Friday, March 28, 2014

Teaching My Kids About Racial Equality

Sometimes I think about things I'd like to write about, simply just touch on- on this blog- and then I think to myself, "Kenna, you're essentially a party blog, you most definitely should not write about that..." And I don't. I'm usually good at listening to myself. This should probably be one of those times.

But it's not. Today I'm going to talk about my desire to teach my kid's racial equality- and I'm not even going to be funny in the process. This is definitely not party planner blogging. Maybe I need another blog for something of this nature... But for now, this is what I got. So if you were looking for a cute party, you might wanna check out the 1000's of other blogs doing that right now- or come back next week.

As an intro to where I'm going with this post- I'm going to touch on some of my own upbringing as a child. A real get-to-know-your-[favorite?]-blogger moment is coming your way... Brace yourself.

I've mentioned before that I was born in Inglewood, Ca and raised in Hawthorne, Ca. Obviously, for a white girl like myself- being raised as the minority all the way through my high school years- has shaped a big part of who I am. And now, at 33 years old- I can honestly say I wouldn't change it for the world.

If you would have asked me that my Freshman year of high school, when I came home crying for a month straight, begging my mom if I could, "go to the white school" I wouldn't believe that I'd be saying that. I was dead set on getting out of a place where I felt ostracized for my skin color. Where the nicknames, "wedda" and "whitegirl" were not sitting well within my soul. I yearned for El Segundo... That glistening town 10 minutes away where there was no graffiti. No ghetto birds. No riots. While it was close in proximity- it was far, far away in reality.

That Freshman year my mom told me in a nut shell that I was nuts, I was not going to another school because we lived directly across the street from Hawthorne High, our zoned school- where I would learn to fit in. She reminded me that I was a likeable girl and I was going to meet people running track, I just needed to be patient and wait for the season to start. And you know what, she was right... I waited- and I made friends. I made a ton of friends. I was well-liked and decided I loved all of my nicknames and I took pride in being one of the only (if not THE only) white girl on my track team.

While I had a couple of white friends in high school from as far back as elementary, I mainly hung out with my new Hispanic and black friends. I spent my afterschool days eating homemade pupusas and flan. We went down to Mexico on the weekends with my friend's parents to go dancing. I had my hair braided in corn rows for my Senior prom. I went through many stages trying to fit in and figure out who I was in a sea of amazingly tan skin... When all I could do was burn.

Although I grew out of my Spanish accent (it was gooood) at my core I felt like I was either Mexican or black most days. I felt connected to other races (Asians, Tongans, Samoans) much more than I did to my own Irish skin. I floated between groups of friends forgetting all together that I'd ever felt like an outcast upon entering high school. Learning to get along with everyone was in hindsight, a gift.

One of the beautiful things about being raised in the ghetto is that no one is better than anyone else. That is something I really value learning at a young age- that I wasn't entitled because I was white. This is something I desperately hope to impart on my children.

Which brings me to our current state. We've moved in to a primarily Hispanic community on Santa Barbara's East Side. Which didn't faze me upon arrival... "These are my people", I thought to myself when signing our lease. "I will have no problem making friends". To a point I am impressed with my naivety and optimism. Because it has not been easy. While I may feel a close connection to the Hispanic community- they have not necessarily felt that same connection to me, or my family.

And I could delve in to so many reasons here about the how and why I think this is but instead I will keep it simple and say that in my short time here I've realized I wouldn't be overly welcoming of the white family in town if I were Hispanic either. Just the ways in which I've seen or heard white people talk to or about the Hispanic community is embarrassing to me as a white person. There is so much hate and I want to break that down and be different. I want my kids to be different.

One of the most important things I want for my kids is for them to understand that they're not better than anyone because of where they were born or what language they speak. I never want them to see race as a barrier in making friends. Even when it's uncomfortable. When Cormac starts school in August I am sure he is going to have many uncomfortable moments as a white kid in a Spanish Immersion school. And it's scary to think about a 5 year old feeling left out. But you know what- nothing great was ever easy.

I want to be able to say I gave my children an understanding of equality and real life. Part of the reason I was scared to death of raising my kids in our old town is because I didn't want my kids thinking the world is made up of middle/upper class white people. I'm comfortable saying I've seen what kind of adult that produces and I'm not interested in raising that person. I'm not saying it's inevitable, but in my experience, the outlook wasn't looking promising.

It's simple- love and respect for all people- shouldn't we all want that?

End rant.


A few days after I originally wrote this, my kids made friends with our neighbors...


  1. Good post. This racial vibe must be going around because a good friend from Westmont just wrote about "white privilege" on her blog as a five part series. You are totally different people (her last post was about her fashion challenges;) but you might like the blog

    She also has one about male/female equality

    Anyway, I found Santa Barbara to be more difficult for race relations. The white folks - whether they actually are or not - are perceived to be super rich. There is an even greater race/socio economic divide and less mixing of the cultures. I worked full time at a production greenhouse (botany major). I had just spent months learning Spanish in Guatemala, where the latinos and I were best buds by the way, I had a Latino boyfriend, and I was expecting nothing but love from the ladies I worked with. I was excited to meet them..... but it was *rough* going in the friend department.
    We think you guys often. Kade still asks about Cormac. Kade signed up for the all Spanish instruction program in Guad for kinder! eeek excited for him. Praying for our boys
    Hope the people in your neighborhood give you a chance and let you in.
    Rebecca B

    1. Thanks Rebecca, totally agree about your SB comments. I want to hang a sign on our door, "We not rich- my husband is in ministry- so it's impossible!"
      I'm hoping that next time we see you the boys will be speaking ONLY Spanish to each other. I love that we're going to have that in common.

  2. I am in full support! And I think you might be an honorary TCK :)
    Cormac and Birdie will bless you as adults for diversifying their world and giving them the opportunity to learn a second language as young kids.
    And it's only a matter of time until your whole neighborhood loves you guys.

    1. I'm honored to be an honorary TCK. And thanks. I hope they appreciate it.

  3. THIS IS WHY I LOVE YOU, KENNA! You are always so honest and truthful about your experience. My life parallels yours....growing up black in a mostly white neighborhood....FUN TIMES - I experienced very little racism from my neighbors and friends (that I knew of - no telling what was said behind my back).....what I did get was taunts about sounding white, being a white girl - none of that made sense to me....I was clearly black....I couldn't hide my brown suga'! Growing up I never heard negative talk about white people or any other race in my home, my grandmother and mother always taught me the value of myself as an individual. I had a white godmother, my mother's best friends were black, white and Filipino ..... my very best friend from childhood is mixed white/Thai - I never felt weird around any of my friends in my neighborhood, I never felt like I didn't fit in. However, when I got around my black friends at school, I was teased about how I talked??? Luckily I just learned there was nothing wrong with me and everything wrong with them....if people were going to like me, they will just accept me for who I was and if not....their loss. I am lucky to have grown up in the neighborhood that I did grow up in, as an adult, I appreciate knowing that I was able to figure things out so young and be happy with who I was.

    Now, as a mom, living in a mainly black community and having my kids in a majority black school system, I have to tech my kids that it doesn't matter what color skin someone has, they will have to accept them for the person they are not the color of their skin. I felt horrible when my son asked me the other day why did white people hate black people - his teacher told him that for black history month.....they were talking about segregation.....I told him that people who hate people don't have God in their heart and it doesn't matter if they're black, white, purple or daughter thinks all white people win everything. It's hard to explain reality to kids....but I refuse to let them see the world from this point of view....they are living in a world where, obviously, there are still strong racial prejudices. I only want them to see the side of life where people love and respect each other regardless of race. I never want them to not value their individuality or see themselves only as a color. Lord Jesus, parenting is hard!

    1. No wonder we love each other, it's all making total sense now! ;)

  4. WoW I knew it was some type of Connection U lil Birdie well I was always picked on that I was a WANNA BE ZEBRA and going home oneday crying why they call me that it was because my All White Grandfather was seen picking me up a few times which he also lived in Beverly Hills,Ca shall I say more and so they judged me by the cars, clothing, looks and all but I was the friendliest down to earth person another could meet but I wanted to be accepted so I had a good friend that was less fortunate than I so I would give her my clothes to wear and then I would wear her raggedy clothing just so I could fit in and she could as well but she never knew that was my reason of doing that well going to the counselors office one day she asked why was I so upset and I told her well my Grandfather was her color and I was my Dads Indian background color and the girls called me a want to be because of my hair and small lips and theirs was larger so my Mom must have been cheating on my dad they told me well the counselor said well I have seen your mom so isn't she white I said No what is that then she went on to explain about race and called my mother which I didn't want her to do that but then my mother explained that no my dad was Indian & Frenchman and her Father was the WHITE GUY Blonde hair blue eyes that they were teasing about and that they never talk about race in our households it was just lighter, lighter & dark & darker to the kids she chuckle and said oh I like that so then the rest was history I learn people will accept or not but its not going to change anything in your life unless you believe them and the Devil is a Liar I knew I had a Strong Connection to you for a Reason WOW Keep on Blogging I'm following oh yeah and PARTYING


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