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In Overwhelmingly White Idaho, Here's How (And Why) To Talk To Our Kids About Racism

Armando Franca
AP Images
The recent killing of George Floyd by police officers in Minneapolis have sparked protests around the country and world. In this photo, people in Lisbon, Portugal wait for the start of a protest against racism and police violence.


The recent police killings of Black people like George Floyd, Breonna Taylor and countless others have sparked a movement unlike any in recent memory, as calls to defund the police and dismantle white supremacy have moved into the mainstream. 

For three weeks, thousands of people have poured into streets across the country in support of Black Lives Matter, an organization and idea that just a few years ago received little widespread support. 


But even as state and local governments in New York, Minneapolis and Louisville change how they police Black communities, many voices say it’s white people who need to make change on an individual level. And that change needs to begin at home, with white children.


We know beginning this conversation can be difficult, but it is essential. To help break down the basics of how parents can to start talking about race with their white children, we’re joined by Jennifer Harvey, a professor of religion at Drake University who’s written a book called “Raising White Kids: Bringing up Children in a Racially Unjust America;” Chandra White-Cummings, an activist and lawyer who recently penned this op-ed in the Washington Post; and Janet Allison, the founder of the organization Boys Alive and co-host of the podcast On Boys. 


“We’re going to feel like we are fumbling around at first, that’s a generational inheritance," says Harvey. "But we can learn that capacity if we start doing it.”


We take a question from 10-year-old Emily who asks "how did racism start in our country?" and explore the basics of systemic racism, white privledge and why the notion of "color-blindness" is problematic. 


“It’s not the difference that is the problem," says White-Cummings. "It is the response to the difference.”


Additional resources for parents: 

  • Here's a list of books to consider for your kids. 
  • Tips from a school counselor and children's book author.
  • How to talk about protests and police violence with your kids.

Read the full transcript here:

GAUDETTE: You're listening to Idaho Matters, I'm Gemma Gaudette. The recent police killings of Black people like George Floyd and Breonna Taylor has sparked a movement unlike any in recent memory as calls to defund the police, and dismantle white supremacy have moved into the mainstream. For three weeks now, thousands of people have poured into streets all across our country in support of Black Lives Matter an organization, an idea that just a few years ago received little widespread support. But even as state and local governments in places like New York, Minneapolis and Louisville change how they police Black communities, many voices say it's white people who need to make change on an individual level. And that change should begin at home with our children. We know beginning this conversation is essential, but we also know it can be really difficult. That's why we've invited you to send us your questions about talking about race with your children during this special extended conversation on Idaho Matters. You can email us right now and we may get to your question during this hour. E-mail us at idahomatters@boisestate.edu, or you can Tweet us. Make sure you use #IdahoMatters. We are joined today by three guests who will help us navigate this topic. Jennifer Harvey is a professor of religion at Drake University and she's written a book called "Raising White Kids: Bringing Up Children in a Racially Unjust America. Chandra White-Cummings is an activist and lawyer. And Janet Allison is the founder of the organization Boys Alive and co-host of the podcast On Boys. Welcome, all three of you to the program.

ALL: Thank you. Great to be here. Thank you Gemma.

GAUDETTE: You know, I so appreciate all three of you taking out a big chunk of your day to to talk with us about this, because, you know, these are hard conversations to have. I have two boys. I have an eight year old and a 12 year old. And, you know, I think we've talked about race in our family. But, you know, the conversations have gotten a little deeper recently. I mean, things like white privilege. And what I've stumbled on is how would the world do I -- I can talk to my 12 year old, how do I talk to my eight year old about what our privilege looks like for him to understand it. Right. And, Jennifer, maybe I'll start with you. Can you first, just quickly, let's define what some of those terms are. When we hear terms like white hierarchy and systemic racism and even white privilege. What does that mean?

HARVEY: Well, I mean, essentially, that means that we live in a society where the structures that we are all affected by, whether it's hiring processes, banking practices, school systems, that those structures are racially unjust. And they, in the big picture, operate in ways that harm and create unequal access for people of color, for African-Americans, for Latinx folks, and tend to give easier access, higher quality access, undeservedly to white Americans, essentially. And so white privilege and racism, white hierarchy all kind of connect to that basic truth about our social systems in the United States.

GAUDETTE: And Chandra, you actually recently had an article published in The Washington Post, I believe back on May 20th, was titled "We Need More White Parents to Talk To Their Children About Race." In the article you wrote, Black and Asian families are talking about these issues because they know they don't have a choice. What about white parents? Just as families of color have always had to socialize their children on matters of race. White parents need to socialize their children about race, too. And you write that socializing kids into a race based culture is referred to as racial and ethnic socialization. Can you talk a little bit about about that? Because, to be honest, it was the first time I had ever heard that term. And that could very well go back to the fact that as a white woman, I can opt in and opt out of these conversations.

WHITE-CUMMINGS: Gotcha. All right. So basically, racial and ethnic socialization -- usually we just refer to it as RES -- It really describes the processes and those processes, I'll name a couple in a second. But basically, it's talking about the processes that are engaged in in order to bring awareness to, educate children about race and ethnicity. So for Black children and usually children of color, those processes usually involve things like making sure that the child understands their heritage. So that might mean watching certain movies, reading certain books, taking trips to certain things that are going to highlight and amplify that child's history and ancestry. It also might mean just helping them understand Black history in general in this country as a part of the fabric of the whole American history story. It might involve telling them things about their hair, their features. All of those kinds of things usually constitute things that we would group up as racial and ethnic socialization. So the other important thing to remember is that children, you know, can engage in these conversations a lot earlier than we think. And they can be -- socialization can take place or be inculcated from parents, teachers, peers, media. So it's not just the family, but in my opinion, the family is kind of the home base for those kinds of interaction.

GAUDETTE: And Janet, as Chandra said, these conversations can probably take place a lot sooner than we as parents think they can because children are sponges. And I think it happens, you know, even as toddlers they listen to us.

ALLISON: Yes. And I will tell you, even before we are having those conversations with our kids, I have talked to Chandra on multiple occasions. And the question that she asks first and that has really gotten me thinking is what is your race story? And Chandra, I love that question. I actually called my daughter this weekend to ask her, what is your race story? How did I raise you? And so that was very enlightening. She's 35 and grew up in very white areas. She was born in Boise, Idaho and Maine and southern Oregon. So I was so curious, what did I teach her and what she said and what I reflected on as I was in the place where I think many of us are when we're raising kids is that we're all the same and we all love each other and kindness and compassion. And I didn't have those conversations with my kids. And she said, you know, even up until she went to college, then it became an interesting part of the fabric of her life. And so that also caused me, Chandra, to look back on what is my race story. And I grew up in Wilmington, Delaware, in the late 60s, and there was a time of a lot of social unrest. So those are my memories and I think that's a good place to start as a parent and then begin to have those conversations with your kids. And it is OK to talk about skin color. That person's skin is different than that person's skin. And what does that mean? And to go from there.

GAUDETTE: Chandra, I love that question. And because I'll take it a step further. I think sometimes, you know, as white people, you know, when we think about like our race and our heritage. First off, I think sometimes we don't know what that is. Right. We don't we don't know. Like what where where did we come from before the United States? But but then it's almost like. Well, if I talk about my being white, am I being racist by talking about being white? And what that race story is. Does that make sense? And and I guess how do we then say, OK, this is part of my history, you know, like I know that my on my dad's side of the family, they were German and French on my mom's side they were Russian and German. Right. I have little bits and pieces, but that's about it.

WHITE-CUMMINGS: Well, I think that in many ways, conversations about race and ethnicity and all of the things that get packed into those two topics are very much and very similar to other types of conversation we know as parents and other types of socialization, because, quite frankly, we socialize our children in many different areas, socialize them regarding sex and sexual activity, we socialize them regarding gender, and what we believe about that and how we look at that, we socialize them regarding relationships and authority. So that's really what raising children is about. So in order to take some of the seriousness and the intimidation out of it, you know, I like to just say to think you're raising your kids anyway, hopefully. 

GAUDETTE: Fingers crossed!

WHITE-CUMMINGS: Well, you're raising your children anyway. So include this -- and I don't want to be trite here -- but include this in your parenting tool box. Include this as part of your parenting package. Your racial history, your race story is very, very important because these narratives get transmitted generationally to our children, to their children, to their friends, because kids talk to their friends and so forth, especially now with social media. So my point is that start organically. You don't have to march into your kid's room and say, "so what about that systemic racism?"

GAUDETTE: You know, because they'll really open up then if you do that!

ALLISON: Boys especially! 

WHITE-CUMMINGS: If you watch something on TV, I would say that media is a great way to organically begin to open up things with your kids about race and those types of areas. Do you agree with that, Dr. Harvey?

HARVEY: Oh, yes. I think media is really urgent. And I love what you're saying. I just really want to echo like we're parenting our kids anyway. I often liken it to peas, like, I don't know why my kids should eat peas, but I'm learning that I need to make sure they eat peas as a parent. And so yeah, I think media -- because then we can make choices and be intentional and lean in to conversations about race and racial justice. And I think for white families, these generational legacies of silence -- that word 'generational' is also when I really want to lift up -- we have inherited anything from silence to explicit racism in white families generationally. And so for us, the heavy lifting required is different because as Chandra says and has written for families of color, this is a conversation immediately because of survival. And so we're having to learn to talk about some things that maybe wasn't mentored and modeled for us. And so starting to do it with all the resources that are out there, including media and books and toys, is a great way to start. And because we're going to feel like we're fumbling around at first, that's a generational inheritance. But we can learn that capacity if we start doing it.

GAUDETTE: And Jennifer, you you wrote a recent piece and you said "white silence is a kind of race talk."

ALLISON: Absolutely. I mean, when we don't talk about race, I mean, you asked earlier in the show, Gemma, about white privilege. That's a perfect example of white privilege. It is a "privilege" to engage in white silence because we're not having to worry about our kids' survival every day, right? And so, you know, I don't think about teaching my six and seven year old conceptually what white privilege is as a theory. But what I've done in my family is to say we're going to break silence by showing up to engage in racial justice work together. And as we do that, my kids are learning in the moment what white privilege actually is, because they, very young, then began to recognize, oh, we're doing this work with others for justice. Because some people don't get all the protections and all the access that we get because we are white. They knew what white privilege was before they knew what that concept meant because we were out there with others trying to create more just social structures.

GAUDETTE: And when you talk about media, I have to say, I mean, one of the one of the programs that we watch in our house is the show Mixed-ish on ABC. And it's and it's been really fascinating because the time period that it's set in was the time period that my husband and I were growing up. So I think it resonates with us as we were the same age as Rainbow, the main character in this program. But I mean, I cannot believe everything that I have learned by watching a show like that honestly, I think does a very good job about being really honest about these struggles and, you know, and then our kids sometimes they watch it with us, sometimes they don't. But then we have conversations about it after we watch the program. And is that a way to maybe start the conversation is even just, you know, finding something like that to show that that just easily opens up that conversation, Janet, because especially with boys, it can be hard sometimes, too. You don't you can't just walk into their room and say, so let's talk about this.

ALLISON: That's not going to go over well. So it is finding that -- especially with boys -- finding that common ground, if it's a TV show. It might be their video games. How are how are white people showing up? How are Black people represented? What's the difference? And looking at that. And then also, I mean, school feels like a distant memory, but school is a place where we can also have as a foundation for those conversations. How many teachers in your in your school are Black? How many kids are Black or kids of color? And talk about that, like, why do you think that is and what do you think that's like for that Black kid in seventh grade who is one of maybe five in Boise? I mean, I don't know what the demographics are exactly, but...

GAUDETTE: You're about right on!

ALLISON: Yeah, I think I am. And so just talking about that in their real life circumstances can start those conversations. Part of that, too, I want to say, this is important, I think, to kind of help that conversation feel more real to boys is to talk about how teachers perceive them as boys and how teachers perceive girls, because I will tell you that boys will tell you that their women, often white women, teachers treat them differently than girls. So that's like a top layer of the cake. And then the next layer is, oh, kids of color, how are they treated differently? And I think it's really important for parents to be asking their schools, what is the discipline policy? Who are the kids that are getting expelled and suspended? And they have the data. Ask for the data.

GAUDETTE: Dr. Jennifer Harvey is a professor of religion at Drake University and she has written a book called "Raising White Kids Bringing Up Children in a Racially Unjust America." Chandra White Cummings, she's an activist and a lawyer. She wrote a recent article in The Washington Post as well about how to talk to your children, especially white parents needing to talk to their children. And Janet Allison, she is the founder of the organization Boys Alive and co-host of the podcast On Boys.

I want to dive right into some of our listener questions because especially we had we had kids write in. And in fact, Emily, she is 10 years old. And her question was, "how did racism start in our country?"

ALL: Oh, boy. 

GAUDETTE: Who would like to tackle that one first?

WHITE-CUMMINGS: I'll take a stab. I think that this is a good question, I'm glad Emily asked it because storytelling and talking to kids about stories and narrative is a good way to interact with especially younger children on these things that we're talking about, race, racism and so forth. In this case, She's asking specifically how did racism happen? And, you know, where did it come from? And this is an excellent opportunity for Emily to know that, like most things that we consider unjust in our society or even things that are just, and they just come from a different place. They start with ideas. These things are ideas that are given power because they are put into action. And without giving a big policy talk or whatever, that's basically at the nuts and bolts of things, that's how things get started. And that's how they get perpetuated or that's how they keep going over time and over years and decades and centuries is it starts with that idea. And racism started because generally speaking and basically speaking, because there was an idea that a difference in skin color -- because there are other narratives that relate to other types of differences. But racism, the narrative starts that because of a difference in skin color, meaning it is not white skin. So white skin is considered in our story the normal way to be. It's considered the right way to be. So anything that is not white skin, but particularly Black skin is bad. It's dirty. It's not normal. It's not regular. And so therefore, that's where the problem comes in. What are the responses because of that statement or because of that idea? Black skin and therefore black people are not normal. They are not regular. They are not good. And therefore, you begin to be able to justify all types of behavior towards those people that is not positioned as wrong because you've already got your starting point in your story, which is that our story starts by saying white is normal, black is not normal. So therefore, it's OK if we have people who are enslaved and we make them do work for us for free, we treat them horribly, take away the children, do all sorts of things because remember, they're not normal. And if they're not normal, then we have to control them. We have to keep them in their place. We have to remind them every single chance we get that they are not us and that they are not right and they are not good. And so people begin to, and I really hope that sounds like a weird idea. It sounds like a weird idea, but that's how things get started. You have that idea gaining power because people who are white are able to use their power and their normalcy in order to enforce that story. So we're able to explain to kids even younger than 10 that this is a story that started. And look what happened from this story.

GAUDETTE: I think that is such a profound way to to say that. And that when you look at what this idea was of normal. I mean, Chandra, it really does resonate and kids can understand that. And it does sound weird. It does. I mean, in this day and age, it does.

Another question. Katie. She is a mom. And she said when young children learn racist terms or labels or even jokes at school, how can teachers and parents explain why these words are harmful, hurtful and should not be used?

ALLISON: I think this is, it's not just racist terms. It's all the things that kids say to each other. And it's of course, I come from the perspective of boys and dissing each other and locker room talk and what we need to give our kids strategies around, not only recognizing that these are harmful and hurtful to another group or other people besides how you are, but also giving them the strategies for what do you do when you're in that situation and how do you speak up? And I think even as adults were struggling with that. If something happens at the water cooler, at work, somebody says a racist joke. How do you step into that awkward place of saying, hey, that's not OK. So teaching kids the strategies and practicing them ourselves is important. And not easy.

GAUDETTE: And no, and uncomfortable. Right. But I think we all have to get to a point where we have to almost become comfortable being uncomfortable right now, especially as white people.

10 year old, Josh, she had this question for us. Why do white people feel threatened by people of color? And Dr. Harvey, maybe I can give you that question.

HARVEY: Yeah. So I think one of the pieces I would bring in both to this question, but also to the prior is I also think that we can and need to tell the story of who we are as Americans, including the part why white people have fear of communities of color by also telling our kids the truth about how this nation began. And so one of the ways that I would add to answering Emily's question is to also tell Emily the story about Native Americans being the first peoples on this land base, Europeans coming here, Europeans participating in enslaving African peoples, and how these three peoples were present at the founding of this country. And in that really concrete story, then, we can also contextualize for our kids how our relationships with one another grew over time, including the part where white people have told stories about African-Americans and about native peoples in order to both justify the kinds of things that were done to them that we, our ancestors, did to them. And also stories that then have caused us to feel afraid unjustly and in appropriately of native peoples, of African-Americans, of other communities of color who also show up in this story. And so I think contextualizing white fear in our story as a country both responds to that question that white people have told stories, have made up things that aren't true about Black people, Black men, for example, because we've got all of these ways that we've talked about and seen people of color as part of that larger who we are as Americans in this narrative of this country always having racial injustice from its very founding. And I also think telling those stories, those true stories about our own history is critically important if we want a different future, because Americans generally but Americans of color, of course, already know this. We have to complicate what we think America has been. And if we do that, we will better equip the young white Americans in this country to participate with Black and brown Americans in creating a new country. Right. Because they understand the history of who we have been and also the words they hear on the playground in addition to the strategies. I love that, Janet. We do need to equip our kids with strategies. But we also, my kids know where the racially disparaging terms come from, that they hear sometimes because I've told them the story of America. I can also when they hear those words go, OK. I want to point to where in our history that word comes from so that they have a context for those those harmful words. We can do that with our kids. They can handle that, too. It's important.

GAUDETTE: And I literally just had a conversation, I think, on Friday with my eight year old about the N-word. And, you know, and he goes, well, why is it such a bad word? And I said, because when when Black people were slaves, remember, do you remember what a slave is? Yes. So this is a term that white people used to say that they were less than, that they weren't even seen as people. And white people used that term. And it is a horrible term. We don't say it. I said sometimes when you grow up, you might have some Black friends who call each other that. You don't get to do that because you are white. Right. And he was like, oh, OK. He's eight. But but it's like you don't get to use that word ever.


And I think as parents, we we have to we have to be willing to just be honest about where those terms came from and why.

WHITE-CUMMINGS: And also, if I can jump in here for a second, I think that well, there's a couple things. One is when we talk about giving strategies and seeing, you know, actionable, tangible ways in which young people can assert themselves into interactions, which is really what they're doing, which, let's be honest, as adults, that can even get a little daunting sometimes. But first of all, we you know, we have to be honest with ourselves and say, has my child ever seen me do this? Have they ever heard me stand up for something in this way? Have they ever seen me in a context where, you know, something was going wrong? Somebody was saying something they shouldn't. And I said something. If the answer to that question is no, then I'm not going to say you shouldn't still try to give them a strategy. But we all have to be honest with ourselves and say, from what point am I coming into this conversation or into this socialization with my child? Because we all know that this is more than one conversation. It's more than a talk. It's a process. And so where am I coming into this process from? So that's the first thing I wanted to say. The second thing is this whole idea of why is it bad or what about these words and jokes and, you know, things of that nature -- words especially create an atmosphere. They create an environment in which we live. That's why media and even songs like kids understand the power of music. Kids understand words. You know, if you've ever listened to a kid, like, really get into a song and when they say those words, man, they're feeling that. They're living that. And so, you know, words and things like that create environments that when you're at school and you have an environment that's hostile to or aggressive or unfair towards towards groups of people based on race, ability, gender, whatever, it creates an atmosphere that is not conducive to what you're there for, which is to learn. It takes out of learning time. It takes out of being friends, you know, and having a good social atmosphere. All of those kinds of things. And it's really important that we understand how deep this whole thing goes. You know, when we talk about Black boys, for example, Black boys are like, you know, public enemy number one. It seems and feels I have two African-American sons and, you know, I've had experiences. Let's just put it at that. But. When we talk about things, for example, like school discipline. So, this goes back to story. So there's a story that's told that Black males are aggressive, scary, dangerous, hostile, violent, sexually aggressive and inappropriate. So that's a story that has been told for a really long time, ever since, you know, enslavement. So now you bring it forward and you see things like, OK. There's a study that showed that Black boys as young as 10 years old, are seen as several years older, less innocent, more aggressive, more dangerous than they are. Those are the perceptions that go along with them. So when you see that and you know that as a fact it begins to make sense why they're getting suspended and expelled and having the police called on them at school! Arrested at school! 

ALLISON: And Chandra this starts in not just 10 year olds, but in pre-school and kindergarten. That perception of black boys is their behaviors are adultified what you say they're not you know, he's not just active. He's sinister or he's aggressive. And with 62%, approximately, of educators in public schools are white women. And a book that I have to give a shout out to is "The Guide for White Women Who Teach Black Boys." And it is an honest, honest depiction of the work that needs to be done by white women to make school a welcoming, warm, comfortable, safe place for boys to be. Because we know all the statistics, all the studies tell us that our Black boys are not graduating from high school. They are being suspended and expelled in greater numbers than than any other group. And it's not the boys. It's the system. And it's our perception as the adults.

GAUDETTE: I need to take a quick break. And I also want to point something out that we did on the show. And I just got an e-mail from from a mom, Nicole. And she says, I have such respect for the show. You advertised today's program as how white parents can talk to their kids about race. She says, I was very excited for the show as a white mom to non-white kids. I came to realize that what you probably meant to say was how to talk to your white kids about race. I just want to make sure people realize there is a distinction between white parents and white kids. So, Nicole, thank you. Thank you for that e-mail. We are all learning.

We just got a question from from Dorian on Twitter. How do we explain the myth of "reverse racism" to our youth? We see so many white folks in their lives crying racism against them. That doesn't exist. Dr. Harvey, can you take that one?

HARVEY: Well, yeah. I mean, I think that one of the ways that we start to combat that myth is by doing a better job in very concrete ways, constantly pointing out racism and unjust structures in our kids lives as we go. Because one of the things that I think happens and I work with college students is white communities have made so abstract, all of these conversations about race and racism that the words in many ways don't even make sense. Right. And so, for example, when I have college students who talk about reverse racism, I literally say, OK, let's get the data out. Show me where it's happening. Just give me the evidence. I don't try and argue with them in an abstract way about why it's not a no casing to claim. Though I do believe it's not an okay thing to claim because it's false. I say, OK, let's find it. Let's find it. And my deep belief is that if we get really concrete with kids and youth so that they're going out in the world and they're actually getting ongoing conversation about what they're experiencing in the world, they'll be much less vulnerable to those mythologies of reverse racism than we find our 20 something white young people are today.

GAUDETTE: And John, a dad, wrote in this question and he says, How do we as white people discuss this without making our kids so aware of the difference of skin color? He says, my kids were not born racist. How do their mom and I suggest a difference and try to reinforce the fact that we're equal? But I think, Chandra, this goes back to what you said is it's OK to point out that we look different and there is a difference in because in skin tone, a that goes back to this whole idea of I don't see color.

WHITE-CUMMINGS: Exactly. And I have to say that, though well intentioned, the approach of colorblindness that many parents, you know, took up early on in racial equity and racial justice work, and I stress well intentioned because I think that's important. But the outcome was not very helpful. Color blindness and not seeing color is not is not the way to go. And when I think about this question and he says he wants to suggest the difference, you can't really suggest the difference. The difference is the difference. It matters what we make of the difference and how we respond to the difference. And that's, I think, a point that we really have to stress. It's not the difference that is the problem. It's the response to the difference. The difference is actually a good and powerful thing. It's very educational for us. It teaches us different things. It teaches us how to be compassionate because people are different. But saying that because someone is different, let's say with race: because they're not white, that's bad. That's where the problem comes in. The fact that they're bad, not the fact that they're not white. So we have to help children make these types of distinctions. And even when they're young and they know the difference between a square and a circle, there's a difference. But it doesn't necessarily mean that a square is better than a circle. There are different. We can take those concepts and just begin to, as they get older, we still say with that same idea, different does not mean better or worse. Race and color in and of themselves, that difference is neutral. It means nothing. But it's the meaning and value that we've assigned to it. So when you're dealing with your kids and you say, hey, you know what? We don't want our kids to be so aware of the difference of skin. I say help them be aware of the difference, but help them not respond how we've all been conditioned to respond, how whites have been conditioned to respond. Instead of saying, hey, I don't see color, everybody's the same, you know what, we are different. There are people that have many, many, many different shades of skin, very deep brown, you know, skin. It has light brown tones or beige type tones or just, you know, a white tone. It's the difference. But then we make sure that we follow that up -- and I love when Dr. Harvey uses the word contextualized, that's like one of my favorites, because it makes all the difference in the world. We say do them, yes, that's different. But guess what? It doesn't mean that it's bad and it's not bad and it's just different. So just like, you know, white boys, now, this is let's carry this forward because this is how it's important. As they get older, white boys, you know, do stupid things when they're teenagers. They get drunk when they're not even supposed to be drinking. They do mailbox runs. No, I live in a suburb that was like one of the favorites. It gets run down. We never got it, especially as girls, no matter what color. But this is a big thing that boys did, you know, run it down and do mailbox runs. They egg people's houses. They break into cars. They take joy rides. They drive when they're not licensed. They do things with women that they're not supposed to. OK. So these are things that, you know, males get into some time. Now you let a Black boy do, let's just say any of those things, in the wrong place at the wrong time with the wrong person. It's going to be a problem, not because they're a boy. Oh, gosh. You know, boys. I don't know. They do weird things. So let's just try to give our kids, you know, some other things to do. Give them activities. It's like, no, see, they're dangerous. That's that's why they're doing that. And you take that different -- Black boy, white boy -- and you assign a meaning to it and you assign a value to it. And you say, you know what? Black boys are doing this not because they're boys. They're doing it because they're dangerous from jump. They're only acting out of who they are. They grow up like this. Their neighborhood is a war zone. So, of course, you know, they're gonna go in the good neighborhoods and patch up property and, you know, property that people have worked hard for. It just goes on and on and on. 

HARVEY: Can I just add too, that I think the other thing that white families who think we should be teaching color, so-called colorblindness, don't hear when we say that, we're actually without realizing it also telling our kids there's something wrong with the difference itself. And so, for example, it's almost like saying to our kids, oh, you know what? I recognize that person is Black, but we're not going to hold that against them. So we're just not going to talk about it. Right. It's actually really subliminally communicates that there's something not just wrong with observing difference, but actually there's something wrong with the difference itself. And so that happens the moment we start to tell our kids, it's almost like, well, it's a secret. We're not going to notice because there's something wrong with it. We don't realize we're doing that. But that's what happens when we tell our kids we're not going to notice that thing that, of course, our children notice. In addition to, yes, what Chandra is saying about then also, what do we ascribe to the difference? And so it's not a compliment not to recognize someone's difference, especially when for generations now, Black and Latinx communities and other communities of color have said, my difference is important to me. It's important to me. I want you to see it. I value it. I respect it. It's not a compliment not to observe and and welcome and acknowledge people's differences that white people have made that up.

ALLISON: Yeah. I want to point out there is a brand new book coming out tomorrow. It's a board book. So it's for the littlest ones among us. It's by Dr. Ibram Kendi and it's called The Anti-Racist Baby.

HARVEY: Oh that's good! Yes! 

ALLISON: It comes out tomorrow and it's like the first step to sit with your kids and being open to all skin colors and pointing out the differences and pointing out similarities too, you know, all kids like to play. All kids do this. So it's talking in a way that no one is othered. But we're honoring the differences and honoring the similarities. So, again, that's called Anti-Racist Baby.

GAUDETTE: And I think that that goes back to, you know, here in Idaho. And Janet, we mentioned this in the beginning. I mean, we are the majority white. And I think it would be safe to say that there are families that probably do not personally know Black families, Latinx families. You know, you don't have those interactions. So it's easy to not talk about it. So literature is so critically important. And I and I just listened to the podcast that Chandra was on, On Boys about Black Boys Matter. And Chandra, you talked about this idea of "don't just read books or watch movies that white people make about the black experience."

WHITE-CUMMINGS: Yes ma'am. That is, you know, what I call -- I don't want to be offensive, but I'm just an honest straight shooter type person. But to me, when I talk to my sons for example I say that's just the blind leading the blind. Like, I don't need to see a white person's perception put on screen for everyone to consume. And it's not to say that a white filmmaker cannot make a film about a black experience, but if that's all that is available, if they control all of the money, all of the studio access, all of the green lighting, all of dispute, they get to decide who's in it, whatever, it becomes an unjust act, it becomes something that is moving forward. This whole idea of inequity and especially in media. So you want to try to find depictions of African-American and Latinx and API and native and indigenous life that comes from them. That comes from us, because it's what I always say. I would much rather read an autobiography than a biography.

ALLISON: Yeah. Chandra, you've given me so many good book titles to read and open my eyes to read from the Black man's perspective about Baltimore. Also Gemma, did you know that there's an Idaho Black History Museum in Boise?

GAUDETTE: We do. And you know what, we have had them on the program. They are phenomenal. And what they do for for adults and I mean, this is where they have one of the green books and how we were able to to see that and talk about it. It is it's something that I think every parent should be taking their kids to see. We are almost out of time. And I want to thank all of you so much. I mean, honestly, this conversation, I feel like we barely went under the surface, and we had an hour. I thank you all three of you so much. And I know that all of you have have Web sites, places that people can go to find out more about each of you. Thank you for your time.

We have been talking with Janet Allison, the founder of the organization Boys Alive, co-host of the podcast On Boys, activists and lawyer Chandra White-Cummings and Drake University religion professor Jennifer Harvey. Thank you so much.

ALL: Thank you. Thank you all so much.

GAUDETTE: You've been listening to Idaho Matters. I appreciate every single one of you who gave us questions. I'm so sorry we couldn't get to all of them. Again. Thank you. Thank you for being a part of this. I hope we have done something to be able to start these conversations and all of our homes. We'll see you back here tomorrow.

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Hi! I’m Gemma Gaudette, the host of the award-winning show, Idaho Matters. During the day you’ll find me researching and writing about all the fascinating topics we tackle on our show. And of course, at noon, each weekday you’ll find me live behind the microphone as Idaho Matters airs.
Frankie Barnhill was the Senior Producer of Idaho Matters, Boise State Public Radio's daily show and podcast.