Social Question

Imadethisupwithnoforethought's avatar

How do I raise my kids not to be racist?

Asked by Imadethisupwithnoforethought (14654points) March 17th, 2013

I live in a very white state. Whenever my family is together and gets a little tipsy, some of them say horrific things at random intervals in front of my children. I have expressed to my siblings many times that we have different views on stuff and they should knock it off in front of my children, but their husbands get drunk and try to screw with my cool on occasion.

Is this just a discussion with my children after? I am seriously wondering how to approach this with my children. Do I tell them some adults are stupid or what?

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43 Answers

livelaughlove21's avatar

I worry about this for when my husband and I have children. Most of his family is redneck, ignorant, racist, homophobic idiots. I constantly hear terms like “faggot” and “nigger” being said around the other kids in the family and it makes me sad, and a bit angry.

I will be raising my kids to know that being black (or Hispanic or Asian or whatever) is the same as being white – no better and no worse. They’ll know that being gay or transgendered is okay. They’ll know not to be bullies or even a bystander to bullying, or else there will be consequences. My husband agrees with me on all of this.

Our conflicting views are one of the many reasons that only his mother will be permitted to babysit our kids. I have a feeling that I’m going to have to be a bitch at family functions (or avoid them altogether) whenever they cross the line. And, to be honest, one stupid drunk person would be enough of an incentive for me to remove my kids immediately.

I think it’s obvious you won’t be getting through to these people by asking them to stop. Just do your best to make sure your kids know not to repeat these things and that these viewpoints and comments are wrong. Feel free to speak your mind when these situations arise so your kids can see you stand up for your point of view. Also feel free to remove them from the situation altogether.

Adirondackwannabe's avatar

When I was in college we had a fraternity chef, and he was from one of the housing projects in the city.We brought all the kids he could round up to the house for a Christmas party and dinner. Watching all of the brothers and the kids playing together made me realize how much alike we are. There’s no difference in people. We’re all the same.

glacial's avatar

How old are your kids? Do they read? Give them novels to read that have non-white protagonists; they will identify with the heroes of those stories. Requires some homework on your part.

I know it sounds stupid, but growing up with tv shows like All in the Family, the Cosby Show, etc. played a big part in making cultural diversity seem normal for me as a kid, even though I grew up in a very white, rural area. The older generations in my family would often pull out racist jokes, and still do make homophobic comments (so apparently, they can learn some tolerance, sigh). Happily, kids have a natural tendency to feel like they know more than their elders, so if they are exposed to media that highlights diversity, they will likely look down on their family members who aren’t as “enlightened” as they are.

As to the “screwing with your cool”, you want to make sure that you come out of those interactions looking like the guy who knows better. Don’t lose your cool. Just state your case calmly, and don’t let them draw you into a dumb argument. Probably helps if you haven’t been drinking as much as they have.

filmfann's avatar

My parents did their best to keep me away from seeing some of the drunken family arguments. My Dad, with his sisters, brothers, and parents would end up screaming at each other, with my Aunt standing on the kitchen table, about whether or not Nixon was a crook.
My Dad was disgusted with all of it, and just before he died, he had stopped talking to his father.

Imadethisupwithnoforethought's avatar

@filmfann I am getting the vibe, from your comments here, and from some PM’s, I should just keep the kids away from the crazy relatives. Is that a better strategy than letting them hear it and telling them that some adults are crazy? I am seriously trying to figure out the best approach to take with young people. I have 4 children, the oldest is 12.

janbb's avatar

I think it is important to stand up to racists in front of your kids and model that this is not acceptable talk or behavior. You don’t have to get into a knock down drag out fight but I think you have to show them that you will not covertly agree to their racism.

whitenoise's avatar

Your kids will always be exposed to bigotry. You need to compensate that by telling the truth and showing them the right alternative of treating people without.

If you lead by example and raise your children well, then don’t worry too much.

You may ‘inoculate’ your children by discussing the arguments that bigots would most likely confront them with. Explain why these arguments are silly/untrue/inappropriate/false. Then, when confronted with these arguments, your children will be armed with knowledge and may more likely reject them.

bkcunningham's avatar

How did you turn out not to be a racist, @Imadethisupwithnoforethought?

jerv's avatar

When kids are raised around bad influences, they are influenced badly. Even if you pull them aside afterwards and explain things, they will still be influenced.

Your family is a bad influence. Nobody says that you have to have your family around. If they object then let them know straight-up why they are not welcome any more.

Imadethisupwithnoforethought's avatar

@bkcunningham My father wrote an article for his High School paper about the Japanese American internment camps, and how we were acting just like the Nazis. He got suspended from school. The guy had a purple heart and a combat action medal from Korea. Getting kicked out of high school for that article seemed to be his proudest moment.

bkcunningham's avatar

Well, there you go.

JLeslie's avatar

Tell your siblings in front of your kids I think, when it is happening. You will be an example to them to not tolerate that sort of talk. If you have to, leave at minimum that room if not the house.

Take them to San Francisco, Vancouver, New York, or any big city that is extremely diverse so they can experience it. if they are very young you can just go to Disney World and see many different faces and see different language and hear them.

Believe it or not, a lot of times very white areas are the least prejudiced. They have little real interaction with cultural differences among people from different parts of the world and if they are raised properly they are in the mind set people are people and live in an ideal place in their minds. In my experience places that have only one or two significant minority populations are the most prejudiced and do the most negative stereotyping. I see this in the south a lot, because it tends to be very black and white (meaning races) with little other in there, and racial tension is high. It happens in other cties outside of the south, the south just has high statistics of African Americans living there. Some parts of the country it’s Asians, others Hispanics. Very diverse areas where the whole world lives there tend to be very accepting of each other and other cultures.

CWOTUS's avatar

Having gone through this exact scenario with my own kids, who are now approaching their 30s, I will tell you that what you say and stand for will mean a whole lot more to them than the rest of the family. And my kids grew up surrounded by my in-laws. Most of them are fine folks, but there was a whole lot of that generalized hate around, too.

I could not be prouder of the way my kids have grown up with the values that I beat into them.

Okay, that last part was a joke, but I’m proud of the attitudes and values my kids display every day.

Jeruba's avatar

In multicultural California, my husband and I did our very best to start our kids off without any racist notions of any kind. Their model of inclusion was the Sesame Street model. We ourselves never used the language of racism and didn’t have the attitudes that lead to subtle, unconscious displays. We sent our blond, blue-eyed firstborn off to school treating everyone he met as a potential friend and not knowing any of those horrid expressions that breed hatred.

Guess what. On his first day he met kids who’d been brought up to see him as the enemy oppressor. They called him names, pushed him around, and ripped his new jacket. He came home hurt and bewildered, not having the least idea of what the names meant or why he should have been hated on sight by kids he expected to make friends with.

And we had no idea what to tell him.

JLeslie's avatar

@Jeruba Interesting, because that kind of contradicts what I wrote.

Jeruba's avatar

I’m just reporting our experience. It was heartbreaking to me.

He didn’t even know the words that were used against him. For example, he wanted to know what “assel” meant and why they called him that. And that was the least of it. The roughing up began on the bus, before he even made it to school.

My younger son, with the same coloration, was ganged up on and pounded so regularly by kids who assumed he was racist—and called him accusing names—that by fourth grade he was depressed and alienated. The only solution offered by the authorities was to tell an adult when it was happening. He said, “How am I supposed to do that when there are five kids on top of me who are all bigger than I am?” Zero tolerance said he was not to hit back no matter what. He got suspended once (alone) for that.

I’m just saying the racism did not come from us and we did not have a clue how we ought to have prepared our sons to deal with it when it came at them.

rooeytoo's avatar

I personally would be more worried about the model drunkeness gives them to emulate than the racism. People develop their attitudes towards others based on their own experiences. They may have an intellectual concept of equality but if as @Jeruba says, their personal experience is different or difficult, it may change their mind. So teach them that alcohol is not necessary to have a good time and that no one ever became a better person for having drunk alcohol. Set a good example and hopefully the kids will follow the same path.

Blackberry's avatar

I completely agree with @janbb. Since you have a lot of influence on them and they will want to model your behavior, showing you won’t stand for ignorance shows a stronger positive message then simply ignoring them, which can be interpreted differently.

JLeslie's avatar

@Jeruba I wasn’t questioning your experience if my statement came across that way. I have never heard the word assel. I’ll google it after I finish writing. Your experience reminds me of @whitenoise‘s question a while back. I think the OP will be interested in that Q if he didn’t participate in it originally. I didn’t skim it, just linked it.

nofurbelowsbatgirl's avatar

Bad influences are everywhere. My father and my uncle were truck drivers and for some reason when they were with their work buddies I hate to say but racial and homophobic comments where thrown around a lot when I was little. I never said anything like that. In fact my best friend is black and my other best friend is gay. My father was not around much so my mother was my main mentor and she taught me.

I think like my mom taught me and I teach my daughter you just need to teach your children, things like acceptance, humility and equality after that they usually can figure it out.

Jeruba's avatar

@JLeslie, they were calling him “asshole” and he didn’t recognize the word.

JLeslie's avatar

@Jeruba I am just absorbing more of what you wrote in your first answer. “First day.” So kindergarten? Incredible and depressing. I guess you were in a state of shock yourself? Were you surprised that sort of discrimination, reverse discrimination, existed? Naive yourself? Or, knew it was out there, but trying hard to raise your child oblivious to it. Which at 5 years old I would hope he could be sheltered from it for a while.

ETpro's avatar

It’s sad, but racism is all around us and as @Jeruba points out, it isn’t just drunken white uncles who practice it. I think early on you have to talk with your kids about it. Explain the history behind it, and what’s wrong with continuing it. Let them know that they will encounter it among their relatives, and quite possibly among other children at school. Let the know they may be the target of it at times, and equip them as best you can to survive it and to know better than to hold a skin color or an ethnic heritage responsible, but rather recognize that it’s a weakness of the person who is acting in a racist manner.

RealEyesRealizeRealLies's avatar

If you don’t want your children to be racists, then don’t be one yourself.

neebanne's avatar

You dont want to tell them your relatives ( or for that matter anyone) is stupid. I think one way to explain it is to tell them that when people don’t know about other people they sometimes say bad things. And that its ashame that they never got out in the world to meet different people. Then have them close their eyes. And ask them if they couldnt see someone but could only hear them, how would they judge them? Or have them pretend that everyone in the world was covered with pink fur. In other words have them visualize a world without color differences. As to those who continue to degrade people because of their race, you could tell them that when those adults were younger, they simply were not exposed to as many people, because they probably had no tv, no internet, no cell phone, etc. Knowledge is power.

whitenoise's avatar

@neebanne
Unfortunately, it isn’t that simple. In societies that are divided across ethnic lines, there will be clear differences between ethnicities. (These often match some form of racial differences as well.)

I live in a very bigoted, divided society. I face the challenge of avoiding ethnic and racial bigotry in my children and myself on a daily base. It is hard to not start judging people on their ethnicity, when you live in a society where ethnicity offers a rather reliable rule of thumb on expected behavior.

Where we live, the indigenous are Arab:
In general: they don’t like to interact much with western expats.
They are friendly, but distant. They hit their children in public. Women are clad in black robes with no interaction with other people and regarded as property of their men. They will aggressively approach others that wear something they individually perceive as inappropriate. They will smile at children. Say nothing for 6 hours in the airplane seat next to you. They treat the workers and their poor poorly.

The expat class complains about locals not willing to work, being lazy, the excessive bureaucracy and boasts their own superiority in their work environment. (Which makes sense, because that is why they are hired.)

The working class is primarily from third world countries. They earn next to nothing and treat all western expats with a lot of respect, bordering groveling submission. Most of the drivers are from this class. This class in general has had very little education. Their English is therefore riddled with mistakes and they cannot read or write.

In this world with so many haves and havenots divided across ethnicity, a father (me) who cannot help but curse at the local drivers, a maid that serves them (despite our efforts to stop her), my children will develop biases on ethnicity. Hell… even I do, while I interact enough with others and am old enough to know better.

Avoiding bigotry is not merely pretending that all are the same and treating all the same. Especially not in a world where not every ethnicity is the same nor has the same chance. It is a continuous effort to realize that there are very little individual differences between people and that one should realize that cultures and ethnicities color people. Respect for individuals, regardless of ethinicity should be a continuous strive.

I refuse to tell my children that “their” culture is just as good as ours, when “they” are denying basic rights to people that are very dear to me. Like equal rights for women and LGBT-people. Yet I also refuse to let my children grow up thinking that they themselves are better. I hope that they will just hold on to their own convictions, respect people as individuals and recognize and respect differences between cultures in a way that allows them to interact with them in a dignifying way, without losing their own ideals.

glacial's avatar

@whitenoise “Yet I also refuse to let my children grow up thinking that they themselves are better.”

But the question is… how do you do that?

whitenoise's avatar

As I wrote above… Discuss with them. Recognize differences between cultures. Explain the fallacies behind bigotry. Try to lead by example.

There is not a simple easy trick. It is as with all things involved in raising responsible adults out of your children… A continuous effort.

Jeruba's avatar

Yes, @JLeslie, kindergarten. And yes, we were shocked.

I grew up in a pretty homogeneous community in the Northeast. Diversity went about as far as Protestant, Catholic, and Jew in various flavors of European ancestry. I had no relevant experience to draw upon; I had friends and neighbors in all groups, and I never saw any kind of hostility among them on the basis of ethnicity or religion.

My social education included the sixties version of peace, freedom, love, and brotherhood, and I believed in the ideal that if we treated others right, they’d treat us right. I simply (and naively) never anticipated that others would brand me and mine on sight as the enemy and never give us a chance to show our goodwill before they attacked.

Of course I knew racism was out there. I was around to see in the daily news the enforced desegration of Little Rock High, the Montgomery bus boycott, the bombing of the church in Birmingham, the murders of Goodman, Schwerner, and Cheney, the March on Washington and the “I Have a Dream” speech, the assassination of Martin Luther King, Jr., and much, much more in those turbulent times.

At the time I knew nothing about other varieties of racism, including the kind my kids met, which was not black vs. white but Latino vs. Anglo.

But I honestly believed that I could teach my kids that people were different but nobody was better than anybody else, which was my own belief, and they would greet others with an open mind and be received in the same manner. I was helpless to prepare them to meet hatred and violence at a first encounter.

I know that many have experienced this kind of behavior as a consequence of their race, but we were not expecting it. Naive, as I say. Our own precept and example did nothing to protect our kids. Not being racist ourselves did nothing to protect our kids. They were swamped with a reality that belied their parents’ sincere convictions.

Incidentally, I don’t accept the notion of “reverse discrimination.” It suggests that there is a right or normal kind of discrimination and another kind that is the opposite. No form of bigotry is right or normal.

So, @Imadethisupwithnoforethought, it’s an important question, and I, for one, don’t know the answer.

rooeytoo's avatar

I feel the very basic answer is that you have to take people one at a time. I do not like and respect all white people so why would I do that for any other colour. I meet people with an open mind and decide later whether they are worth befriending. If they don’t give me the same chance and just write me off then it is their loss and there is nothing I can or care to do about it..

JLeslie's avatar

This reminds me of a conversation I had with my sister where she basically said, they always say on TV that people are not born racist they learn it from their parents. To that she says, no, they learn it from reality. She meant the workplace, because we were raised by parents who never said racist things while we were growing up, and corrected us when we made negative generalizations about race. When I say corrected us, sometimes they would acknowledge a generalization, but say it was socio-economics or cultural differences, but be loathe to let us talk about it in terms of race or use gross generalizations.

@Jeruba I thought you might dislike the expression reverse discrimination, I wasn’t sure what to write, so I used both discrimination and reverse discrimination trying to clarify, but it probably could have been stated better by me. I would have a hard time knowing what to say to your child in that situation also.

I think my parents would have said they are just mean uncivilized children and there are plenty of nice, behaved, good Hispanic children and I should not overgeneralize. But, that was back when I was a kid, 40 years ago, and we did live in the Northeast, I don’t know if that makes a difference. Present day I don’t know what my parents would say. I know what they would say to me as an adult, but I am not sure if that is because I am an adult, or because they think differently now too. My parents in my opinion still are not racist at all. They do however witness and have statistical knowledge of what we would perceive as negative behaviors in various groups. Not just socio-economic, but the statistics can be divided up along racial and ethnic lines. I don’t think it is as simple as socio-economics and I think it is really hard to not be a little ethnocentric when norms in a culture seem to hurt the group themselves and people around them. Simple etiquette type differences ok, but treating women as slaves and keeping them uneducated, or taking advantage of an underclass just because you can, I am with @whitenoise it simply is not ok.

I just went through an experience negotiating the sale of my house that was horrific. I won’t bother to name what ethnic group I was dealing with, but I learned a huge lesson. They tortured me, and I should have told them to take a walk early on. You don’t know how many people told me that group is like that, and had personal examples. I have bought and sold many of my own properties and I was a realtor for a while, so I have been through many deals. I have never seen people push and have so much chutzpah, greed and in my opinion lack of integrity in my life regarding the purchase of a home. I will be on guard with that ethnicity next time, but I also now know how to handle this even with people who look just like me and are the same religion and ethnicity. I am sure they exist in every shape, color and size, but I really do believe some cultures have more people like that than others.

I was too nice, but in the end they won’t get all the nice things I always do when I sell. I always patch every nail hole, leave the place perfectly spic and span, not just broom clean, leave a note about any unique features about the house that are not obvious. These people get nothing from me. I already had started doing some of the nice things that make me feel good about giving the house to the next person, and I regret it, which included spending money, and I regret doing anything beyond what the law requires. I still feel pretty awful though (this just happened) I feel almost abused, that I was submissive and taken advantage of.

ucme's avatar

Any kid with even an ounce of sense about them would be well capable of working out for themselves that these people are talking shite.

Cupcake's avatar

I don’t think a discussion really deals with the issue. What you need is action. Invite people of various colors and backgrounds to your house for dinner. Not all at once. Meet the one black family around and befriend them. Invite them to your house. Feed them. Care for them.

I intentionally selected an african-american daycare provider to care for my now-toddler in her home.

I teach my (white) kids to acknowledge all people. Look at them. In their eyes. Say hello when you pass. Wave when you are in the car.

You would be shocked, once you pay attention, to see how many whites ignore people of color in public.

Don’t talk the talk. Walk the walk.

bkcunningham's avatar

What if the turned out to be big jerks, @Cupcake? I mean just because a person happens to be black doesn’t mean you are going to be instant friends or approve of their lifestyle or want them around you and your children.

I get what you are saying but to say you would befriend someone because of their skin color…feed them, care for them…that’s just odd. Why would you asssumethey need or want your friendship, food or care? See what I mean?

KNOWITALL's avatar

I’m not reading other posts until I comment.

Being raised by a Christian hippy, my mom told me that often in life I will be around people who think different, talk different, look different and I should always be loving and respectful. She also told me that if I had any questions about what I hear or see, I should come and talk to her about it.

I am able to speak to racists, gang members, politicians or whatever it takes to get the job done, but they have no affect on me personally because I was raised to take it in, analyze but not absorb. I hope that makes sense.

Cupcake's avatar

@bkcunningham If you genuinely dislike them, don’t do it. But find people of different colors and backgrounds that you do like.

I don’t know what instant friends has to do with it. I’m talking about building relationships. Stop pretending to be color blind. Look for color. Look for diversity. And everyone needs friends.

augustlan's avatar

I grew up in a bigoted family, but they had relocated to a very diverse area, luckily for me. I’d say that my reality taught me that racism and bigotry are bullshit. Just knowing all sorts of different people while I was growing up allowed me to see that everyone is pretty much the same, that people are people. Having formed my own opinions, I then called out my grandfather frequently when he said things like the “N” word. It was interesting when I later dated a black guy, and ended up marrying a Jewish guy. ;)

We have one older racist family member now that we don’t see very often. When we are getting ready to see him, I remind my kids that he may say something horrible. I express my displeasure when he says something in my presence (with my kids around or not), but I do it in a humorous way. We’re not going to change his attitudes at this point, obviously.

If we saw him often, I’m really not sure how I’d handle it. It would be a much bigger issue, and it’s quite possible that we’d opt not to have him around the kids at all. Really, though, the most important thing is to let your kids know what you think, and to model the behavior you want them to exhibit. Including calling out bad behavior when you see it, even if it’s from a family member.

ETpro's avatar

Hardly anyone ever admits being a racist. David Duke is at least honest about being prejudiced. I saw today that the son of the NYFD Commissioner had resigned his job as a New York City EMT after a series of racist tweets from him were pointed out to the press. He said stuff like, “I like jews about as much as hitler #toofar? NOPE.”, “News flash to half of the island, ur white! Stop talking like ur a shwoog.” and “Getting sick of picking up all these obama lovers and taking them to the hospital because their medicare pays for an ambulance and not a cab,”

When the $hit hit the fan, he claimed he was not a racist, and that he treated everyone in New York with respect. Those tweets don’t sound very respectful to me.

Inspired_2write's avatar

One cannot “change” others.
They have to want to do that on their own.
However you can explain to your children that ‘some” people are not understanding nor mature , no matter waht their age.
I , myself would not expose my children to “scenes” nor people as imature at these.
Who is important here?
Your children or your relatives?
I bet your children are stressed out from this group?
Another way possibly is to tell these imature relatives as to ‘why’ the children will not be coming to any family events , until they become decent?
In time ‘If” they are ready to accept their behaviour and realize the consequences…they “might” ( fat chance as it is ingrained in their personalities) come around to your way?

KNOWITALL's avatar

@Inspired_2write

My family has had some trouble with some “extreme Christians” who hold the entire family up to their HIGH standards, in order for us to know them and my cousin.

We can’t cuss, drink a glass of wine, and I was told not to sing “Black Betty” with him, as it was racist. My cousin barely knows our family, and now that couple no longer associates with any of us, and it’s a really sad situation. People on the street, or strangers, have a better chance of knowing my own cousin than I do. It’s very sad, wrong and controlling.

mattbrowne's avatar

Communicate the following scientific findings very clearly:

1) All white people on Earth have black ancestors not too long ago
2) Skin color is a minor feature like hair color or eye color and it’s not something that makes us human
3) All humans share an almost identical genome (55 chimps are more diverse than we 7 billion people)
4) All humans share the following uniquely human features: large brains with a huge prefrontal cortex, flexible hands, pelvis and feet that allow upright walking
5) Both white and black people captain warp-capable starships

So let your kids watch plenty of Star Trek episodes. There isn’t a single racist Star Trek fan.

ucme's avatar

^^At least they have one redeeming feature then.

Inspired_2write's avatar

Like minds mingle with like minds.

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