Nurture Shock: Chapter 3 – Why White Parents Don’t Talk About Race

I grew up in a homogeneous town on the east coast in the 50’s and 60’s. No one talked about race in my family. A lot of assumptions were made and my sisters and I were left to form our own opinions. I have fought stereotypes my entire adult life, but as a parent I think I fell into the same ‘assumption’ trap the authors report about. Not wanting to make race a big deal, we wanted our children and our family to be all inclusive. But according to the research cited in this chapter we might have missed an important developmental window when it is important to talk about race. Talking with first graders seems to make a difference, but ‘by third grade when most parents believe it’s safe to start talking a little about race, the developmental window has already closed.’

Another interesting conclusion is about the Diverse Environment Theory where the assumption is that desegregating schools works. Researchers have found that diverse schools don’t necessarily lead to more cross-race friendships – just the opposite. Duke University’s Dr. James Moody found that the more diverse the school, the more the kids self-segregate by race and ethnicity within the school. In junior high and high school the researchers found that many students have a friend of another race, but that far more kids just like to hang with their own.

How difficult is it to talk with children about race when they are very young? Researchers have found that to be effective, conversations about race have to be explicit, in unmistakable terms that children understand. And when those conversations can be incorporated into their school curriculum and take place around the dinner table it will seem more normal. When I was growing up race was the elephant in the living room. And I though I would like to think that has changed for my children’s generation I recognize we still have a long way to go in this country.

Since the day Obama announced his candidacy I have believed that he is a gift for our country at a time when we desperately need to heal deep wounds around racial discrimination. I don’t expect change to happen in just four years, but I am grateful and a little bit hopeful that his presence has raised the level of conversation about a difficult topic. Please don’t wait – seize this window of opportunity and begin those explicit conversations about race with your young children.

Next week: Chapter 4 – Why Kids Lie

This week’s recipe – Marvelous Marinade for Chicken Kabobs

I have my sister to thank for the original version of this recipe which I adapted for a marinade for chicken kabobs just in time for the summer barbecue.

1 cup yogurt (I prefer non-fat but any type will do)
1/4 cup lemon juice
2 tsp worchestershire sauce
2 tsp celery salt
1 tsp paprika
1 clove garlic, minced
1 tsp salt
1/4 tsp pepper
4 chicken breasts
Cut up veggies (cherry tomatoes, zucchini, mushrooms, red and green bell peppers, onions
kabob sticks soaked in water prior to building the kabob

Mix first 8 ingredients. Cut chicken into kabob-size pieces and add to the marinade. I prefer to put it all in a gallon-sized ziplock bag, but for the energy conscious any non-reactive bowl will do as long as the chicken pieces are completely covered.  Marinate overnight.  An hour before building the kabobs marinate the cut up veggies in your favorite italian salad dressing. Build the kabobs – put them on the grill and enjoy.

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