On our way to school the other morning my daughter asked me, “Why are most of the people who do construction work Latino?”
“That would be a better question to ask a Latino person who does construction.”
She was silent for a moment and then said, “But I don’t know and Latino people who do constructions and I don’t talk to strangers. Why do YOU think a lot of construction workers are Latino.”
“Ok, you’re right. Hmmm…it’s hard to say because I only know a couple Latino men who do construction and I know that Latino men in construction is a stereotype. Latino men, like Tata, and your uncles, and cousins are Latino, but they don’t do construction.”
Until today, my posts have been about experiences with my older daughter. This is the first post specifically about my younger daughter. For years she has been by our side while I talk with my older daughter, but this is the first time the conversation was just the two of us. It may have helped that her older sister was gone for the morning.
My younger daughter celebrated her fifth birthday last weekend. One of her gifts was a small white plaster fairy. The gift came with paints and a paintbrush with instructions for personalizing the fairy. The illustration on the box was a fairy with fair skin, very similar to her skin tone. After setting up the fairy and paint on top of a paper bag with a cup of water I walked to the sink to wash dishes.
After five minutes I returned to her side to observe the progress of her masterpiece. I immediately noticed that the porcelain white arms of the fairy’s arms, legs and face had been painted black, the dress was blue and the mushrooms surrounding the fairy were a variety of colors with spots. Continue reading →
About a week ago, I was supervising my daughters as they played on a playground. This was a new playground for us. It was pretty typical. A ground cover of wood chips, slides, bars to climb across, walls to climb up, etc. They also had six swings, two for babies and toddlers, two traditional and, less common two adaptive swings. These swings are typically blue or red, look like an upright reclining chair, and have four chains connecting them to the cross bar; two in the front and two in the back. They are designed to support children who do not have the size, core strength or muscle tone to sit on the other swings. Also rare for playgrounds were the rubber walkway/ramps that wove through the wood chips. Each ramp lead to a piece of playground equipment. I took brief notice of these features, but I didn’t consider them something worth pointing out to the children. I was wrong.
“Daddy, why are the white people so rude to Sylvia’s family?”
My initial thought was, “that’s an easy one. We’ve talked about racism and discrimination so many times. I can reference back to many of our previous conversations.” However, the answer that came out of my mouth was a little more nuanced than usual. “Because Sylvia’s family does not like what is normal for their school district.”
As I moved throughout the rest of my evening, and for several months to follow, I asked myself, “what is normal?” My goal was to advance Addi and my conversations about prejudice, discrimination and inclusion as well as develop a better understanding of the social world she/we live in?
What unfolded over time was the creation of the Cycle of Normal…and a daughter who is more aware of prejudice and discrimination.
The term “stay woke” was originally coined by musician Erykah Badu in her 2008 song Master Teacher. In the song, Badu sings, “Baby sleepy time, to put her down and I’ll be standin’ round until sun down…I stay woke.” I was introduced to this song last March on an episode of the highly recommended podcast, Code Switch.
At the time, I was sitting on a bus riding through downtown Denver. My destination was a regional conference where I was scheduled to deliver a presentation titled: Facilitating a Developmentally Appropriate Conversation on Social Justice and Equity with Young Children. The presentation was built around my personal experiences growing up, talking with my daughter, Addi, and reflections from my twelve years as an early childhood educator. At the core of the conversation was how Addi and I work to be woke. This second of the three blog series outlines three lessons I have learned. We must Engage!