Caught not Taught: Leading our Children in Racial Reconciliation

On our ride home from school each day, the conversation typically includes: what my daughter had for lunch, (or her opinion on the lunch I packed that day), what she played at recess, and if she received a ticket for good behavior.

But, a few weeks ago it was…

“Mom! A new girl joined our class today!”

 “Oh, really? That’s great! What’s her name?”

“I don’t remember, but she looks like ME!”

“She does?”

“Yes! She’s brown!”

Again, I’m reminded. That my beautiful daughter, even at the age of seven, is delighted to know that she’s not alone in her skinBrown. Black. Biracial. African American.

Caught not Taught: Leading our Children in Racial Reconciliation
Rock Photography

It’s black history month. A month out from the 50th anniversary of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s assassination. A good time to stop, and really take personal inventory of the diversity in my life.

Let me be frank, this is new.

Let me also tell you – I don’t write this as one that has completed something, or figured anything out. Rather, I wrote is as one who is learning. I don’t write this as a politician, counselor, pastor, or professional. I simply write this as a white mama, raising children of color, who recently began to take a hard look at my privilege, and want to encourage you to begin to do the same.

Here’s the thing about the privilege I’m speaking of – I didn’t know I had it. And that’s precisely the point. Growing up in a small, predominantly mid-west community, I didn’t have to know. 

Over the last year and a half, this is what I’ve embarrassingly and apologetically admitted to, and what I’ll confess again to you now. If it weren’t for God gifting us with our two precious, adopted biracial children, I may not have taken a hard stop to ask questions, begin to educate myself, and listen to the experience of the black men and women in my life. 

So, let’s pretend we’re at a play date. Or better yet, a coffee date, without our children (I get so distracted at playdates). Here’s what we could ask each other: 

  • When is the last time we talked to our kids about those in their schools who look different from them?
  • When is the last time that we left the comfort zone of our own bubble to pursue spaces and people whose perspectives are different from ours?
  • How can we focus on listening more to the experiences of the black neighbors, friends, and community members around us?

Because mamas, we know the truth: Most things are “caught not taught.”

We are leading by example. In this world we are living in, there is a voice calling out to our babies, asking them to fear. Telling them to withhold from anyone who doesn’t look or act like them.

I know this because that same voice has called to me, and sadly, I’ve listened. However, I’m here to tell you that we can talk back to that voice and educate it. We can lead our children in creating a diverse, kind, quick-to-listen and eager-to-learn mindset.

Caught not Taught: Leading our Children in Racial Reconciliation

Here are some of the resources I personally recommend as you begin to listen, educate yourself, and build more diversity into your life, mamas:

  • This episode of the Liturgists podcast. It is worth the time. Big time.
  • The book Just Mercy, by Bryan Stevenson. Run, don’t walk, to get this book. 
  • The podcast, Pass the Mic. The interviews and perspective they bring is so valuable.
  • This interview is what inspired to me to begin a racial reconciliation group last year. It might do the same for you. 
  • Our very own African American Museum here in Cedar Rapids. Schedule a tour! 
  • You’ve most likely already watched this incredible video, but if not, here it is. 
  • Finally, you can join in on this conversation with my friend Marcy at I am my Sister’s Keeper. You can connect with this group in downtown Cedar Rapids, at Life Discovered, to explore our cultural and economic differences. 

At the end of the day, we all want to know that we have a seat at the table. What a joy it is to be raising a generation that can strive for just that! 

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