Skip to main content

What this White Woman learned during Black History Month this year

In these remaining days of Black History Month, I find myself reflecting on the lessons this month has for all of us, and impressed that I have seen glimpses of social change throughout the media recently. 

New Amsterdam had a theme in its most recent episode (Season 2, Episode 4) where quiet racism caused tumors to grow in a 13-year-old Latino boy. There’s no insurance code for this ailment, and the mom is beside herself because she has tried to shield her son from this exact thing his whole entire life. 

Similarly, the Moth Podcast had an episode for Black History Month, in which Devan Saniford, a black father,  recounts his experiences with police racial profiling, and how he had always told his son that he didn’t speak out against it at that time, because he felt like his voice wouldn’t be heard, and it didn’t really matter. But as he shares his tale and the experiences that followed it, he learns that the true lesson for his son is to teach him to speak out.

And I think this is the pinnacle of this month as it comes to a close. Racism cannot cease to exist until we inoculate it by speaking out against it. I recently connecting with a fellow blogging mama who married a Latino man and is raising their son trilingual, to speak Spanish, English and Japanese. I told her as a young white woman, I'm embarrassed to admit I really wasn't aware of the silent racism that still exists in this country until I was explicitly taught about it, and witnessed it for myself. 

I grew up in idyllic Ojai, California, a little town 80 miles north of Los Angeles, which is 82% white and 12% Hispanic. I didn’t even know what heterogeneity was until I moved to Boston and attended Northeastern School of Education, which had a focus on diversity, with mandatory courses like “Multicultural Children’s Literature” and course texts like “Why Are All the Black Kids Sitting Together in the Cafeteria: And Other Conversations About Race” as it prepared us to teach in Boston Public Schools. I am proud to admit that at least I have never been naive enough to claim to be “colorblind” in my classroom, like a certain character does in the Good Trouble episode last week (Season 6, Episode 16), But I didn’t understand the extent and the pain of racism and discrimination until I married my husband, and we welcomed his youngest brother and sister from Guatemala into our home as our children, and I experienced my first microaggressions. 

But this month’s lesson is not that racism still exists. The lesson is that the way to combat it is to name it, like a disease, because then we can treat it. We must teach our children what racism and discrimination are, so that they can recognize it when they see it or experience it, so they know it is NOT their fault. It is a social construct byproduct of bigotry in this world, and while we cannot fix it, we can fight against it. Day by day. 


Popular posts from this blog

Is 5 Little Monkeys Racist?

I’ve seen a lot of Tik Toks debunking children’s nursery rhymes lately. I have two toddlers, so now whenever I hear one of those rhymes, I think about their unsavory origins. But my son loves, loves Five Little Monkeys. He’s just learning to talk, and can almost say it by himself. I’ve thought about telling him to stop singing it since I learned in the original lyrics it’s not monkeys jumping on the bed, but he just gets so much joy from singing it as he jumps up and falls down, I thought... no harm, no foul, right? As long as he thinks the song is about monkeys, it’s ok.  Until my niece came over one day, and the three toddlers were playing on an old mattress we have on the living room floor for them to jump around on. My son asked me to sing 5 Little Monkeys. At first it was cute, because they literally were jumping on the bed, but then I took a good look at the three of them.  My kids are half-Guatemalan but very fair, like I am. Whereas my niece is half-black, and her skin happens

Why You Should Travel with Little Kids

I took my first cross-country road trip when I was six-weeks-old. My parents loaded me up in an old Ford Wagoneer and drove me home from my dad's hometown of Pittsburgh, PA, to my hometown of Ojai, CA. After that, we traveled back and forth between the East Coast and the West Coast every summer of my life. A few times we flew, but most years we loaded up the car with the suitcases, the dogs, and the children and drove 3,000 miles across the country. This early exposure to travel instilled within me a joy of seeing the world, and since that first trip I have visited 34 states and 14 countries. And I hope to share that same joy with my own little ones. Traveling with children can be hard--it disrupts their nap schedules, may involve crossing timelines, and definitely pushes everyone beyond their comfort zones. But seeing different countries and different parts of our country as children gives them a greater appreciation for cultural and regional differences, and it widens their exper

Reflections on Immigrant Life and the American Dream by a New Citizen

  Buenos días estudiantes de sexto grado. Mi nombre es Audelina Barrios, and I am a former student of Fuller Middle School. Soy de Guatemala, y viví mis primeros trece años de mi vida en mi tierra natal, pero desafortunadamente perdí a mis padres cuando tenía 12 años. Mi hermano y yo fuimos huérfanos por un año hasta que tomamos la decisión de empezar nuestro viaje hacia los United States to meet our oldest siblings.  In August of 2014 we finally arrived in the land of our dreams, the United States. During our first 4 months in the US, we lived in New Jersey with my oldest sister, Rosa, and went to a school where ESL didn't even exist. I was paired up with the only Latino in the school y sin saber una palabra en inglés. I felt like an outsider because I had no other friends and like I wasn't even part of the school system.  In January 2015 my older brother Francisco and his wife, Mae, adopted us and we moved to Framingham. My first school in Framingham was Fuller Middle School