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Raising White Kids: Bringing Up Children in a Racially Unjust America Hardcover – January 16, 2018
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"Jennifer Harvey's brilliant work and passion for racial justice comes alive on every page. Raising White Kids is a theory-rich, practical guide with wonderfully helpful examples that will equip parents to navigate today's racial challenges with confidence and grace. For the millions of mothers and fathers who are deeply invested in creating a better tomorrow in an increasingly multi-cultural America, Harvey's book couldn't be more helpful or more needed right now." ~ Diana Butler Bass, author of Grounded: Finding God in the World--A Spiritual Revolution
About the Author
Jen speaks and publishes with numerous academic and public outlets. Her essay Are We Raising Racists? spent nearly a week on the New York Times “ten most read pieces” list. She has written for and appeared on Good Morning America, CNN, NPR, Sojourners on-line, The Conversation and other national media outlets. Visit the author online at www.jenniferharvey.org.
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Therefore, I recommend instead (or at least additionally) reading books by people who have lived experience of the oppression this book tries to counter. There's no substitute for listening to authors of color. Here are a few good options:
- "So You Want to Talk About Race" by Ijeoma Oluo
- "Thick: And Other Essays" by Tressie McMillan Cottom
- "How to Be an Antiracist" by Ibram X. Kendi (pre-order)
If you want to understand how/why this book isn't as effective as it tries to be, please, read Ijeoma Oluo's book. You'll see what I mean.
A final note, which can be a guide on your journey as an ally: One helpful litmus test for "will this book help me overcome my biases?" is to look for endorsements/praise by leading scholars/thinkers of color, who have a profound understanding of the issues and how to make progress.
Harvey’s work resonated with me because of my own experience as an educator. For the past two years I have been involved with organizing speaker symposiums and advisory times (in conjunction with a student cohort) at the Christian, affluent, predominantly white high school where I teach. The student and faculty cohort chose to address the topics of race and then privilege for the first two symposiums. Some valuable and much-needed conversation and connections came about as a result. However, in spite of our attempts to equip students with knowledge and examples of productive action, we experienced a significant degree of backlash from parents whose concerns included wanting to know why their children were being made “to feel bad” about being white.
Some students, while convinced of our need to have such discussions, expressed trepidation at how their peers would respond. In the absence of much groundwork being laid regarding what it is to be Christian and white in a racially unjust America, a growing awareness of racial tension manifests itself as “anxiety, guilt, cognitive dissonance, or even anger when race does come up” (Harvey, 10). I have witnessed all of these reactions.
There are a multitude of reasons that both parents and students are uncomfortable with such conversations, but parental anxiety often stems from fear and a desire to protect. We want to shield kids from heartbreak, but they will be heartbroken. It’s part of being human. We should want for them to be made whole, more fully human. As Harvey says, “white supremacy malforms my humanity, constrains my life, compromises my spirit” (119). Knowing that heartbreak is inevitable, what would we have break our children’s hearts? Shallow self-interest or a painful empathy that springs from the ability to recognize human dignity and injustice?
In Raising White Kids Harvey moves beyond theory to offer realistic advice about how to appropriately talk about and model racial engagement with children and young adults. It’s a tool that will greatly benefit those who read it and those they impact.