Monday, April 24, 2006

Racism Prevention 101: Parenting With the Natural Healing Process

Susan Doyle staffwriter California Daily News wrote an article on how families respond to racism. A question posed by About.com's Susan Pizarro-Eckert asks the question: How should parents teach their children about racism? Her grandmother prepared her, which she is grateful for, for the inevitable racist environments she might encounter. My response follows:

Children are resilient. They also use a natural healing process such as crying, laughing, trembling or yelling to release the tension of hurts that come in.

I find that when this process is allowed and warmly, relaxedly encouraged when the young person brings it up, it gives them an ability to figure out each new situation which comes their way.

There is a time when a parent needs to step in, and say, go to the school or another parent and talk about any racist behaviors, name calling and such that is coming at their child. They need to stop mistreatment from coming at their child as much as possible. Even if they aren't able to completely have it stopped, the child sees the parent or adult standing up for them and contradicting the poisonous messages that are being said or acted out. That gives hope and makes a big difference in their life. (It also helps if other people standing around also interrupt the racist behavior, particularly other white people.)

Also, white parents can counsel their children (I teach beginning and advanced levels in this). Racism is not our natural state. No child is born racist. It is a result of misinformation and actual oppression (adultism) that first comes in at a child and so they would normally use the above-mentioned natural healing process to free themselves from the hurt of racist conditioning.

However, well-meaning adults and society usually stop the tension-releasing process and certainly don't understand that it is necessary in order to retain our human intellingence, flexibility and natural tendency to cooperation and close relationships across any racial or class lines.

Parents can prevent racism by learning to counsel and play with their white young ones and by also co-counseling each other to release the racist conditioning which we all receive growing up in the United States. (some is more subtle than others but even well-intentioned folks get a huge dose.) Racism is merely an infection of the mind.

The natural healing process helps "wash" our minds of misinformation and lets us think for ourselves again.

So, I see it as an important tool for those born into the oppressor role.

For those born in the targeted groups, folks of color in this conversation, the NHP is key also.

When parents use these tools for themselves and then also apply these listening tools with their young ones, the young ones get to release the tension that comes from being mistreated. I would hesitate to point out racial differences until the children are at an age where they actually notice it at all. The book "I'm Chocolate You're Vanilla" by Margurite A. Wright is excellent for strategies within schools and families and spells out why young people under a certain age don't think of themselves or their peers in terms of any differences in skin color.

I think that if it came up because someone used racial slurs at the child that first I would firmly say, "Stop" or depending on the safety might say simply, "Shut up that's not true!"

Later, I would lightly and with a smile (away from the person who did this) say, something like, "Wow honey, that person was confused and had big feelings, didn't they?" I would simply and briefly explain that some people are confused and think that the color of our skin means we can't be friends!

I also would say, you know how you get your feelings out with mommy and then you feel much better afterward? Well, no one was able to listen to that person and so they are trying to have a session with us! Then, "How was that for you when they said/did that?" and stay close and delighted with the young person as they relate or simply cry in your arms. This is how they will heal the incident and not carry it with them.

Anyway, the listening tools I teach and which can be found through the Parents Leadership Institute (Patty Wipfler) are wonderful to release the internalizing of racist messages which hurt people of color who are targeted daily by small and large injustices, unthoughtfulnesses and outright hostile racism.

After receiving these slurs and messages it is difficult not to--on some level--take them in and beleive them in a certain way. So the listening exchange helps to unravel the misinformation and mistreatment that comes in and to regain the confidence based on reality.

The reality is all humans are intelligent, powerful, loving and have a natural zest for life (that is before we get hurt and it builds up).

So, as a white woman, I am excited to be using and teaching these simple concepts which are very natural. It is important to me to end racism.


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Cross posted at culturekitchen.com

18 Comments:

Anonymous douglass said...

I'm glad that there are people like you who are willing to sacrifice their time to eliminate the nastiness of racism.

I was thinking that nobody would have the guts to stand up like that.

(Keep up the good work!)

You said something that caused some dissonance in my feeble mind.

"So, as a white woman, I am excited to be using and teaching these simple concepts which are very natural. It is important to me to end racism."

hmm....

If you accept the validity of racial classifications, then exactly how can you be opposed to the ism that grows from the internalization of these classifications?

7:11 PM PDT  
Anonymous vegankid said...

ok. i just tried to leave a comment and it disappeared. so attempt #2.

i'm glad that you figured out how to add allywork to your blogroll. sorry i hadn't got back to you soon, but i've been away from the internet for awhile.

i was wondering if you would mind if i published this post on ally work. i'll check back here for the answer.

thanks for this post. and for all that you do!

6:51 PM PDT  
Blogger Sea's Blog said...

I think I know what you're asking. Humans, (all one race) have different skin tones. That has been used for convenience as a way to separate people and exploit different groups.

By acknowledging I'm in a group that has oppressor patterns and history I think I have a better chance at acknowledging the imbalance and healing it than if I did the colorblind thing and tried to operate as though nothing--even an artificial construct to separate humans--had happened.

It's afternoon and I admit I'm not sure I'm making sense. :-) Thanks for your comment.

Your last question is interesting. If I accept the validity of racial classifications ... I don't in the sense that I don't think a skin tone denotes superiority or inferiority . ..

Internalizing misinformation about oneself or one's subgroup (of the human race) doesn't sound like a good life for anyone. Does that help?

6:57 PM PDT  
Blogger Sea's Blog said...

yes, vegan kid I'd be delighted. I get a little more techno lit here and there.

I don't know if you're interested in about.com forum onrace relations? I really got blasted there for this same piece but it turns out that was just the welcome wagon. :-)

7:02 PM PDT  
Blogger Douglass said...

Sea’s Blog; I would like to get 2 things straight.

1) I cherish your opinion

&

2) I do not mean to offend.

You said: " Internalizing misinformation about oneself or one's subgroup (of the human race) doesn't sound like a good life for anyone. Does that help?"

YES!!!! It does help!!!!

That is EXACTLY what I am saying to you.

'white' people do NOT have 'oppressor patterns', more than any other group has 'oppressor patterns'.

Look at what I said in response to one of your previous posts:

Let's see, the term 'white' is an interesting (and loaded) term.

It has no real ethnic (i.e. German) connotation, rather it is a way to describe people with white skin, and has no bearing at all on the historically exploitive behavior exhibited by the European nations from the 14th century on.

Russians are white. Does that mean that the crimes of Columbus influence them today?

.....you must recall that the other races have exhibited similar brutalities and by singling out 'white' people, you are engaging in racist thinking.

To look at historical data under the lens of 'white brutality' is the SAME CRIME as looking at historical data under the lens of 'Jewish hegemony' or 'Black stupidity'.

8:20 AM PDT  
Blogger Sea's Blog said...

Douglass I'm referring to the "white" making that happened for the poor European immigrants which served to separate them from black folks in the US. At that time, doing that helped the ruling class keep slavery in place.

I have been getting alot of the similar criticism as yours and I have to keep thinking about what you're saying.

I think setting up "white" identity in the US was a way to separate poor servants and give them privileges which African people were not receiving here.

So to this day, "white" is not a correct term but I use it politically.

I need to think more about what you are trying to tell me and how to address it. This is a brief incomplete answer here.
This is a good point you're making and I do need to learn how to respond to what you're saying ...

I'm not going to go there and stop using the term white. It's originally and still is an incorrect term. But it is a political term. I mean, as long as there were a large group of white people--not ethnic groups from Europe--there could be a huge group there which was used by colonial interests to try and convince white people they were superior to black people.

So anyway, I need to get offline at the moment but was interested in this conversation. Thanks. Thanks for cherishing my view. ... Hope to cultivate more of that :-)

1:27 PM PDT  
Anonymous douglass said...

Sea’s Blog,

I agree with much of what you are saying.

I think the introduction of African slaves was a way for the ruling classes to drive down the price of free labor.

The belief that white was somehow superior to black was propagated by the ruling classes as a numbing agent to the real monies lost by free workers in the colonies in which African slavery was practiced.

That is why the racial arguments of the American whites relied entirely on ad hominem attacks.

This propaganda was aimed at he poor and uneducated whites whose work was made less valuable because of the introduction of African slaves.

I think this way because money is power and racism is an illusion.

4:55 PM PDT  
Blogger Sea's Blog said...

Hey douglass,

So, you say racism is an illusion. And all I'm saying is racism is *based* on an illusion.

11:31 AM PDT  
Anonymous douglass said...

That is true.

Racism is real while inside the mind.

My disagreement here could be a result of my views on class.

I have seen many people who are proponents of the elimination of white racism view class as the result of race and gender.

It would seem that they employ a sociological matrix that relies on the intersection of race, gender & class to label the status of a given person.

My problem with the above matrix is that class cannot be placed in such a model without losing its Marxian significance (how the exchange value of labor is socially determined). In this intersection class becomes a synonym of ‘income’.


Any thoughts?

9:11 AM PDT  
Blogger Sea's Blog said...

Douglass you said:
...
"I have seen many people who are proponents of the elimination of white racism view class as the result of race and gender."

That seems off to me. Someone who is targeted by racism or sexism is just that. And they are in an oppressed group. But, but, they may also be making a living through the profits made by other people's labor which would put them into what I call, an owning-class category.

"It would seem that they employ a sociological matrix that relies on the intersection of race, gender & class to label the status of a given person."

I would go with that unless, as you say, they are using "class" as something based on gender and race. That would be more how oppression comes at them. But it doesn't use the word "class" in the way I use it.

Class, to me is "raised poor" "raised working class" "raised middle-class" or "raised owning class" and by owning class meaning living off of the profits made by other people's labor. (However little or lot that may be.)

Certainly race first, then gender and then class as these three intersect help get a picture of where a person has been oppressed or where they have privilege.

A person of color who was raised owning-class can be intimidating to a white raised poor person--despite the white privilege. (Don't you hate my blatant generalities!) Let's just say it would be understandable if that happened. I've seen it before.

Combinations of oppressions and privileges are common.

Is it possible that the white allies you speak of were trying to convey that oppression of race or gender were serving to place a person in a class group? I don't think I would agree at any rate. Only in the sense that they might get f---d with alot--regardless of class background.

Tell me more how you think about class. And I trust you'll let me know if what I think makes sense to you.

Happy May Day.

8:44 PM PDT  
Anonymous douglass said...

Sea,

I agree that

"Combinations of oppressions and privileges are common."

You said,

“Certainly race first, then gender and then class as these three intersect help get a picture of where a person has been oppressed or where they have privilege”.

That is interesting.

When it comes to systematic oppression in the United States, I think class is first, gender is second and race is third.

Class best reflects the social value of the individual.

Let’s look at the systematic disenfranchisement of people practiced by the U.S. criminal Justice System.

If you look at the incarceration statistics for the United States, 2 million+ people were incarcerated as of June 2003.

Interestingly, income statistics are unavailable.

The data given is race, gender and age.

You will be shocked to find that AGE that is the best indicator of determining the probability that a given individual will be incarcerated, followed by Gender, then Race.

In light of the totality of the data, the top three most likely categories of people who will end up disenfranchised by the criminal Justice system are 1. young black males. 2. young Hispanic males and 3. young white males.

The discrimination is not mainly towards minorities and women, but the young and the male.

I see some dollar signs in that.

Also,

I see individual ‘white’ racism in the continental United States towards people of African ancestry as induced by class conflict in the sense that the majority of whites (poor) had no reason to hate the blacks other than propaganda that induced a false pride in the white population as to offset the pain of the pay cut that came with the introduction of African slaves. Even the plantation owner had no reason to hate the golden goose of slave labor.

In fact the poor whites shared a struggle with the black slaves insomuch as the plantation owner raised a 'surplus value' from both.

That said,

I think that the legacy of 'white racism' towards the native population of the Americas to be far worse than that seen towards Blacks, and I think this racism is interlaced with the history of Christian expansionism and aristocratic greed.

In the north the Europeans stole their land and systematically destroyed 95% of the population. Even the declaration of independence refers to the Natives as ‘savages’.

Today the Native American population has the lowest annual income and the highest suicide rate. And we still have the Cleveland Indians!

In the south, the Aztec, Mayan and Inca cultures were destroyed and replaced with Catholicism.

The brutalities were horrendous, as evidenced by the half-Iberian half-Native genes seen in South and Central America

So, I am getting a better picture of where you are coming from, but I do not understand how the idea of ‘white racism’ is applicable outside the continental U.S.* and I am somewhat baffled by the proponents of this theories fixation on white-black relations in light of the condition of the Native population.

* i.e. race relations in China that are bleeding into their child control policy, Indian Caste, African tribal violence and reactionary violence towards whites, Islamic treatment of Christians and Jews, Israeli treatment of Islamic Arabs, etc.

11:30 AM PDT  
Anonymous douglass said...

I forgot to add that, of course, Religion is a critical element when looking at the history of American society.

Note that the racist ideas of the American political mythology that justified the genocide of the native population such as American exceptionalism and manifest destiny are loosely associated with biblical passages (see Hebrew treatment of native tribes in Deuteronomy).

Also, In the U.S. Black Men could vote decades before White women could vote. It can be argued that although this patriarchy stems from economic and political conditions, it's existence is reinforced and prolonged by the influence of Christianity.

11:57 AM PDT  
Anonymous douglass said...

see here:

http://wings.buffalo.edu/sa/muslim/library/jesus-say/ch15.html

5:01 PM PDT  
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