I undoubtedly was raised in a racist area, in my school there was a guy called “Black Matt’’ and the Chinese twins were simply known as the “chinky twins”. It was not until my early twenties that I really knew anyone of colour with my flatmate being black, I am hugely aware now that the gap between white privilege and black oppression is huge. Because we have lived internationally my daughter is used to having friends of all cultures and nationalities, as such to her toys and books are reflective of that.
She has been the only white child on various occasions, so she also knows what it feels like to be conscious of skin colour but children look past that and play without judgment. BUT now is a time to educate myself so I can do better so I can have honest informative conversations with my daughter as she grows up. As part of this, I reached out to interracial couple Marcus and Ash Kusi to ask some questions on how I can do better.
Hi Marcus and Ash, Welcome to No Mum Is An Island. I am a great believer that no mum or dad should have to do everything themselves, we can’t possibly know it all, and we need all the support we can get, there is a wealth of information out there to help us upgrade our parenting experience, to make our lives easier and this website is a hub for just that! We love that you have used your family dynamic to support others to have better relationships and more recently to understand how to speak to children about race.
You are marriage mentors, what does that mean and how does that impact your relationship?
We started blogging shortly after we were married to share our experiences with the mistakes and adjustments we made the first few years we were married and what we learned in hopes of helping other couples like us. We felt there wasn’t much out there in terms for our age group that was not focused on the topics we felt were relevant to our situation, so we created one. It can be a little intimidating to be vulnerable enough to share our shortcomings with the world, but the feedback we get that we are helping to save marriages, make it all worth it. It brings us a sense of accountability for sure. We write our articles, and share our videos or podcasts with the intention that we are welcoming you to sit with us and have an open and honest conversation.
Can you share with us how you speak to your 5 and 7-year-old about from being from an Interracial family?
Marcus is from Ghana and Ash is from the United States, and is white. We feel we have a unique take on the issues talking about race with our kids because we are coming from both perspectives. Our girls are biracial, and we’ve raised them to know they are half of each of our cultures and one whole beautiful and intelligent human being.
The issue of racism has already shown up, be it kids who’s parents told them not to play with them on the playground (within hearing distance) the looks and stares that has become a normal expectation for us being in an interracial marriage, the micro-aggressions strangers commit—like trying to touch their hair, or making a big deal of how beautiful they are—almost fetishizing them. We’ve had people yell racial slurs and epithets as we drove through a cross roads (thankfully the girls didn’t hear it—remarkably since their windows were open. So, yes, we’ve had to talk about race and racism from a young age with them.
We try to focus on how differences are what make us unique, and that we are all humans. We all have people we love and dreams that we want. We explain that sometimes people are not going to like them based on the way they look, but what matters is what they think of themselves. We are very big on building their self esteem. As girls, it is a challenge in our society focusing on impossible beauty standards anyways, add into the fact that they are people of color and a strong sense of self-worth is a skill we hope to instill in them so that they will be unshakable.
We answer their questions honestly, but age appropriately. Admittedly, it is hard to try to find an age appropriate way to explain why police officers are not always our friends. We rely on books to help explain a lot.
How can white parents educate themselves about subconscious biases against black people?
White parents have to put the work and time in. Reading books, listening to relevant podcasts, watching documentaries, diversifying your friends pool are all ways you can do this. Books such as White Fragility, How to Be Anti-Racist, So You Wanna Talk About Race are a great place to start.
We’d encourage you to start learning the true history behind racism, and in the United states, the history of slavery, the Jim Crow Laws, the 13th amendment, and how slavery was never really eradicated, but changed forms into mass incarceration.
Understanding the root of racism and the non white-washed version of history, can help a white person understand better, and become a better ally.
White parents should also be able to do the hard work of recognizing their own bias, prejudice, and racist beliefs/tendencies. All white people have them because we grew up in a society designed to benefit us, and it’s hard to recognize those flaws because they are ingrained in a systematic way, but also because we all want to believe that racist beliefs, attitudes, and behaviors are reserved solely for ‘bad’ people.
In fact, racism is a byproduct of being raised in a system designed to oppress people of color and benefit white people. You can choose to do the difficult internal work that is extremely humbling and painful at times, or you can choose to perpetuate racism. There is no neutral ground.
Can you advise how white parents should speak to their children about their white privilege?
Parents can do this by having the conversation about what racism is, how to recognize it, and what their kids can do as allies. They need to let their white (or white presenting) kids know that their white privilege exists. We find that children’s books are especially helpful for this, as well as being open to answering questions that they have.
Diversifying their friend groups, the shows they watch, the books they read, the toys they play with can help make inclusivity the norm. Of course, traveling to another country where they can experience being the only white person in the room like you mentioned, is an amazing experience they most likely won’t forget helping them to develop the empathy for minorities.
What are your top books to teach children about different races?
A Kids Book About Racism by Jelani Memory
Something Happened in Our Town: A Child’s Story About Racial Injustice
Not So Different by Cyana Riley
Child of the Civil Rights Movement
Say Something by Peter H. Reynolds