It’s a terrific book!
Raising White Kids: Bringing Up Children in a Racially Unjust America (2017) by Jennifer Harvey address a challenging topic in a conversational, easy-to read manner that, despite its accessibility, delves deeply into issues that many of those of us who are white struggle to recognize, let alone explore and respond to in ways that are open, just, and productive.
Full disclosure: I’m white; everyone in my biological family of origin is white; I grew up in a family that purported to be “color-blind”; I live in a racially and culturally diverse city in which, nevertheless, all of my good friends are white. My children’s significant others and my future grandson are individuals of color, so the issues raised by this book are of more than passing or even committed-as-a-progressive interest to me. Three of the four congregations I have served have been made up almost entirely of white people and located in white rural or suburban areas, so these issues are also important to me as someone charged with pastoring churches and proclaiming the gospel.
This book isn’t, of course, about me or my family or my churches, at least not entirely, but it addresses families and groups a lot like ours: not intentionally racist; well-meaning; hopeful; perturbed by racial injustice but not doing much, if anything, about it; and not even sure when we are offensive in casual conversation or actions we don’t think much about.
I’ll offer a couple of nuggets that I’ve found helpful:
After discussing the harm generated by “color-blind” parenting, the author presents a couple of scenarios in which a young white child comments, loudly and publicly, about the racial appearances of strangers. How might parents react, other than with embarrassment and a quick move away from the scene? The books offers practical suggestions along with clear explanations of the logic and sensibility behind them, ideas that can be put into practice immediately.
Another important section of the book discusses the development of white racial identity: how those of us who are white become aware of what that means in our culture, and how we resist the implications, struggle to come to terms with them, and finally, see ourselves and others more fully. At a workshop a year ago in which participants were charged to identify which element of our identities and backgrounds has been most significant in our lives, I concluded that race has been the most significant in mine — moreso than gender, or age, or education, or income, or religion, because of all the things I haven’t had to think about because I’m white. I plan to re-read this section of the book very carefully, several times over.
Each chapter of this highly readable book ends with a blocked-in list of Takeaways, helpful for personal or group reflection, and a section of Resources and the Endnotes provide additional material to aid in a deeper exploration of this critical topic.
And I’m here to help! Abingdon Press sent me two copies of this book for review purposes, with no commitment on my part to provide a positive review. (And you all know, I don’t always do that!) Today I’m happy to do so, and to offer to send a free copy after a drawing of names from requests in the comments.