North America #GiveYourChildTheWorld Book Club Gets Serious


This post is either only marginally related to the Give Your Child the World Book Club or the most important post I've written about our summer experiences yet.

To be honest, I'm not entirely sure.

Up next week is North America.  I happened to be sitting with my book and library catalog open at the same time I was watching the news of the last week or so cross my newsfeed.  It makes me so sick to my stomach, you guys.  All of it just rips me up inside.  Black deaths, cop deaths, people who are so busy arguing that abortion is worse (or gay rights or gun control or whatever their personal issue is) that they can't see the real human suffering that is surrounding us.

I live in Minnesota, land of the nice.  If it is here it is everywhere even if you can't see it yet.

I started thinking about how my newsfeed and the Give Your Child the World title go along with each other and I realized that the global cultural awareness that is built through the book club is exactly the kind of racial awareness that we need to build in our country right now.  I mean, I'm white.  My kids are white.   We don't live in a diverse town and I've never given much thought to the fact that my children are unaware of many of the struggles that ethnic and cultural minority groups face in the real world.  Not because I'm trying to hide them from it or somehow see myself as better than them, but simply because I've never needed to.

I have come to realize that this is a hole in my children's education.

We don't watch much TV, so honestly current events aren't really the answer.  In most cases I'm grateful for that because there is a lot of violence, sexuality, anti-religious sentiment, and more that we get to control (to a degree) and discern when it is appropriate for our children to have knowledge about such things.  I still think that keeping the details of the madness outside their door is one of the best things we can do for very young children as we raise them to be warriors for the dignity of all human beings.  That being said, I feel convicted that we may need to do a little more preparing than I naively thought. I had this idea that because we are not demonstrating racism, that would be enough to prevent misunderstandings of race for our children.  I'm not so sure any more that, that is enough.

This is where the book club comes in.

As I was reading through the North America chapter, several titles stood out to me as particularly timely in light of current events.  These books about racial friendships can help fill the holes.  While I did select titles related to other North American minorities (Native Americans and Hispanics particularly), I decided to really focus this time around on African American titles.  Picture books can teach our children about things they don't see and haven't experienced.  This can happen in a negative way at times, but also in positive ways.

But I don't think that intentionally "exposing" (I hate that word choice, but I'm not coming up with a better one right now) our children is enough.  We need to address our own access as well.

Following my musings on the responsible use of social media in a crisis, I also realized that part of the reason I (as an adult) am isolated from the realities of racial tensions and differences is my own choosing.  I am a part of many online communities, and there is no reason for them to be as un-diverse as my physical surroundings.

Take Instagram for example, since most of the people I know are white almost all of the photos on my stream are white.  But why?  Without even stretching my beliefs at all, there are large families of many races, homeschoolers of many races, Catholics of many races.  Why aren't they part of my online tribe too?  There's a lot I can't do anything about, but I can do something about that.   They may not ever *see* me, but I think the fact that I am seeing them matters.

Now, just to be clear, I do understand that friending a bunch of black people does not do anything practical.   To be fair, I also understand that I am taking a narrow sample of the population.  That's because from a social media perspective, I have chosen to use it in a way that builds certain virtues and skills in me and to stay away from things that encourage certain vices.  That's one of the ways I have kept social media in it's proper place in my life and keep it from interfering too heavily with my primary vocation, which is my family.  If a digital relationship with someone is distracting me from that due to the content they post or the way the treat others... even someone I agree with in real life...I have no problem hitting unfriend or unfollow.  Keeps my heart much more balanced that way.

I'm not saying you should feel guilty about being white or living in a white community.  I really don't think that does anyone much good.  I'm just saying don't make it an excuse or a crutch for having a lack of diversity in your life.  This is the year 2016 after all and the world is at our fingertips.

Truth be told I'm a little embarrassed I didn't figure it out sooner.

Resources & Links

How Silence Can Breed Prejudice (Washington Post)
A child psychologist discusses the messages kids actually here when we stay silent (solid child development here and I know this is a mistake I've made both with race and LGBTQ questions I wasn't "ready" to answer).

Dear White Parents of my Black Child's Friends:  I need your help (Scary Mommy)
What happens when my adorable black child becomes a black man?

Black Mom Instagrammers
I was hesitant when I saw this post, but she really says the most beautiful thing and she helped me think through how I'm feeling about all of it.

One of the things I want you , the readers of my blog, to come away with when you visit this space, is that your version of motherhood counts. That ALL versions of motherhood count. Mine might not look like yours, but we are all in this motherhood sorority together. It occurred to me that we always see those lists. Those lists of moms we should follow on Instagram. But most of them don’t look like me.   
So I decided to make a list. A list of what I see on MY Instagram feed....Black motherhood is on Instagram.  Living our beautifully imperfect lives. We are working moms, we are stay at home moms, we are homeschooling moms, we are fashionistas, we are entrepreneurs, we are bohemian, we are crunchy, we are marathoners, we are activists, writers, photographers…I can go on and on. 
We matter. We exist. We parent. We love. And we document it on Instagram.

In your community,  in a book, and even on Instagram seeing people matters.  Today I don't want you to follow me anywhere, plenty of people see what I have to say.  Go show someone else they matter.  

This post contains affiliate links.  


Angie said...

Wow. Thanks Heidi. Picture books! Yes, that is how we learn timely in this summer of the dreaded newsfeed that the kids and I are traveling the world together.

Meredith said...

What a good reflection, Heidi. We are in a unique situation this year, as our kids are the only white kids in the neighborhood and all their friends are black or Hispanic. It is an amazing lesson for all of us on how similar we all are, and the world has never seemed closer. But you're so right that childrens books and explaining the state of our world gently is extremely educational for our kids in this time of fear and racial (etc) tensions. We are just LOVING this book club!

Heidi said...

I love hearing that you guys are both doing this too! It's like with us, even though you aren't with us :)