Fostering racial literacy
Talking about race is not easy – and can even be a painful experience, but not talking about it leaves our children to learn how to manage challenging experiences on their own.
Here are a few suggestions for how parents can empower kids by supporting a healthy development of what experts today call racial literacy: the ability to read, recast, and resolve racially stressful encounters in ways that promote healing over replicating patterns of silence, hurt, and harm.
Be vulnerable and promote awareness with intergenerational dialogue. So often in an effort to shield our children from hurt and harm, race talks become lectures where adults take on the pressure of “having all the answers.” Engage kids in a more dynamic dialogue by allowing them to see that racial encounters can be difficult for you to navigate as well. Resist avoidance or denial of your own emotional response in order to model for them how they can share their own experiences. Be honest when you feel hurt, confused, or stressed. And remember, not all questions have satisfying answers. Allow kids to ask what comes naturally. Don’t yield to the pressure of carrying all of the wisdom we are told that age and experience provides. It limits our children’s growth in encountering and navigating racial moments.
Practice mindful stress management. Racial stress is a product of in-the-moment racial encounters or conflict. Often unacknowledged, such stress creates mental and bodily responses, that when accumulated over time, results in negative health effects. Talk about racial stress when conflicts arise as a step for processing emotions through storytelling to manage encounters as they occur and minimize cumulative impacts.
Develop cultural and historical awareness across lines of difference. Seek out opportunities in your own neighborhood or take advantage of our proximity to the rich heritage and events that happen in Philadelphia. For instance, the African American Museum and the Jewish History Museum are among many sites that offer regular programing and present an opportunity to talk about the lived experiences of heritage communities. Another simple place to start is with podcasts. Modern conversations about these experiences and this history are created every day.
Inclusion lessens the pressure for competing interests, experiences, or realities to battle for dominance. More than a celebration of the kinds of difference represented in our community, inclusivity demands that together, we cultivate a community that represents us all. Preparing boys for life requires that we actively practice such methods of social empowerment and engagement. Brendon Jobs, Director of Diversity and Inclusion
Have a Both/And Perspective
Adopt a “Both/And” over the traditional “Either/Or” orientation. Binaries can promote and prolong conflict by suggesting a “right and wrong,” where social realities actually prove to be more complex. Fluidity in social negotiation, or adopting a “Both/And” perspective for reading racial encounters equips kids to practice imagining that many possibilities can exist at once - without denying their lived experience. Unresolved conflicts, or the worsening of conflicts, happen when we are unable to imagine the perspective of the “other.” This challenges us to get better at naming our own perspectives while also fully allowing for other realities to exist.
Be humble; be kind to yourself. Allow yourself to make mistakes and learn how to reflect on your own experience and social impact in new ways. Making space to engage directly (attending events) or indirectly (listening to podcasts/reading) with heritage communities is great practice. Beware of making your goal the elimination of the implicit bias or racism. Instead, imagine these challenges as realities to manage rather than problems to solve.
The following podcasts, films, and readings will help facilitate open dialogue between parents and their children.
Alexander, M. (2011). The new Jim Crow : mass incarceration in the age of colorblindness /(Revised edition.).
Ali Michael, & Eleonora Bartoli. (n.d.). What White Children Need to Know About Race. Summer 2014.
Anderson, C. (2016). White rage : the unspoken truth of our racial divide /. New York, NY: Bloomsbury Publishing.
Jr, E. M., Michael, A., & Penick-Parks, M. W. (2017). The Guide for White Women Who Teach Black Boys. Corwin Press.
Lee, S. J. (2015). Unraveling the “Model Minority” Stereotype: Listening to Asian American Youth, 2nd Edition. Teachers College Press.
Michael, A. (2015). Raising race questions : whiteness and inquiry in education /. New York ; London: Teacher College Press, Teacher’s College, Columbia University.
Oluo, I. (2019). So You Want to Talk About Race. Da Capo Press.
Rankine, C. (2014). Citizen: An American Lyric. Graywolf Press.
Sheri Lyn Schmidt. (2018, Fall). We Need to Talk: The Case for Making a Place for Race in Schools. NAIS - Independent School Magazine.
Stevenson, J., & Stevenson, H. C. (2014). Promoting Racial Literacy in Schools: Differences That Make a Difference. Teachers College Press.
Tatum, B. (2003). Why Are All the Black Kids Sitting Together in the Cafeteria?: Revised Edition. Basic Books.
Thomas, A. (2017). The Hate U Give. HarperCollins.
Philadelphia Inquirer: How to talk to kids about race >
Director of Diversity and Inclusion
Brendon Jobs is the Director of Diversity and Inclusion at The Haverford School, where he teaches Modern World History and Modern Black Lives in the Upper School. Jobs also teaches history methods at the University of Pennsylvania Graduate School of Education (GSE) in the Independent School Residency Program. He began his career with a 10-year stint in the Philadelphia School District at the Philadelphia High School for Girls and the Girard Academic Music Program.
Jobs' development as an educator has been largely self-directed, but indelibly shaped by experiences as a James Madison Fellow, Lehrman Fellow, a National Constitution Center Annenberg Fellow, an Education Pioneer with the SEED Foundation in Washington D.C., and as an active member of Philadelphia’s teacher leader community via work with Teacher Action Group (TAG). In-depth training with Penn GSE's Racial Empowerment Collaborative and the Race Institute informs his approach to building inclusive communities.
As an on-site consultant for the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, Jobs wrote "Diversity in the Teacher Workforce: The Demographic Imperative & Talking about Race in Schools." In 2014, he published the chapter "Productive Mistakes: Teacher Mentorship & Teach for America" in the book Teach For America Counter-Narratives: Alumni Speak Up and Speak Out. He holds a B.A. in Political Science from Columbia University and M.S.Ed. from the University of Pennsylvania.