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_40873555_sachildrenap203Disclaimer: I am not a child psychologist nor do I play one in the blogosphere. So I could be completely wrong:

Here is what I told my sons when they were 10 and 12 a year and a half ago. They are black growing up in America:

  1. The police are not your friends. Get on the wrong side of them and you are screwed. They do not care one bit about you. You are someone to lock away to keep the good white people safe. The police do not serve blacks, they serve well-to-do white people. They will stop you for no good reason.
  2. You have to be twice as good before whites will see you as an equal. You will be constantly doubted in their eyes: they will doubt your intelligence, your morals, your education, your wealth. Even an Ivy League degree means less if you are black.
  3. White people have been getting better, but they still have a ways to go.

I did not see anything wrong with it: it is all true. In fact news events since then have confirmed some of it: a black man became president (“whites are getting better”), Sotomayor’s Ivy League education was doubted and Henry Louis Gates, Jr was arrested just for yelling at the police.

My mother said I was making the world more racist, not less.

She belongs to the kumbaya philosophy of anti-racist child rearing. I see it expressed in comments on this blog every now and then from both blacks and whites. For example:

I was raised by parents who taught me to honor God and my fellow human beings by not discriminating against them on the basis of race/skin color. When my parents immigrated to the U.S. in the 60’s, I have no doubt that they experienced racism based on their race/skin color but they still modeled a non-racist way of relating to EVERYONE. My sisters and I saw them establishing friendships with open minded, non-racist people of EVERY RACE.

That is good so far as it goes. Parents should set an example by having good friends from different races. Children should be taught to respect everyone and give them the benefit of the doubt regardless of colour, creed, country or wealth. Etc.

The trouble is that it does not warn them about how white people are. For whites this leads to colour-blind racism; for blacks, internalized racism. Leaving the country just the way it is.

It lets white children think they are not racist and yet  the racism that remains among whites gets passed on because it is rarely challenged or questioned.

For black children and other children of colour it is even worse: if they are not warned they will have to learn the hard way how whites are. Wishing that whites were not racist or hiding it from your children will not make it go away. And in the meantime they will believe whites more than they should and think there is something wrong with not being white. That is what I went through.

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