Tuesday, February 02, 2016

Writing about Race and Racism, ParentMap Feature Story

At the beginning of 2015, I wanted to write an impactful story about race/racism and how it affects kids. But I was a little naive as I started down the path. People spend their entire careers--and lives--trying to chip away at the behemoth scourge of racism--an institutionalized, internalized, pervasive and destructive force. But the questions I asked the subject-matter experts betrayed my weak understanding of how big the problem really was or how deeply it affected people. So it's no wonder that a representative of a well-known anti-racist education program told me to go do more research before they'd take my questions.  I'll admit, that rebuff shook my confidence. Being multiracial and having experienced a little bit of "othering" didn't evidently count for much. But the stinging point the representative made was that if I was serious, dabbling in the topic wasn't okay. It required some time investment and some personal introspection to do it justice.

By the end of 2015, what started as a profile of the plucky non-profit Families of Color Seattle (FOCS) turned into a broader, more personal piece (thanks to my editor's guidance) with anecdotes, national context and a message about how racism isn't just a person of color's problem. Also FOCS's successful community dialogue series reinforced how people, especially parents, are eager to talk about this complex problem. And all of this couldn't come at a better time with so many racially explosive events dominating the news of late. Therefore I'm proud to present my feature story in this month's ParentMap Magazine.

A huge revelation I had when putting this story together was reading Bonnie Tsui's fabulous New York Times Magazine essay about choosing one's identity which made so much sense to me in a world where we also understand gender isn't a concrete assignment either. I especially love her realization that identity is "intensely individual" and as parents, we have no business telling our kids what their racial identities are. But it comes from our own experiences that we fear they will miss if they don't see themselves as the same racial makeup as us.
"As a young adult, I learned how I stood apart and to have pride in it. In the experience of being an “other,” there’s a valuable lesson in consciousness: You learn to listen harder, because you’ve heard what others have to say about you before you even have a chance to speak." --Bonnie Tsui
To not have this contemplation is to spare my children the agony of feeling like an outsider yet it likewise denies them confidence of knowing who they truly are after they've tested their mettle and stood up to hard questions. We shall see where the road takes them but most likely I will have to be a bit more proactive about presenting what I think it means to be multiracial and then stepping back and seeing if they embrace that too.

No comments: