Tuesday, September 6, 2011

The Help

Like everyone else, I recently saw The Help.

Wasn't it amazing?  Did you read the book? I did.  I thought both were incredible.  

It's the year 2011 and I live in Kansas City.  Race relations are healthy and positive.  Well, a few of these statements are accurate.  I think if you are like I used to be, you have a pretty naive mindset about race.  It is 2011, not fifty years ago, and we don't live in the South.  However, you would probably be surprised to know that Kansas City is one of the most segregated cities in the nation.  That means something to me as the mother of a black daughter.  In fact, all of this does.  It means a lot.  

You might not ever have watched your child cringe while another child points out that their skin is different from everyone else they know.  I have.  And really, I'm not interested in being the one who brings a little color into your life.  I'm super interested in people doing that on their own initiative.  I take the position that it is not healthy for any child to think that everyone is just like them.  I don't think it is good for any child to be surrounded by people of only the same race, socioeconomic class, and lifestyle.  I think when children are used to a constant exposure to people who are not the same as they are everyone becomes a whole lot more comfortable.  It is clear that we haven't come as far as we think we have when I am nervous that people will be offended by this post.  I am worried that people will feel called out.  That isn't my intention.  I would love for you to just objectively read this and see if anything grabs you.

Here are a few super, super easy things that you can do to bring some positive change to the table:

1.  Talk about it.  Have you told your children that some people look different from one another?  Have you told them that some families look different from yours?  And that these are good things?  I think you should!

2.  Have more than one color of skin represented in your house.  How about some dolls, books, barbies, Little People toys, etc. that are not just White?  How about including African American, Asian, and Latino toys in your mix?  What if the books in your house represented lots of races of people?  Wouldn't it be so lovely?  I am convinced that it would be.  What if someone came to your house and they couldn't tell by looking at your stuff what color your skin was?  Oh man, think about what good that would do for the mindset of the people living there.

3.  Take a stand! Are you looking at a book to buy for your child and there are only peachy faces? Pick something else!  Are you shopping at stores where there is zero diversity?  Go somewhere else!  Deliberately hang out in parts of town where you will see people that reflect different backgrounds, ethnicities, and that have different amounts of money than you have.

I'm just going to say it like it is here, if your child reacts to it when they see a person of a different race, and I am talking about any race other than their own, it is a huge problem.  One that something needs to be done about it.  And I'm going to say this too, it needs to be done quickly and appropriately.  No one of color thinks it is cute when your child comments on their appearance.  Eyes, hair, skin, whatever.  A compliment is fine.  Anything else really isn't.  An appropriate response might be, "Kid's Name, isn't it so great how everyone looks different?" Then redirect and talk about it later when you are alone with your child.  Then continue to expose them to people unlike them until they aren't surprised by it anymore.  

And if the tension between races makes you want to do more than just make some minor changes at home, do something about it! Do something big.  Change your life.  Move into a diverse area, get involved with eradicating the poverty in OUR OWN city so that poorer populations of people aren't isolated from the help they need of a functioning community, come alongside of all different people, there are lots of things you can do. We still have a long way to go.

Thanks for reading.  I appreciate it.


The Bells said...

I think this is a great post! As a mother of an interracial boy, and soon to be mom of a child in Africa, it is something I am very very aware of and yes, we do have a long long way to go! People are very naive, and what is sad is that sometimes they don't even realize how inappropriate and insulting they are being.

stephanie garcia said...

What a great post. I hope it is okay for me to link to it? We all need to be reminded about this from time to time!

Molly said...

Whew! Thank you, you guys! I was bracing myself for criticism. I had been stewing this morning after I posted, wondering how this would be received. Thank you so so much for your encouragement. Stephanie, link away, Friend!

Kelsey said...

Love this, Molly! We have been processing all of this stuff recently - trying to find the line between not ignoring the race/color thing and not making it ALL about the race/color thing. I was, however, more than a little put out when I went to target to buy Lila a black baby doll (to help prep her for her baby brother or sister) and couldn't find one. My eyes were suddenly open to all of the white barbies and babies filling the shelves. Thanks for the tips and healthy perspective - you are a resource to be sure!

Jami Nato said...

agree and agree. although, layne is asian, he sits next to a chinese kid and class and said that his eyes looked different than the other kids eyes. i was all ya, because God made us all different. and hey, by the way, did you know that your eyes look like his eyes? ha. he may think he's white. it was just funny.

Becky said...

I never really thought about this much before having grown up with my neighbors being black and having adopted cousins that were also black. It was normal for me! Once when my oldest kid was little (like maybe 3) we happened to see a black family at the store (we don't have many in our area) and she asked why their skin was brown. I told her that was becasue God made them that way just like some people have blue eyes or brown eyes. Now, there are people of different races that go to our church, so my younger kids are used to seeing them. My son has a black baby and the Little People and Barbies are of at least 3 different races.

Jessica Blake said...

PREACH! love it! Way to be bold! go on and go on!

jb said...

Thank you for sharing a very valuable message - and doing so in such an eloquent manner! I only regret that you "stewed" over how your post would be received. We chose to move to our community in part because of the diversity - and we LOVE it!

Pipsylou said...

Molly, I have been thinking of you so much! Allison keeps me posted. The skin color thing has me thinking alot. We may be adopting a child who looks a bit different from our family, and I've been thinking about it alot. Love your insight.

Elizabeth said...

It's so sad that we still have to say stuff like this even after all the "progress" society has supposedly made, but I'm so glad you had the courage to say it. I also really liked your suggested response for if your kids make a comment about another persons appearance, very practical and tactful approach. Thank you.

Amy and Rob said...

Thanks so much for this Molly! You are my hero...for so many reasons.

One thing people can also do for their church nursery - donate ethnic dolls, books, toys, etc. Our church is looking much better these days! I got a huge smile on my face Wednesday when I arrived at a classroom to see a little white girl pushing a black baby around in the stroller. It was awesome!