Continuing the Conversation: William and Growing Up to Be a White Man

growing up white

In this week’s podcast, I interviewed all three of our kids about their experiences over the past few years of reading diverse books, traveling to museums and historic sites in Civil Rights’ history, and learning most recently about the death of George Floyd. In this conversation, I said to William, “You are growing up to be a white man.”

I hear from my friends of color regularly that they think about the dangers of raising a boy with black or brown skin. My friend Niro, who is Sri Lankan, talks about how she intentionally dresses her son in clothes that look “preppy”, not because she likes the style but because she thinks those clothes will protect him. Black parents share regularly about needing to have “the talk” with their children, and especially their sons, “the talk” about how to interact safely with authority, how to stay alive in a society that reads Black as dangerous. Natasha Sistrunk Robinson writes about the time her brother rode home from school with a white girl and she berated him for putting his life at risk in the encounter.

For white parents of white sons, what do we need to say to our children when it comes to understanding their own identity in a racialized society? How do I convey to William the power he has been unjustly given by our society so that he can recognize that power, and, with humility and love, use it for good and share it with others? 

I do not have talking points for this one. I just know I want to expose him to injustice, introduce him to diverse people in real life and in history, talk honestly about what it means to acknowledge our privilege and the harm it can perpetuate, and affirm the inherent goodness and giftedness that he brings to the world. I believe those conversations are the beginning of a path he could walk his whole life long, a path of hope and healing. 

In the podcast this week, William and I talk about books that have shaped his understanding of race in America, how he responded to attending a Sunday morning service at a Black Baptist church in Birmingham, Alabama, and what it means for him to be growing up as a white man. You can listen to this episode here or wherever you get your podcasts.

To read further with Amy Julia and for more resources to talk with kids about race:

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