Monday, August 23, 2010

teaching my son the human races

One of my biggest fears, living and raising a family in North Dakota, is failing to expose my children to different cultures. Not only do I live in a state who's population is more than 90 percent white, but it's also mostly Christian and predominantly German- and Norwegian white. 

Don't get me wrong, living in a state so small and area so rural has SUPER advantages for child-rearing, namely, my child will never have to walk through metal detectors on his way to school. Check mark: pro. 

I grew up in a bigger city and at age four, still touched the head of a little black girl at Sesame Street Live. I wanted to know what her hair felt like. Even with my upbringing, I didn't and don't know nearly enough. 

I don't want my son to walk the graduation stage without ever meeting someone who's skin tanned faster than his does. 

So what to do? 

* Cable TV, movies, media is a start. Watch a show with black people in it. And if I'm feeling really civil rights-y, I can throw in "The Color Purple" or "How to Kill a Mockingbird." I guess that has potential. The problem is, reality TV is so seldom realistic. I don't want him getting the impression that these over-the-top personalities represent any one culture as a whole. And he won't have much by way of real people and local examples to teach him any different. Plus, I don't subscribe to cable. Figures. 

* Art: I can't think of any other offering here that would expose him to more cultures and perspectives. Even if the project is a little cheesy, like: here, make a fan. That's what Asian people do... A project like that at least it opens the door for opportunities to explore that fan and the reasons and culture behind it. He and I can read books on the topic or research "Asia" on the internet. In fact, I like that idea. I'm pretty sure hand-held fans don't represent modern Asia, but perhaps making one represents an opportunity to explore another heritage. 

* Travel: Duh! It's the bottom line frightens me. On our budget, traveling to relatives and friends in Colorado and small-town Iowa will have to suffice. As much as I'd love summer vacations in India, Egypt and Ireland, something tells me they'll have to discover oil in LaMoure County first. 

So what would you do? How did you grow up? 


  1. BAhahahahahahahah!

    Love. Love, love, love, Katie Ryan.

    Oops. Katie Ryan-Anderson.

    I have no advice. Obviously.

  2. Actually Cookie, I'd love to hear how you grew up. You're from small-town North Dakota and you're more culturally knowledgeable than me. How did that happen? Was it something your parents valued and taught you? Are you self-taught? Is racism something inherent or is that taught too?

    Advise me, por favor!

  3. You can take him to the African grocery store in Jtown, maybe? I think really the key is to teach your son to keep his mind open and that people are people, no matter what race or religion.

  4. I didn't even know that the Somali grocery store was up and running. One problem that we have in small town ND is definitely the lack of cultural diversity. That being said, the amount of exposure that we do end up getting is...well...skewed. We have hispanic workers who are here to make money on the plant out by Cargill, we have the Somalian refugees who have somehow ended up in ND because of a relation of sorts and we have the hutterites who come shopping in town but have not developed real social graces. I grew up in pretty diverse settings as my dad was Military. We traveled to a lot of different places and we had some very diverse neighbors. I was used to living in a neighborhoods that had Asians, Hispanics, African Americans, Dutch, German, and more diverse people. It honestly wasn't until I moved to ND that I found that people react a lot differently to diversity--like it's a disease-- because it's not common out here. I think that expanding viewpoint and exposing our future children to diversity and differences is the only way that we are going to have well rounded children. I would, however, rather not subject my child to reality tv, as it's real just poor acting and a bad sample of what "reality" actually is. That's just my thoughts for the day!

  5. Hmmm...tough question. I was the only Filipino kid in my class most years of school. Of course, that's not surprising to hear coming from Kearney, NE, where the population at the time was mostly white. I always knew that I was racially different from most people, but it was never really an issue, except those annoying moments when people would ask me if I spoke Spanish or what country I was from--nice, huh? Clearly, those weren't intentionally mean gestures, they just didn't know any different. I think it's great that you are thinking about the whole diversity issue now...a lot of kids grow up in a homogeneous place, then go off to college or move away and realize people of different races and cultures exist in this world. I think it's good to expose your kid to diverse things, like giving him books on different cultural topics once he's old enough to read, watching the news, watching relevant documentaries, things like that. Really, the most important thing you can do is be a tolerant and open-minded example for your son. And don't worry, Katie, you're already that. You'll do a wonderful job of teaching your son how to be open-minded and tolerant, just like you :)

  6. Hey Katie! It's Erin Romans...I'm in a similar postion as you-however my son is African American being raised in a mainly caucasiain area. Maybe you and I need to chat about this one together. :) It's a tough subject-one that played through my mind over and over again as we went through the process to adopt. Knowing that we would more than likely be matched with a non-caucasian birth mother was totally fine with me-I just worried about what it would be like for my littler person to grow up in this area.

    So maybe a playdate is in order and your son can meet my son-and they can be lifelong friends. :)


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