How To: Antiracism for Children
Updated: May 26, 2021
Something happened last Fall 2020. On the heels of Black Lives Matter Summer, everyone, every organization that was afraid to be lumped into the label of systemic racism, jumped to have presentations, webinars, book clubs, you name it on the topics of race, racism, injustice, and social justice. It was an awakening, or a performative hoax to not lose too many customers. You decide. Either way, we all found ourselves bombarded by these events. Personally and professionally, it was hard for me to see all of that unfolding because many of those events were not actually rooted in the pursuit of allyship. Let me explain what I mean.
It was like being on a roller coaster. From the time I was in high school, I started learning about the history of racism in American outside of my lived experiences as a racialized person. I began diving deep into Black history in the US. I switched from the fiction novels that were authored by White people and assigned as supposed classics and literary greats. Instead, I read books, research articles and anything else by Black people that I could get in my grasp. I was both shocked and excited to learn about my people from my people. The shock was the fact that all of this information existed and yet it was purposely withheld from my learning. The deeper I traveled in my quest for knowledge about the history of the Black community, the closer I came to understanding anti-Blackness, only I did not have the words for it until more recently.
In college, my first term paper was on the politics surrounding Black women’s hair. Again, I had not yet stumbled across the verbiage of respectability politics or intersectionality, nevertheless, my paper built on the foundation of those very things. By graduate school, my scholarship into my heritage was in full force. I conducted my graduate thesis on bullying among Black pre-adolescent girls by exploring their feelings about their skin color, hair texture and self-esteem. My research study allowed me to learn about the depths of colorism and the racist obsession with Eurocentric beauty standards being thrust upon Black people in the US since 1619. I have since presented on race and racism in the US with a focus on its effects in the Black community since 2012. As I learn, unpack my own stuff, and make mistakes, I just keep learning.
However, when I saw all of the events popping up in the Summer and Fall of 2020, I noticed something striking. Many of the people being asked to present were White people who had little or no expertise on social justice or racial equity. Worse yet, in many instances keynote presenters who were White, were being paid honoraria for their time and knowledge. In contrast, many Black scholars were being asked to volunteer their time. Now, it is perfectly appropriate to volunteer for causes for which one has passion. At the same time, there need not be an imbalance between who is asked to volunteer and who is paid for their time. The existence of that imbalance is an example of racism.
Furthermore, I noticed gender differences among presenters. I noticed how many presenters were Black women. This is striking because Black women collectively are among the most educated people in the US and have the highest student loan debt, while being significantly unpaid across fields. So when I see that Black people were less likely to be paid for their time and knowledge, I see the underlying racism that exists. Don't you?
This past Summer, late in the Summer, I attended a town hall that was supposed to be in response to the growing Black Lives Matter Global Network movement as a result of the murder of George Floyd. This town hall proceeded by having us watch part of a clip where to white women discuss race and racism. Either no one saw that set up was problematic or no one was willing to bring it to light. I started typing in the message box trying to share ideas and resources to people without condemning the design of the town hall. I also offered my email address so that I didn't monopolize the chat function.
Through that exchange, two major thing happened. First, several people reached out to me for more support and resources, to which I supplied at no cost. My only request was that they donate to the National Black Child Development Institute any amount they would have given me. I ended up making a great professional connection with someone and the two of us are still in communication. Second, I was invited to be on a panel for the organization that hosted the town hall. Their setup was going to be where the full video of two white women talking about race would be shown and then the panelists would discuss it. At the time that I was invited, the panel had two White people, one White Latina (I read bio on her website), and one person who did not have her identity in her bio. Based on how she looked, I would have said she looked racially ambiguous. I wasn't able to attend their first meeting, since it was a very last minute invitation so they uninvited me. I responded with hoping they were adding other Black panelists who are knowledgeable about the topic. I also told them that it wasn't appropriate that they were supposedly responding to anti-Blackness by having a mostly non-Black panel and watching two White people. I left it there.
Maybe a month or two later in the Fall, I learned of a colleague who was invited to present on helping children through an anti-racist framework. She is White and didn't feel it was appropriate for her to present on the topic alone. She invited me. We started building our content and discussing our program design. I asked the hosting organization if the webinar would be open to the public because I wanted to invite my students, some of whom are Deaf. Initially, they said yes. Eventually, they said no and canceled the event stating that I had violated the agreement by requiring Deaf students to attend. They said that they couldn't pay for American Sign Language (ASL) interpreters and that their webinar was designed for their local community. Um, I used to live in their community and knew Deaf parents, teachers, and clinicians who could benefit from our presentation.
It was not lost on me that I was the only Black person or person from a marginalized community that was involved in this conversation, and I was the scapegoat. From their perspective, it was all my fault that the webinar couldn't proceed. They then went on to say that they have people from many different backgrounds and they can't afford to provide interpreters for all of them, so Deaf people weren't the only ones being excluded. So, which was it? Deaf people weren't being excluded because there weren't any Deaf people in that community or Deaf people were being equally excluded when compared to other people who use a native language other than English. Seemed to me that they contradicted their own argument and blamed their ableism and racism on me, the Black woman.
I didn't want to give up on this webinar or a similar webinar, and I made a vow to have my webinars accessible to Deaf people. I am happy to announce that on March 23, 2021 at 7:00 PM eastern time, I will be co-presenting an even better webinar on the topic of helping children through emotional experiences from an anti-racist framework, entitled: All Up in My Race: Fostering Emotional Intelligence in Children
This webinar will be interpreted in ASL and have live Spanish interpretation as well (I'm unsure if the Spanish will be spoken or read). Our hosts, Gallaudet University Psychology Colloquium Series and Rehabilitation Psychology were also able to provide APA continuing education units free for attendees.
Here's a snapshot of what to expect.
Participants will be able to:
3️⃣ Describe three developmental stages of understanding race as a concept from infancy through childhood
3️⃣ Identify at least 3 antiracist responses for children
1️⃣ Define a racist idea
•👀 Recognize at least one way the intersection of race and hearing status impacts Deaf and Hard of Hearing children