Manage episode 356413202 series 1952577
David Mura, author of The Stories Whiteness Tells Itself, illuminates the realities of modern-day racism. We talk about the danger of avoiding race discussion, changing school curriculums to accurately address racism, and talking to our teens about race.
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Full show notes
Racism is one of the world’s oldest and most complicated topics. With centuries of genocides, segregation, and colonization leading up to the systemic inequalities of the modern day, there’s no easy way to sit kids down and teach them about it all. The intensity and intricacy of the topic means that parents just don’t talk about racism at all–which only leads to more injustice and ignorance in the next generation.
Education is key, but where do we even start? What’s important to cover, and how can we explain the nuances of race relations with kids who are still shaping their ideas about the world?
To help us educate kids, we’re sitting down with David Mura, author of The Stories Whiteness Tells Itself: Racial Myths and Our American Narratives. David is a memoirist, essayist, novelist, poet, critic, playwright and performance artist. As a third generation Japanese American, he’s often written about his own relationship with race, along with American society’s complicated relationship with systemic racial injustice.
In our interview, Daivid is explaining how we can adjust our definition of racism to be more accurate, and why we shouldn’t avoid talking about race. We also discuss how schools can adopt better methods for teaching kids about race, and how we can have conversations about race at home.
Why We Need to Talk About Race
When we talk about racism, we often describe explicitly racist concepts or behavior–like actively segregating environments or using slurs. In reality, racism can be a lot more nuanced and implicit, especially in today’s world, says David. Someone who doesn’t identify as racist can still exhibit racial preferences–and in fact most of us do, he explains. If we want to teach kids about racism, we’ll have to adjust our definition to include a more complicated range of behaviors.
Even worse than oversimplifying racism is not even talking about it at all, sayd David. Refusing to discuss race is pretty common in our society, especially among white people, he explains. In our interview, David and I talk about how we often don’t talk to kids about race because we’re scared it will overwhelm them or make them feel bad. This is typically true for white families, David says, who don’t want kids to feel shame about the historical actions of white people. But by not teaching kids about racism, we’re allowing them to live in ignorance–and denying them the truth.
Plus, the shame or guilt white folks often feel about racism in the past or present isn’t productive, says David. Instead, he believes it should be replaced by knowledge and responsibility. By learning about what’s happened in the past and what’s still going on today, parents and kids can be better advocates for equality. Responsibility means choosing to actively work against racism in any way we can, he says. In the episode, David and I talk about all the psychological steps white individuals often go through as they learn to process the ways racism shapes modern-day society.
Talking about race is important–and we should be doing it in schools, David says. In the episode, we’re also talking about the role school can play in helping kids understand racial discrepancies.
Racial Education in Schools
You may have heard the term “critical race theory” thrown around, but David explains that most schools aren’t really having kids contemplate race in a layered sense. Instead, many schools are simply teaching kids about the history of racism and breaking down the ways our society maintains racial biases in everyday life.
This definitely seems like something kids should know, right? David says that it’s unfortunately not that simple. Many people still feel uncomfortable having white children learn about the nuances of racism in American society, and want this curriculum banned from schools. In the episode, David and I talk about how certain politicians have made a very concentrated effort to stop kids from learning about race in school, even when it provides necessary context for how the Civil War started or why kids have Martin Luther King Jr. Day off.
In our interview, David and I talk about how we need to adjust the curriculum for students of color as well. Many times, these students take cues about their race from the world around them, and aren’t taught to think about how and why these stereotypes might be wrong. For example, David explains that many black students internalize ideas about black men being involved in crime or violent activity, and start to think they’re destined to fulfill the stereotype. If we want kids to grow up happy and healthy, we’ve got to set the record straight and remind them that stereotypes like these don’t define them.
If we really want kids to learn about racism in a meaningful way, however, we’ve got to talk to them at home. David and I are diving deeper into how we can address racism with our kids.
Discussing Race at Home
Kids typically know about racism in the past tense–events like March on Washington or people like Rosa Parks–but unless they experience it firsthand, some kids might not understand the presence of systemic racism in the modern day. To help them understand, David recommends bridging the past and the present. In the episode, he talks about how people like Thomas Jefferson spread certain rhetoric about race which continues to make its way into modern day thinking, and how we can illuminate this for kids.
To help kids see the truth about racism in society, it can also be useful to present them with the facts and statistics. David offers plenty in the episodes. For starters, black individuals are four times more likely to be arrested for marijuana-based offenses than white individuals–even though white and black folks have been shown to consume marijuana at the same rate. Black people are more likely to go to trial for these offenses, more likely to be convicted, and typically serve longer sentences. Black patients in hospitals are less likely to receive pain medication for the same conditions, and wait longer for medication when they do get it. The unemployment rate among black folks is twice that of white people, and so on and so forth.
Helping kids see these discrepancies can be an important step towards helping them understand the ways racism continues to prosper in the United States. In the episode, David and I provide more examples and tips for talking to teens about race.
In the Episode….
David and I examine the many dimensions of race relations in the U.S in our interview. On top of the topics discussed above, we’re also talking about:
- Why black folks are unfairly pinned as criminals
- How medical racism affects people of color
- Why authors make their characters white as a default
- How white America mimics the psychology of an abuser
If you want to learn more from David, you can find him at his website, davidmura.com. Thanks for listening, and don’t forget to share and subscribe! We’ll see you next week.
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