” black male in a neighborhood where you are going to be the only one that fits the description. For him, we want to him to come home. We want him to walk through those doors every single night and we know that may not be the case simply because of what he looks like,” she said.
The discussion that Darnesha had with her son goes beyond this one incident and this one family.
We were eager to continue this conversation and broaden it in a meaningful way. Getting folks together around a dinner table is always a good way to break the ice ... or bread in this case.
We decided to host a series of dinner parties with parents from different backgrounds to talk about the conversations they have with their kids about race, racism and identity. To start off, we had separate dinners with black families, white families, Latino families and Asian families.
By no means do these conversations represent the voices and opinions of all black, Asian, white and Latino people. But, we want to get those conversations started by hosting a space for families that have shared experiences. Validation at the table is important. We didn't want people to feel like they had to defend their truth or feel isolated at these dinners.
These dinners are just a jumping off point. We know there is a diverse range of voices in this community that aren't at the table, yet. As the series continues, we hope to expand the conversation.
We also know, there is no universal guide to parenting and there is no one right way to raise a child. We hope you’ll be able to relate to these families and their experiences and we hope you’ll take something away from their stories and their honesty. The goal is for you to continue the conversations at home.
Professor Ralina Joseph of the University of Washington helped us define some terms we will be using throughout this series.
Race and racism:
"Race first and foremost is a construction. Race is not something that we know as biological. It was something that was created hundreds of years ago to separate people, to divide people, to exploit people, to enslave folks. The structure of racism comes from these notions of race. Racism being the structures, the institutions that come from this discrimination. We think of racism of being something that might happen interpersonally, but can really only happen when someone had institutional structural power. All of us need to be invested in these conversations of race and racism, and how they permeate our lives."
"Code switching is a survival strategy. It’s learning how to perform your identity differently according to what feels safe. For many of us, we don’t have the luxury of having the same identity in every space. Some people can walk into every room and be able to perform the same identity."
The history of the U.S. Census:
"The census that was started in 1790 didn’t have a category outside of white and slave. For years and years, there were variations of those categories and the Hispanic category was introduced by the Nixon administration. Folk who were of Latinx decent who were living in the United States could have chosen any number of things on the census. So, it makes sense that people don’t really know what to check because these are fabricated constructed categories that are not in alignment with how racialization happens in home countries, and the government hasn’t quite caught up."
On resources for families to have conversations and race, racism and identity:
"Families of Color Seattle is a terrific resource and particularly for those of you with younger children. They can connect people with other parents of color with parenting groups. Another thing is that many Seattle public schools have their own racial equity teams, so seeing if your school has a Race and Equity Team. If not, see if your school can create a Race & Equity Team.
"And then finally, my center -- the Center for Communication Difference & Equity -- we have a number of events that are open to the public. In the fall we’ll bring people together to talk about how do we become radical listeners around questions of race and listen a bit differently."