I have been reflecting on the beginning of Antiracism for Young Kids over the past few weeks. I have wondered where I had the energy to homeschool my kids, relocate to two new countries, teach first graders virtually online, run a household, and develop this curriculum all during the start of the pandemic. Comparing myself then to myself now, I am feeling the impact of languishing, where nothing seems too urgent and nothing seems too despairing, yet I am tired all the time and missing family back home.
This curriculum was born out of the rage, frustration, and sorrow I felt following the news coming out of the US chronicling killings of unarmed Black people at the hands of police and vigilantes including Ahmaud Arbery, Breonna Taylor, and George Floyd. My family and I left the states to experience living overseas and giving our children a global perspective, but I felt called to ensure my children had a clear sense of their identities as multiracial/Black/Brown Americans regardless of where we lived.
As I delved into what teaching my own children about Black Lives Matter and their own multiracial identities would look like, I also uncovered a lot of my own baggage around internalized racism and privilege. I am half Thai and half white and was raised in a mostly white community with a small but strong Thai community that I saw regularly on weekends and school holidays. I strongly identified as being mixed and half Thai, but did not really embrace my whiteness or white privilege until college. Living in a mostly white community, I was rarely seen as white, mostly seen as other, and hardly recognized by other Asians as being Asian. However, my whiteness and white ancestors afforded me plenty of opportunities that I would not have received if I happened to be fully Thai or mixed Thai and another race. I also learned more about why as a person of Southeast Asian identity, I identify as a brown person.
Digging deeper into what raising an antiracist generation would encompass, I realized part of my work and our work as adults is undoing our own internalized racism and prejudice while simultaneously teaching our children antiracist skills and practices. I also struggled with how difficult it can be to teach kids to be antiracist when we, as adults, may be perpetuating internalized racism or stereotypes without even realizing it. For instance, talking about skin tones being darker and lighter, I worried I would unintentionally promote colorism, knowing that my family in Thailand and my Thai community are taught to value lighter skin and that I was raised in the US where whiteness is centered and Black and Brown-ness is considered other. I learned to lean into the discomfort instead of shying away from it. How could I teach my own kids to recognize racism when they saw it, if I were not willing to find it in myself? Naming colorism and racism and giving examples of how it plays out in schools, families, and communities became easier to do the more I practiced and the more my kids understood their own identities and antiracist ideas.
As I think about everything that has happened in the United States and in the world, since first developing Antiracism for Young Kids, I know that there is so much more work to do towards undoing systemic racism and being actively antiracist. It was written before the attempted insurrection at the US capitol, before anti Asian violence in the states escalated due to anti-China and anti-Asian sentiment post COVID, and before the newest anti-Black measures at the Tokyo Summer Olympics. Black and Brown folks continue to be killed at the hands of American police officers over a year after George Floyd’s murder.
Racism has not gone away and will most likely never go away. Instead, I think of racism, colorism, and other oppressions as being endemic. Racism is not something that will go away, but something we, our children, and future generations will continue to fight against, expose, and undo. As Ibram X. Kendi says, “We’re either being racist, or we’re being antiracist.” Antiracism is hard, constant, never-ending work. I am proud to share this tool for raising antiracist kids and families and hope that it is helpful for you in your actively antiracist journey.
Rassamee Hayes, July 2021