A few weeks ago I brought it to the attention of the class that there would be a book talk for White Kids: Growing Up With Privilege in a Racially Divided America by Dr. Margaret Hagerman who is an assistant professor of sociology as Mississippi State University. The book discussed a study that Dr. Hagerman did in three different suburbs of a similar area. She looked at the similarities and differences of these three areas in terms of how and why they chose to live in those, how those choices are influenced by race, and how they discuss race to and with their children. I was particularly interested in how the children she interviewed talked about race and how aware of it they were. The children who lived in suburbs where parents did not discuss race with their families were still noticing racial aspects of life even though they had little experience with it. The parents in another area that were actively talking about race, many of whom were professors at a local college, have children who could talk rather eloquently about race for their age and were much more aware of social justice within their communities and also outside of their communities. The former children, though, seemed to have very little sense of social justice issues, and one particular child even confused Rosa Parks and Eleanor Roosevelt. Therefore, it is incredibly important to begin children and students thinking about and discussion social justice issues early in life so they may develop a better understanding of issues and work towards challenging said issues.
After this talk, I considered my own home town and how race was discussed there within the mostly white communities. In all honesty, it was barely talked about. When it was discussed, it was usually only after a racially charged incident had occurred. Even then, race was talked about in an abstract way rather than as if it was a real issue facing people every day. I think it was because people do not want to think about the people around them or even themselves as having racial biases, so it is easiest to act as if it is not an issue. This course of action, however, is not really action-packed at all. It is rather passive, and does not offer any work towards overcoming such biases. To tolerate such a lack of discourse about race is a social injustice, and as teachers we need to act as leaders in our communities and begin the difficult discussions about race with our students.