It has been hugely humbling and stretching to parent precious Black lives amidst recent BLM events.
When we first took classes to become foster parents almost 12 years ago, the trainer asked all participants to consider how our families would respond to us parenting kids that looked different than we did. My initial response was to immediately say everyone would be totally fine with it. But my thoughtful husband cautioned that we needed to really consider the question. This was my first chance to stop, listen, and learn.
Since then, we’ve welcomed kids of different shapes, sizes, colors, and creeds. And yes, many of them have looked different than us. About a third have been Black.
I have a box of Legos—my favorite toy—from my childhood. We’ve trucked it from house to house all over this country, and even into Central America when we lived there. I think every kid who as lived with us has played with them at some point.
When the current set of sisters came to stay with us last winter, I proudly brought out the box as if showing off my greatest treasure. The younger sister’s quick reply caught me completely off-guard.
“Why don’t you have any Lego people who look like me?“
I went from defensive to humiliated in 2.5 seconds. I immediately searched the boxes and shelves of toys throughout the house. How have I had more than a dozen kids of color living with me and somehow managed to acrrue only white dolls?
The next day, shortly after the Amazon box with new dolls showed up on our doorstep, she cut her leg and the prior-day’s scenario repeated itself.
“Don’t you have any Band-aids that match me?“
Amazon-to-the-rescue, once again. [These are well worth adding to your medicine cabinet, by the way, no matter who you are.]
Since we started this adventure so many years ago, I have been called to stop, listen, and learn over and over again. My natural tendency is to do the opposite—think, respond, and go—believing I already have all the answers. Countering that thought process is not easy, but it’s so worth it.
To that end, I’ve listed a few of the resources that have helped me stop, listen, and learn from people who have lived differently than me, primarily because of what they look like. I still have a long way to go, but I feel like I’ve taken a tiny step toward more compassionate consideration of people of color.
Be warned: some of what I learned absolutely shocked me. Coming to grips with the significant injustices that have been thrusted upon an entire people group—to our own citizens, within our own borders—can (should!) be difficult.
I want to share these specifically with others who are non-Hispanic, White-only (to use the official terminology), and who might not have explored these voices… as a place to start the conversation.
Take assessment of your implicit (unconscious) bias toward different skin tones and/or races.
But wait! Don’t stop there! Consider implicit biases you might have about other ethnicities, cultures, and social groups.
Living in another country really helped me realize how much I am naturally inclined toward the way things had always been done in my family of birth. If moving abroad isn’t in your near future ;-), a great first step is to read about it. I like Leading with Cultural Intelligence, by David Livermore.
Listen & Learn:
The first two I read to inform my work, but each gave me critical insight for both my personal and professional life.
The next three I read as part of book clubs. If you have the opportunity to discuss any of these with other people, I highly recommend it! (Note: there’s definitely valuable information to be gleaned here, regardless of your personal political leanings.)
Each of the following books were recommended to me through personal connections with the authors, and I was so grateful to have gotten to know their stories. The first two are particularly relevant to foster and adoptive families.
Finally, this set includes a few of the many fabulous children’s and young adult books that feature Black voices. Books like these are important to add to any family’s library, regardless of the color of your skin.
And while you can certainly listen to most of those books if you prefer, here are a few other ways to listen and learn for visual and/or auditory learners:
- Uncomfortable Conversations with a Black Man (IGTV/YouTube)
- Should America (and FIFA) Pay Reparations? (Freakonomics Radio podcast)
- Miss Buchanon’s Period of Adjustment (Revisionist History podcast)
- Let’s Get to the Root of Racial Injustice (Megan Ming Francis/TEDx)
- The Doll Test – The effects of racism on children (Fanpage.it/YouTube)
- Racism and the Church – Where do we go from here? (StoryPartners)
- And, Just Mercy is also a movie. (But the book was better, IMHO. :))
Now, before I posted this, I asked a few Black people to review it. One of those was a colleague who has consistently challenged me (in a good way!) since we started working together a little over two years ago. She encouraged me to also include some stories about the joys, creations, and triumphs of Black people, saying, “Be careful to not convey that being black is only about pain and tragedy.” So, I adjusted accordingly.
I’m so grateful for the opportunity to stop, listen, and learn from diverse voices both near and far. Thank you, Monica, for reminding me of the importance of sharing those stories, too.
* This is by no means an exhaustive list. Plenty of other people have created such lists. This is just the list of some resources that really helped me take that first step to stop, listen, and learn.