Kids and Racism:: One Mom’s Story

Moms, we can change the world for good simply by talking with and teaching our children about racism. We have to speak up. We have to have uncomfortable conversations. We can’t assume that our kids will “learn it in school.” Because it looks like they are learning something far more destructive that way. It’s time to move forward.

Kids and Racism:: One Mom's Story

An Incident of Racism

“Mom, Carrie* said something today that really made me mad.” 

“Oh, yeah? That stinks,” I replied. This seemed like an everyday,  just-got-in-the-car kind of conversation. Without giving much thought to it, I asked, “What did she say?”

“She was sitting on my desk when I came back from getting my stuff out of my locker. I asked her to get off my desk and she said, I don’t have to get off your desk because Black people like you don’t matter. Us white professionals can sit wherever we want.

I thought I heard him wrong. “What did she say?” I hoped I had heard him wrong.

I’d heard him right the first time.

I spent the next 10 minutes or so trying hard to keep my cool while talking to all of my kids {and the additional boy who was riding in our car that day}about how comments like that are wrong. I told them to never allow someone to say something like that, to them or to anybody else. I encouraged them to always speak up when they hear people make comments that are meant to insult a person, especially when they target their race, gender, religion, disability, sexual orientation, etc. 

Mama Bear Goes On the Attack

I realized that if I expected my children to speak up, I had to set the example. Since this happened on a Friday afternoon, I had the weekend to cool off. Because “Mama Bear” kicked in, y’all, and I was on the attack.

On Saturday, I pulled my son aside and asked him to tell me exactly what happened again–just in case I’d let my anger blow it out of proportion in my head. Nope. Still the same story. On Saturday evening, I was at an event with a few other moms who also have children at the same school. I told them about the incident of racism. One mom turned to her Caucasian daughter and asked, “Do kids at your school make racist comments?” 

Without batting an eye, her daughter—who couldn’t be older than 7th grade—responded, “Yup. All the time.” 

That weekend also happened to be the same weekend that the Katy High School quarterback was in the news for a racial slur caught by someone else and posted to social media. It was disheartening. When I was a girl, I thought the year 2020 was “the future,” and now here it is a month away and we are still using racial slurs and talking like we’re some backwoods klansmen from 1920! 

On Sunday, I spoke to my son again. I wanted to be sure I had the details right. 

The Aftermath of Exposing Racism

Over the course of several weeks, I sent emails, received a few phone calls, and initiated face-to-face meetings with teachers and an administrator. I have listened to these Caucasian educators use words like “allegedly” or “vehemently denied,” to justify their inaction. I have listened to a self-righteous administrator suggest that my son made up the “accusations” because maybe he liked the girl and wanted to get her attention. I have fumed at the excuse that Carrie’s parents are sure she would never say anything like this. I almost lost it at the stereotypical insinuation that my son’s father is not in the picture. It took everything I had to civilly respond that my son’s father is my husband and is very much involved in our children’s lives.  

I left the meetings at the school feeling a wide range of emotions, determined to hold my tongue and keep myself from speaking in anger about the blatant racism happening at my child’s school.

But it is frustrating!  I have felt frustrated every day since. My thoughts have ranged from anger to frustration to heavy disappointment. Do we leave the school? Will we just run into the same problems everywhere? Can I do anything to make a difference? All of these questions and more have weighed heavily on my heart and mind over and over and over for weeks. 

Why I Share Our Story

Today I share our story with you because I know this racism is not unique to my family. This is not an isolated incident. I wish it were. The point is, kids will be kids and sometimes they say stupid things. But that’s where we adults come in. If we are creating an environment where we reinforce ignorant behavior–I mean, didn’t we ultimately make Carrie’s offensive statement true?–we are moving in the wrong direction. When we foster an environment where racist comments can be made so comfortably with no threat of consequence or even conscience, we are doing all children a terrible injustice. 

There’s got to be a better way.

*The name of the girl has been changed.

Kids and Racism:: One Mom's Story


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3 Responses to Kids and Racism:: One Mom’s Story

  1. Avatar
    Eva December 17, 2019 at 6:02 pm #

    Wow! I am so sorry that your son experienced this. Even sadder that it will happen again. As a former educator, I further saddened by your son’s (and your) word was not trusted. I hope and pray my kids will speak up.

  2. Lisa Owen
    Lisa Owen December 21, 2019 at 6:42 pm #

    I have 2 school aged children (6th and 8th grade) and I share your frustration. Keep talking to both them and school officials. Open communication is critical to making progress. It’s at times overwhelming and downright depressing, but keep moving forward. ❤

  3. Avatar
    Teresa M, Houston TX May 28, 2020 at 10:29 am #

    I am so sorry your son went through this, and you too. I totally understand the mama bear thing. I am a white mom and honestly I am crying this morning with all the horrible news happening. We haven’t even seen justice for Ahmaud yet and now there’s new incidents. It is heartbreaking. I pray for change and I hope to have many uncomfortable conversations with my kids over the years to teach them to stand up to this crap and set an example for their peers. May God bless and comfort you.

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