readinglist – Ta-Nehisi Coates

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#readinglist Ta-Nehisi Coates.

I’ve been thinking a lot about how to talk to my son about race.

I’ve never liked the construct of race. Strikes me as a fairly arbitrary framework for labeling and compartmentalizing people into neat categories of Us and Other, and setting up an opportunity for exploiting this with fear and scapegoating.

It sets us up for feelings of separation and difference, and away from experiencing inclusion and similarity.

And the discussion around this with a 3 year old doesn’t have to get too complicated. .
When he tells me a story and describes another kid as “the boy with brown skin,” to his Clean Slate mind its no different than telling me the color of the boy’s shirt. In his mind its just a descriptor to help me know which kid he’s talking about.

As a father, what I’m interested in now is how to preserve this perspective in his mind, while also helping him to understand the complexities and very real injustices in the world that come from this construct of race.

I want him to *understand* the framework of separateness without buying into it.

My simple, intuitive response to the “brown skin” comments of a 3- and 4-year-old has been something like “well, you mean his skin was slightly *darker* brown than my skin or your skin, right? All our skin is brownish, just differ shades. Right buddy?” Even though he was just describing, not labeling, I’ve seen these moments as opportunities to set his perspective. And when he returns with a very matter-of-fact “yeah Dada, a bit darker brown than your skin. And he had yellow shoes…” I’m grateful that he’s not yet been poisoned by a world that clings so strongly to this archaic, unserving construct of race.

But…. His amazing brain is wiring up. It’s time for a more grownup conversation. Help me. Teach me. How do you speak to your child about race?

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