On My Mind // Advice I’ve Saved on Parenting & Racism

boston south end sunset view

I was hoping to kick the new year off with the types of lighthearted posts I love to share, but with the events that transpired over the past week my mind has been focused elsewhere.

The terrorizing displays of racism and white supremacy in our nation’s capital and other parts of the U.S. this week chilled me to my core. To some it feels like our country took a step backwards 200 years. To others, it sadly does not come as a surprise. I know not everyone who follows on here wants to discuss this topic – that is fine and expected. But in the words of @ohhappydani, inaction and passivity are detrimental to justice. If you stand against racism and hatred, it’s important not to be passive.

I struggle personally with what to do or say in these times, but have realized a) it is a continuous, ever evolving process, and b) it can start as small as making changes within my own home and comfort zones. I want to raise kids who are empathetic and brave enough to identify and stand up for others being mistreated, and who are self-aware and proud enough of their heritage to withstand racism themselves. Last spring I started saving specific advice that I wanted to take as a parent, as it felt like a small way to make a tangible difference. I never shared them as they may seem like common sense for many, but now I think the more we read about and talk about these topics, the more ingrained and commonplace they will hopefully become.

1. Address curious commentary & questions on differences

“It’s not racist to notice someone’s race. It’s not racist to see dark skin or a broad nose and realize that it looks different than yours. The racism comes from the value judgments we place on those differences. When your children notice racial and cultural differences in other people, it’s far better to say something like, “Isn’t it wonderful how different people can look from each other and all be so beautiful?” or, “Isn’t it great to live in an area where we can make friends with people of so many different cultures?” rather than, “Honey, it’s not nice to comment on that person’s hair.”Ijeoma Oluo, in a post with a number of other wisdoms.

“Don’t encourage children not to “see” color or tell children we are all the same. Rather, discuss differences openly and highlight diversity by choosing picture books, toys, games and videos that feature diverse characters in positive, non-stereotypical roles. Be careful not to ignore or discourage your youngster’s questions about differences among people, even if the questions make you uncomfortable. Not being open to such questions sends the message that difference is negative.” – Dana Williams, Beyond the Golden Rule

2. Help them fully understand their heritage

“Talk about the histories and experiences of the racial, ethnic, and cultural groups you and your family identify with. Talk about their contributions and acknowledge the less flattering parts of those histories as well. Tell stories about the challenges your family [relatives and older generation] has faced and overcome.” Breatriz Beckford for Embrace Race

3. Seek out new cultural perspectives

“…visit neighborhoods that have become cultural communities, or various places of worship, restaurants, schools, and museums that feature diverse people and traditions. Visit towns where the homes and buildings look different from your own. Along with your child, highlight the joyful parts of these visits—bakeries or shops, special smells, music, art, noises, and people…by exposing children to people who experience lives different from theirs, and visiting places outside of their norm, you can bring about awareness and appreciation.”Lindsay Roberts, early childhood educator.

4. Be aware of your internal (& sometimes hidden) biases

“Toddlers notice race and are drawing conclusions about everything, including race, all the time. They notice their parent’s cues, such as friendliness or stiffening up when someone approaches. They look to parents to “approve” when someone initiates at the playground. So notice your own reactions that may be influenced by race and what cues you’re giving your child.” says Dr. Laura Markham, psychologist and parenting coach.

5. Get on their level

I love that Nori’s beloved Sesame Street did a special last year called The Power of We (view on HBO or PBS). Elmo & friends dive into the issue of skin / fur color and what it means to have pride in your own culture and race, and how they can use kindness to stand up to racism—in age-appropriate ways of course.

Also don’t underestimate the fact that representation in media matters tremendously — see my post on a few diverse & inclusive kids books.

6. Model by example

“Books and dolls are just the starting point….you need to have a broader lifestyle switch, and be conscious about the friends you have in your own circle, the racial demographics of your school.

Modeling protest and resistance is helpful, because it shows kids that the status quo isn’t fixed and is open to change. This might mean telling your child about a protest you attended, showing them a letter you wrote to a senator, or taking them to the polling booth when you vote.”Ramón Stephens, cofounder of The Conscious Kid.

Other Resources

Bullying Prevention & Intervention Guide by the AAPA (Asian American Psychological Association). I found the example scenarios, parent responses and potential consequences of each response to be helpful and thought provoking.

Anti Bias Education – Early Childhood FAQs by the ADL (Anti Defamation League) covers a number of discussion points on this subject.

For Daily Posts

50 Comments

  1. K. Taylor wrote:

    For race discussion resources, I’d add in the writings of Bob Woodson of the Woodson Center, Thomas Sowell, and the recently-late Walter Williams.

    As far as DC goes, investigations are ongoing and arrests are happening. If you’ve been to the original govt. area, the Capitol complex is huge. On one side of the building, Capitol Police opened the doors to peaceful protestors – agree with the message or not. Peaceful protest at the Capitol building is not new. On the other side, idiots broke in to do damage. Unfortunately, the Natl Guard had been asked for earlier because of the crowd size and some threats posted online, and the request was denied. I still have to commend the forces that were there for ending the chaotic event in mere hours when understaffed.

    What can the average citizen do? Reach out with kindness whenever possible. Be the example you hope to see. That’s it. Simple, but it takes deliberate action every day. I have personal examples in my own life of trying my best paying dividends down the road, like a high-school bully girl approaching me years later and thanking me for being what she wasn’t at the time. I didn’t have a lot of interaction with her at that time, so I never would’ve guessed or expected an impact, but that’s how seeds of good work. She was a better adult because she saw kindness and decency.

    Posted 1.12.21
  2. J wrote:

    More of this! I haven’t clicked on one of your posts in awhile, but I was so excited to see another post on anti-racism! I’m so thankful for you being willing to show up with your whole self on this blog – this is how we celebrate ourselves and each other. Comments about ‘sticking to fashion’ are dehumanizing, as if you’re not allowed to have any other thoughts or parts of your life. I love how you authentically discuss the many complexities of being a woman of color and a mother, and acknowledge your reactions to major events happening in our country – this is what it looks like to define who you are when so many others try to define you in a way that makes them feel comfortable. Inspiring to see you role model this, which of course causes conflict because it threatens the status quo (seeing women of color just saying what they think and sharing their experiences like the human beings they are!)

    Posted 1.11.21
  3. Kai wrote:

    Thank you Jean for writing about this timely and “uncomfortable” topic and sharing your thoughts. It takes a lot of courage and strength to post this, even understanding that it may alienate some readers (and tbh who cares about them, they can move on to other bloggers who align with their racist myopic viewpoints). As a reader not living in the US, watching the US news and the divide that has happened over the last 5 years has been so painful, as a person who grew up there and have friends and wonderful memories.

    Shout out to the readers who took the time and patience and grace to respond to the commenters who weren’t too happy with Jean’s post. We need more of you guys in the internets!

    Posted 1.11.21
  4. Sarah wrote:

    Thank you for this post and thank you for including resources that we can explore further. #4 is such a good reminder that we really have to look at our own (even subtle) reactions to people who don’t look like us because our children are watching and learning. I love the idea of exploring different neighborhoods with our children and discovering the beauty that exists within every culture.

    Posted 1.11.21
  5. Helena wrote:

    Not sure how this topic fits into fashion or style? I too am exhausted from all the hate and political rhetoric that has infected our country. What happened at the capital was WRONG but I was not surprised because we have been on this trajectory for almost a year. The “mob” has been engaging in illegal activity for months! We’ve seen violence against police, shootings/crime increasing, looting, setting businesses on fire, going to politicians houses and harassing them, vandalizing entire downtowns, tearing down historical monuments, etc. We need to reject ALL violence no matter what the cause. Any kind of illegal activity should not be tolerated! And shame on the biased media for continuing to stir the pot instead of working to calm things down. I ask myself everyday – what am I doing to help bridge the divide? We are so quick to label people and judge them because they don’t share our beliefs. I’m praying for our country to heal.

    Posted 1.11.21
    • K wrote:

      Helena, I’m sure Jean has more important things to do than invest the amount of emotional labor it takes to unpack a comment like yours, so I’ll try:

      1) Weird that you lead your “help bridge the divide” and “praying for our country to heal” sentiments with negging and blog-policing. Really has a way of conveying how you only value Jean + ExtraPetite when she works hard to produce the one kind of content you approve of (apolitical fashion and style, which, by the way, doesn’t exist. Just look up the history of garment workers, child exploitation, and resource consumption alone). If it bothers you so much, you’ll be happy to see she literally did not file this as “Fashion” or “Style,” but under “Toddlers,” because it includes so much great advice for toddlers. In case you missed it, Motherhood is a big part of Jean’s life now and a main, growing source of content for this blog. So wow, love this attention to the range of motherhood topics other mamas want help dealing with, and who follow Jean for just such this kind of resource!

      2) Honestly, bizarre to proceed to unload statement after statement of disconnected observations and Twitter takes in a blog comment. We get it, Helena. You’re doing your best but you can’t stand any kind of violence, so everyone’s stirring the pot and no one’s “keeping the peace” like you want but you need us to know you’re a good one. Every day you ask yourself “what am I doing to help bridge the divide?” and every day, you don’t realize that your inaction and your inability to label white supremacists and judge racism IS the divide. You are living in the divide. You cannot help bridge this divide when your comments and worldview cement the very depths of the divide. Keep your prayers to yourself. This country needs work, like the kind Jean wrote this whole post on, not prayers.

      If you’re “exhausted from all the hate,” maybe give up trying to keep a nonexistent peace. That’s exhausting too. Your heart for kindness and compassion is worth far more fighting for justice than keeping the peace, and I promise you’ll find much more meaning in activism than peacekeeping.

      Posted 1.11.21
      • Nina wrote:

        Please, for God sake please. Let us have one reprieve from all the insanity out their. I just want to look at pretty clothes and beautiful children. If we were searching for political factoids, we would not be looking for it from a fashion blogger.

        Posted 1.12.21
      • Laura wrote:

        And these are the people proclaiming they want “unity”. Look at the crazy reactions here to the comments of women that dare go say that the people in DC were not all bad. Of course, when riots from the radical left result in violence, nobody ushers a word and cover it up in the name of “social justice”. I see a dark future ahead for freedom of speech in this country.

        Posted 1.12.21
    • Anastasia wrote:

      Totally agree!

      Posted 1.11.21
  6. A. wrote:

    I have no doubt that there were racists, white supremacists, and criminals among the throngs of people at the capital on Wednesday. I also have no doubt that there were good, honest, hard-working Americans among them as well. To call an ENTIRE group of people racists and white supremacists is contrary to the statement that you are trying to make. Celebrating the differences of others includes those that you may not agree with politically,

    Posted 1.11.21
    • K wrote:

      A., yeah, no. The whole problem is that so many of those “good, honest, hard-working Americans” we think of (or literally see on the screens, because they did such a good, honest, job of documenting their own faces), choose racist values, uphold racist systems, and defend racist institutions. You can be a “good father” and an “honest employee” and still choose to wear racist paraphernalia, engage in white supremacist activity, and ultimately align more closely to racist and white supremacist values than not. We said what we said. You cannot be antiracist and participate in the kind of display that occurred this week.

      Celebrating the differences of others means celebrating kids whose eye shapes and hair types and heritage are different from yours. It doesn’t mean celebrating the “difference” of racist, white supremacist fear-mongering “that you may not agree with.” We don’t celebrate bullies, but bullying is certainly a “different” way of treating people. I’m not gonna celebrate the “difference” of someone’s violent, racist, sexist, colonialist choices either. That’s the difference. Hair and skin color is something you’re born with. Violence and racism is a choice.

      Posted 1.11.21
      • A. W. wrote:

        To convict an entire subset of people (half of the country) according to your arbitrary charges and personal prejudices is beyond my understanding. Celebrating others’ differences is not superficial either.

        Posted 1.12.21
    • A wrote:

      I do not know a single good, honest, hard-working American that would invade our capitol building to prevent the confirmation of a democratically elected President. Full stop. They found three pipe bombs in D.C. and Molotov cocktails on capitol grounds. A police officer is dead. Another has committed suicide.

      I refuse to celebrate terrorists that would burn down this country so that they could rule its ashes.

      Posted 1.11.21
      • A. wrote:

        I guess we’re in agreement, because I don’t know a good, honest, hard working American that would invade the Capitol. I was making the point that the good, honest, hard working Americans were marching at the Capitol.

        Posted 1.12.21
  7. Tracey wrote:

    Thank you so much for this thoughtful post Jean!

    Posted 1.10.21
  8. Lilly wrote:

    I love your style and follow gladly your fashion. It’s tiring to see wokeness and politics wherever you go though. The capitol events were truly sad
    and violence must be always condemned and is never acceptable, but they had nothing to do with racism nor white supremacy. It’s your blog, so you can post whatever you want of course, only sharing my opinion.

    Posted 1.10.21
    • Ann C wrote:

      Lilly, what happened on Wednesday had everything to do with racism and white supremacy.

      Many people rampaging the Capitol wore Tshirts and hoodies with anti-semitic slogans. The Proud Boys, a white neo-fascist group, were visibly present and instigators. Confederate flags abounded, and a noose attached to a wooden beam was erected on Capitol grounds. Furthermore, the different treatment of these marauders by law enforcement (kid gloves) was stingingly different than the treatment we witnessed over the summer against peaceful Black and BLM protestors (excessive and sometimes deadly force).

      And that’s not even going into how the mob, predominantly white, was revved up to march on the Capitol by messages that they are losing “their” country, messages that play on racist, xenophobic, and anti-Semitic fears and hatred.

      Please do look at the images and stories coming out of Wednesday (and make sure the sources are credible and reputable), and look at the historical context in which these events happened. It is clear that racism and white supremacy undergirded them.

      Posted 1.10.21
    • Jess wrote:

      I think its pretty ignorant to say that it had nothing to do with white supremacy or racism when there were clearly pictures of people holding a confederate flag. But it’s your comment so you can post whatever you want of course.

      Posted 1.10.21
    • Sonia wrote:

      Lilly,

      It’s comments like yours that show the ignorance and tolerance for the events that culminated last Wednesday, as the opinion of many who believe that their beliefs are not racist. Believe what you want, but know that violence and hatred have no place in our country comprised of people with all kinds of beliefs.

      Posted 1.10.21
    • K wrote:

      Lilly, we must live in different worlds because it’s exciting, validating and worth celebrating to me and my POC friends to see “wokeness and politics” wherever we go. In fact, I make it a point to avoid patronizing businesses and blogs that ignore speaking up about these issues. My time and money go to worthier causes. I’m glad I support a strong woman like Jean.

      You say racism and white supremacy “had nothing to do with” the Capitol events. I’m curious why you have such a strong reaction to protect the image of racism and white supremacy in the first place.

      You can say what you feel, but it sure does seem like your cognitive dissonance is pulling at you to pay attention to these things and why they bother you. That’s on you and your own time though. I’m just not sure why you felt the need to post a negative comment on Jean’s blog if you “love [her] style and follow gladly” her fashion (side note, fashion IS political!). She invested time, energy, and resources to write this post, citations and all — and had the courage to publish. You don’t have to read her “woke and political” posts if it bothers you that much, but please leave the petty comments at home.

      Posted 1.11.21
  9. Cindy Loeber wrote:

    Thank you for addressing this subject we are in crisis as a nation

    Posted 1.10.21
  10. Ann C wrote:

    Thank you for this post and the very helpful links and resources, Jean. Conversations around racism and bias (implicit or explicit)–and self-examination into any role we may play in maintaining a system of oppression and inequality (wittingly or not)–are far from easy. But there is no change or growth, personal or collective, without feeling uncomfortable, getting outside of our comfort zones, listening to the lived experience of others and to our best angels. Let’s all be upstanders and not bystanders (or enablers). Peace to all.

    Posted 1.10.21
  11. Stephanie wrote:

    I’m glad I’m not seeing any bossy “stick to fashion” comments here, because this is so appreciated! I’m always wondering what I can do and where to start. Job well done!

    Posted 1.10.21
  12. Cynthia wrote:

    Thank you for your thoughts and time to post this wonderful advice.

    Posted 1.10.21
  13. Maureen wrote:

    Thanks for this post Jean. I love the lighthearted content, but this post really fit the bill give the state of our nation this week. I appreciate that you took the time to find good resources and included citations. Keep up the good work and I love your blog!

    Posted 1.10.21
  14. K wrote:

    Not me tearing up reading this post — Nori + Rio are so lucky to have you as their mama. And we’re so lucky to have the kind of thoughtful, compassionate adults they’ll grow into. I’ve noticed how beautiful the representation is in YA lit and picture books is now since I was a kid, and can’t imagine what a difference that kind of media would’ve made in my life growing up. I recently read “From the Stars in the Sky to the Fish in the Sea” by trans Asian femme Kai Cheng Thom (illustrated by Asian artists too!), and it was so lovely. Highly recommend for a sweet, kid-friendly picture book starring they/them pronouns + a supportive mama to share the story of what happens when the main character starts school!

    Thanks for sharing these thoughts with us! Will you be writing about Lunar New Year celebrations in your family?

    Posted 1.10.21
  15. Laura harkort wrote:

    Beautifully written! I can’t help but think a lot of what happens at home is how we treat others. I was lucky enough to grow up traveling the world that opened my eyes to other cultures and that helped shape my view. We are all a product of our environment and that begins with our parents. Here’s to more love and understanding in our world.

    Posted 1.10.21
  16. Amanda wrote:

    I’m not a parent, but hope to be some day, and wanted to thank you for putting this post together. It makes me really happy to see bloggers taking the time to talk about what really matters. Of course, we follow various people for many reasons, including fashion and cooking. But I’m glad to see that you are taking steps to play a more active role when it comes to combatting racism. I have a lot of work to do in this area and much to learn about, so I really appreciate the resources you are pointing us to!

    Posted 1.10.21
  17. Dorian wrote:

    Good for you. We have to have these discussions in every forum, including and especially those with positive influence like yours.

    Posted 1.10.21
  18. Wanda wrote:

    And to think I was just a bout to unsubscribe to your emails! Thank you for sharing your thoughts and wisdoms collected! I wholeheartedly agree on all points and am grateful you used your platform to share these very important topics!!! We can’t talk about it enough and take action, whatever that action is for each person to positively progress oneself, family, and our society. Thank you!

    Posted 1.10.21
  19. Sheveeta wrote:

    Thank you for this post. We all need to be more aware and accepting of one another. I think the biggest deterrent is ignorance. It starts within us all. Diversity is beautiful

    Posted 1.10.21
  20. Kristy wrote:

    Thank you for sharing, Jean! The AAPA parent guide is very helpful to read.

    Posted 1.10.21
  21. Linna wrote:

    This is a wonderful post. Thanks for creating it and expressing your views. As a person who has a tremendous platform and influence, you are providing resources and materials that can help others navigate this conversation. Condemning the horrible attempt to overthrow democracy, violence, and white supremacy is important. When we are silent, we are condoning this behavior and saying it is acceptable. Thank you for speaking up.

    Posted 1.10.21
  22. Carla wrote:

    I know from friends, contacts, and my own research that anyone that specifically attacked someone for skin color does not represent conservatives or Republicans. This is a side that is the party of Lincoln and the reason why the Civil Rights Act of 1964 passed. People belong to this political side from all faiths, all races, and diverse backgrounds. One of the worst things about social media is that it has pushed and promoted people into tribes instead of talking with each other as human beings no matter our differences. Every civil libertarian will say I don’t have to agree with what you say but I’ll fight to the death for your right to say it. That’s the point of our Bill of Rights.

    Posted 1.10.21
    • K wrote:

      Carla, respectfully, your statements simply don’t reflect the lived experiences + everyday reality of me as a WOC or my POC friends. It doesn’t matter if someone who “specifically attacked someone for skin color” is associated with “conservatives or Republicans” (also, this was rather off topic, as Jean’s post mentioned nothing about conservatives, Republicans, the Civil Rights Act or the Bill of Rights).

      What matters, to your point, is that Black and brown folk do suffer in detrimental and violent ways whether it’s unintentional or intentional, and whether it’s brought on by conservative/Republican views or liberal/Democratic views (it’s frequently both!). That pervasiveness is why we all need to talk about it, and why it’s so great to see an Asian blogger deconstructing race/promoting antiracist action when the face of suffering in this country is often Black. Most of the racism people experience is quiet, insidious, and frequently written off as “unintentional” — it still kills, imprisons, and holds us back in staggering disproportion.

      Instead of using your knowledge and passion for freedom of speech to defend the values of a political branch + excuse actions that don’t fit those values as irrelevant to the inciting party, I hope in the future you can remain open to seeing how racism and oppression comes from anyone, anywhere. You are right that we’re all in this together.

      Posted 1.10.21
      • Carla wrote:

        Nothing I said is off topic since the events of last week are referred to as having racism and white supremacy. You assume I’m white and assume I’ve never faced discrimination or prejudice. Value isn’t in skin color. It’s in character. The US isn’t perfect but it’s still the best place for anyone from any background to reach their full potential, or millions of immigrants wouldn’t have wanted to be here for 244 years. I still believe in MLK’s dream of a society where people are judged for their character alone.

        Posted 1.11.21
  23. Cassandra wrote:

    Thank you for posting this beautifully written post! It makes me sad to see what happened at our nations capital in 2020! America is a beautiful country and is great because of the cultural diversity. It’s important that we all remember in sad times like this that Good always triumphs over evil!

    Posted 1.10.21
  24. Tara B Meyer wrote:

    Great words! I am not a parent but I thought what you said is good advice that we can all gain wisdom from and apply. Thank you for being courageous.

    Posted 1.10.21
    • Anonymous wrote:

      Thank you for this post, it was brave and so necessary. Your blog has really changed this year and i appreciate that you changed with the times. You are a special and wonderful human being!

      Posted 1.10.21
  25. JG wrote:

    Thank you for sharing this. It’s very important to talk about race with children in the way your post outlines. As a Black woman, I am actually quite hopeful for the future despite how tumultuous things have become.

    Posted 1.10.21
  26. Jane wrote:

    I’m not a parent but I really enjoyed this post. Especially #1 and #4. Thanks for sharing.

    Posted 1.10.21
  27. Fran wrote:

    Thank you for this post! I also want to add, and when children make public comments or observations about race (e.g. skin color, dress, etc), do not shush them and scurry away. This sends the message that race and differences are “wrong.” Address it in the moment and act normally.

    Posted 1.10.21
  28. I’m glad you addressed this. People may not want to think about or address these issues because it’s complicated and messy and uncomfortable but they’re here facing us whether we like it or not and many people cannot simply opt out of dealing with it. I don’t want to opt out when we can, I want to work together toward a future where no one is forced to live with that status quo. I hope more people will choose to face our problems of racism and their attendent issues squarely and work to fix it systemically.

    Posted 1.10.21
  29. Anna wrote:

    I love this so much, thank you for taking the time to write this

    Posted 1.10.21
  30. Victoria P wrote:

    As always Jean, you display an ability to talk about moving things with a deft touch.

    Thank you for this post. I’m not even in the US but it has felt painful to watch from afar. I appreciate your recognition that it’s important or not simply remain passive.

    And these are useful links and thoughts to bring to people’s attention x

    Posted 1.10.21
  31. KC wrote:

    I’ve been following you for years, almost my entire professional career. It’s been so disappointing when the bloggers and creators I follow stay silent about racism. Thank you so much for this, and please don’t stop!

    Posted 1.10.21
    • Emily S. wrote:

      Came here to say the same thing. Yeah Jean!! I so appreciate you. Thank you so much for doing this, and for crediting all the sources of your advice. I love seeing your characteristic thoroughness, purposefulness, clarity, and eloquence applied to these profoundly important matters of truth and justice. I love that you’re posting this information here, putting it in front of people who might not necessarily seek it out otherwise. You’re doing an amazing job using your platform with integrity and purpose, and I hope other bloggers learn from what you have been modeling here. Way to go!

      Posted 1.10.21
  32. @sweetscholar wrote:

    Thank you for posting this. It’s incredibly important that we have these discussions, because people that don’t look like ourselves are people, too, and ought to be treated with the same respect and kindness we hope for. Starting those conversations early, with little ones, is a great way to ensure that!

    Posted 1.10.21
  33. Kate wrote:

    This is wonderful. Thank you for sharing. It’s amazing how many of the small details and changes can really make a huge difference.

    Posted 1.10.21
  34. Choua wrote:

    I love this so much. Thank you for sharing your thoughts & advice with us!

    Posted 1.10.21

Comments are closed.

Get the newsletter!

What updates would you like?