Discussing NurtureShock: Talking Race in Mixed Race Families

When Karissa and I were last hanging out together, she mentioned that she really wanted to read a book that had been featured over at Rookie Moms called NurtureShock: New Thinking About Children.

It sounded intriguing, so we both picked up a copy and vowed to use this as our first foray into the online discussions we wanted to cultivate here at m+b+w.

(And seriously, when’s the last time I read a book, like to learn something? Like something academic – not about vampires or wizards or – wait for it – more vampires? It felt nice to have a reading project!)

I’m now about 1/4 of the way through the book, and I find myself having to stop every paragraph or two and rely the information I’ve just consumed to whatever living thing happens to be around me. A sign of a good book, no? (Sorry, hon.)

There is so much interesting stuff in this book, but the chapter that I just finished really got me thinking. It’s entitled “Why White Parents Don’t Talk About Race.” The idea is that in an effort to be inclusive, we are actually pushing our children to be more divisive. When discussions about race are avoided, children are forced to form their own opinions, which in many cases the parents would consider abhorrent.

Both of us at m+b+w have mixed-race families; both husbands are Filipino. This chapter made me think: we definitely talk about race and culture more than I did as a child (in my homogeneous white family). We talk about how daddy, Rey and Alex are Filipino, why mommy doesn’t tan like the rest of the family, etc.

That being said, I always cringe when Alex identifies someone by their skin color and feel the need to qualify what he’s saying, or say something like, “Oh, you mean your friend Vishnu? He’s Indian, which means his family comes from the country of India. Isn’t he such a nice boy?” which just seems stupid and weird.

On the other hand, it seems counter-intuitive to explicitly point out the racial background of people to the kids. It’s as if I’m teaching them to only see how people look different from each other. But really, the truth is they already see the differences. Alex knows his Tita is from Mexico, why not be open about it?

So, Karissa, I’m going to punt this one to you. How do you and your family deal with the issue of race? Do you think you talk more openly about it since your family (like mine) is multi-racial?

Feel free to join the discussion by leaving a comment below.

Special thanks to Rookie Moms for bringing this book to our attention!

3 thoughts on “Discussing NurtureShock: Talking Race in Mixed Race Families

  1. [...] We're reviewing NurtureShock: New Thinking About Children. This is part two on "Talking Race". Read Megan's post here. [...]

  2. [...] discussed a few chapters of NurtureShock here on MBW (race, more race and sleep). My copy of the book is full of folded down corners on pages that I found [...]

  3. [...] And honestly, I don't know what the right way to react is. We've talked about race on MBW before (here and here) and I'm sure this won't be the last [...]

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