For people of color, first experiences with bigotry and racism often come when we are far too young to comprehend what is happening, often from other children whose parents failed to talk to them about race.
Award-winning author, writer and educator, Mathangi Subramanian took to Twitter to detail a troubling moment she witnessed on the playground with her young daughter, stressing the importance for white parents to teach their children about race and acceptance.
She wrote: “Still processing this, but two days ago, two blonde girls at the playground told my daughter she couldn’t play with them because she doesn’t have blonde hair. The girls’ parents did not intervene. You better believe I did.”
For people like Subramanian, talking to your children about race is a nonnegotiable right of passage. However, this level of importance placed on discussing racial equality isn’t always something that is echoed in all households.
“On the walk home, my three-year-old and I had a heart-to-heart about race and exclusion. It wasn’t our first time. The first time was when she was two, and she came home from preschool saying that her skin was black, and we talked about how dark skin is beautiful,” she continued in a follow-up tweet.
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No matter their racial background, it’s crucial for all parents to at least intervene when their children begin to exclude others based on race and physical appearance. However, this unfortunately wasn’t the case in the author’s encounter with the two blonde girls. Subramanian wrote, “here is the point: parents of color talk about race with our kids all the time. We have no choice. It’s there, everywhere, and we can’t avoid it. I told the blonde kids at the playground that they can’t exclude people. I did it calmly and politely, while their parents watched.”
“But those parents should have intervened. They should’ve said something. My daughter was watching. Their daughters were watching. White parents: TALK TO YOUR KIDS ABOUT RACE. I know it’s uncomfortable. But the rest of us do it all the time. We need you to do it too,” she continued.
While many parents of color showed their support for the mother by sharing similar experiences they’ve had with their own children, there were still a few who failed to understand how the situation Subramanian witnessed was a case of race-based exclusion.
As a woman of color who has experienced this treatment from childhood into adulthood, like all POC living in Western countries, Subramanian defended her initial tweet by stating that she has experienced racism enough times to be able to spot when it is happening to her own child.
Writing, “Also, please don’t tell me that I imagined this. I am a dark-skinned woman who has been on this planet for almost 40 years. I know racism when I see it. And I definitely know it when it happens to my kid.”
Sadly, Subramanian is not the first nor the last parent of color to have to see their child experience such exclusion when they are far too young to fully understand the situation. However, as the author wrote in her tweet, through open conversations with young children, regardless of their race, about racism and equality, these hurtful situations can hopefully be prevented.