‘Bringing up Race’ in a conversation and with your kids, is covered in this accessible and wide ranging book by Uju Asika.
As a White elderly woman, reading this book gave me a sense of hope. Every White parent and grandparent will be helped by what Uju so eloquently spreads before us.
The smooth shift between stories of parenting, Uju’s own growth and her drawing on the evidence and experience from others whose paths she has crossed, richly illustrates the all too familiar abuses, challenges and pain experienced by Black children.
Reading that a young White child wished her Black friend was White, encapsulated for me the reason why educating and conversing with White children about race from the earliest days is critical. My blog ‘I don’t like Black people’ https://www.nanhood.com/i-dont-like-black-people/ was stimulated by the words of a 5 year old child already picking up the attitudes of others around him. Uju says implicit bias sets in by the age of 3.
Uju tells her readers how people in the UK who are Black, or people of colour (she uses all the terms) face many barriers. These barriers are presented through the prisms of class, stop and search, employment, media, economics, school exclusion, gender, knife crime and policing.
As I read her reflections on modern society I was filled with sadness. Uju says that Black men are first seen as a threat. I recognise that in my past self. To shift the dial needs White people across the world to think differently, to listen well and to act carefully. To open up and converse… and now, no delays.
Ways to change
Her narrative offers hope. It sets out the problems but also offers up suggestions for change.
As Uju says, conversation on race has to be normalised. Adult to adult as well as adult with child. Having empowering conversations with children supports them developing the ability to anticipate and handle the bias, prejudice and racism they will face in every town, village and City in the UK.
One of many great examples of how we shift the dial is the value of talking with children about the language to describe their skin. Uju suggests encouraging kids to learn to describe themselves as Black/White/Brown/mixed so they can start to understand racial definitions. Simultaneously acknowledging that younger Black kids may choose ‘delicious words’ like chocolate, cream, brown sugar, says Uju. Brown sugar…..took me back to my teens, dancing with my Jamaican friend to the Stones track of the same name. We laughed about making coffee coloured babies one day. Between then and when I had my White baby I heard again and again how difficult it would be for any child to be part White and part Black. It was a problem us White girls should not give our children. The conversation was invariably topped or tailed with ‘it’s not racist’ ….. It was..
Don’t rock the boat was the underlying message of my youth. Well now is the time for a bit of rocking. We Whites cannot leave it all to the likes of Uju Asika and Marcus Rashford… we have to stand up and speak out too.
Bringing up Race has many wonderful and memorable phrases I shall hold close. Here are some
- The problem with a colour blind approach is that it silences any meaningful conversations
- One of the biggest ingredients in racial hatred is ignorance
- The ability to see anything from a new angle is the key to happiness.
- Racism does not live in our children it lives in our silence and silence is never the right response
- It is discrimination if you target something a child cannot change
I had not heard of the terms micro aggressions, microinvalidations, micro assaults and micro insults. But these concepts, originated by Derald Wing Sue, have been around since 2007. Having these descriptors pointed out by Uju has already aided my conversations.
Top Tips from Bringing up Race: How to Raise a kind child in a prejudiced world.
- Expose your kids to other ethnic groups at an early age. Babies are not born to hate
- Talk to children openly and positively about racial difference
- Help children- whether Black or White– to develop the language to call out racism
- Diversify the bookshelf, widen the social circle and talk to people not like you.
- Be able to say names correctly
- Go into Temples, Mosques and Gurdwara- I have always found them welcoming-and find other ways to learn by meeting differences face to face.
- Travel- in person or through books and TV shows
Racism is the issue for us all to understand and face. Our future should ensure equity, as Black lives matter. ‘Bringing up Race’ is a bookshelf must.