I am white and privileged and was living here full-time three years ago. I have a daughter of color. My daughter was a brand new third-grader at TIS. She went to sit next to a girl at lunch. The girl said, “No, I don’t want you to sit here.” My daughter wanted to play soccer and a classmate said, “You play soccer?" with a question in their tone and a frown on their face. Another girl said she could not play with her at recess because “my other friends don’t like you.” A classmate shoved her several times from behind to push her out of a line for recess. On the bus home, a girl told everyone, “Don’t be friends with her.” My daughter went to pick up a pencil a boy dropped on the floor and he said, “Hey, did I say you could touch that?” On an overnight, girls told her she had to sleep on the floor while they took the beds. A boy told my daughter that he “doesn’t like brown girls.” An adult told me that a girl in my daughter’s class said to her that kids don’t like my daughter “because of her skin color.” The micro and blatantly aggressive racism continued for over a year. To avoid more humiliation she spent recess on a bench alone, lunch in the library and would no longer ride the school bus home.
Why would children treat a child of color this way? When it was clear I couldn’t do anything to protect her or overcome her being made to feel less than everyone else, we moved.
I am embarrassed to say that I never thought that much about racism until I had a daughter of color. I never would have felt the anger or witnessed her distress at being treated that way. We were privileged enough to move to Washington D.C. so she could be in a more diverse environment where for the last two years at a downtown public school she never experienced any of the behavior above — not once.
We kept our home here, and we come back for summer and vacations. My daughter loves the mountains, skiing and the friends she made in our neighborhood. But she often feels strange being one of the only brown people skiing. She describes it as being “uncomfortable.”
Two weeks ago we came back for the summer, and my daughter was playing with her friends. One boy said the N-word. Another child present spoke up to say that using that word is not OK. This is some hope.
Children can be taught kindness, caring and empathy. White parents, especially, need to teach their children about racism and the damage it does. As adults we need to acknowledge white privilege and then explain it to our children. It’s the only way we will dismantle racism as a society, and it will make all the difference in our children’s inclusiveness of others.