Raising White Kids: Bringing Up Children in a Racially Unjust America by Jennifer Harvey

Raising White Kids: Brining Up Children in a Racially Unjust America by Jennifer HarveySummary: A practical, example filled discussion of how to parent White children in a racially unjust America.

My children are young, 2 and 4. I am not particularly young (middle 40s). Both my wife and I have spent most of our careers working in or around education with predominately minority students. We want our own White children to both have the advantages of relating well to many different types of children and to appropriately be advocates for racial justice issues. So I eagerly accepted a review copy of Raising White kids.

In a mid point of Raising White Kids I think the author hits dead-on the real fear a lot of parents have.

“Nerves are normal. So many examples I have shared in Raising White Kids Include Moments of profound discomfort. Urging parents to face head on and precisely create more opportunities to teach our kids about racism means inviting them to accept the inevitability of discomfort. Discomfort may come from worrying about what other adults think, as we swim against a color-blind tide. It may come from worrying out attempts risk getting it so wrong we may screw up our kids in the process! It may come when our children ask questions we can’t quite answer or say things that push us out of our comfort zone. But a bird’s-eye, big-picture view of the positive effects and powerfully healthy outcomes of supporting our kids and being truthful can help us persist.” (page 130)

Much of the advice of Raising White Kids is very practical based on lots of examples good discussion. But at root, this is a book that says that unless adults directly confront their own racial issues and attempt to overcome them, then we cannot expect our children to come to a different place in life. Simple exposure to diversity, which is hard enough, isn’t enough to insure that White kids will not absorb the cultural beliefs that White is either better or normal. (At one point she describes common racial beliefs life smog that you just can’t completely get away from.)

I think the most important chapter for me, one that I have not seen much about in other places (or just hasn’t really sunk in if I have read about it previously) was her chapter Diversity is Confusing. The basic theme of the chapter is that White kids in diverse setting, with at least some racial intelligence, know there is something problematic about being White. Harvey cites a study about a diverse high school where there were thousands of hours of interviews with students. Non-White student would clearly identify how they understood themselves racially. But White students would joke about it, or refuse to answer, or equivocate in some way. It is this point that I think is most important about the book. It is not just that we need to give our kids racial intelligence so that they do not offend or oppresses other children, although that is important. We also need to help them create a self understanding as what it means to be White.

In some ways this is a very Racial Issues 101 type of book. However, there is something different when discussing not how you as an individual process issues with racism, but how you as a parent help your child process issues around race. I highly recommend Raising White Kids. And there are many of the concepts that transfer well to think about how to teach kids about gender or disability or class, etc.

One last note, this is published by a Christian publisher. The author has other explicitly Christian books, but Raising White Kids is not itself address only to Christian parents and there are virtually no references to Christianity directly.

Raising White Kids: Bringing Up Children in a Racially Unjust America by Jennifer Harvey Purchase Links: Hardcover, Kindle Edition, Audible.com Audiobook

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