Happiness

How To Discuss About Race With White Kids, From A Psychologist

Black people are monumentally disadvantaged and have always been one. And we whites don't know what to do. Or say. We take care of it, but the problem seems too big and insurmountable – denial and ignorance occur – simply because we can afford it as a psychological defense. Most of the world does not have this privilege.

Research has shown us time and time again that only if you are black are you less likely to be black. For example, black children die 500% more often from asthma. There is no denying that. Whether you think color doesn't matter, racism doesn't matter, or see the issues as clearly as you can during the day, the research is overwhelmingly convincing. And this is just health – regardless of whether it is employment, housing, general discrimination, trauma or other social problems.

A personal revelation of the present disadvantage: I remember finding out that my son was badly dyslexic. It felt like a wound I was just discovering that I knew would be painful to him for life. (It still hurts me more than he does.) I connected to a colleague at Harvard – a professor who helped write the Law on Americans with Disabilities (ADA) – and he helped me for two hours To realize that it works badly, but with the right intervention. In addition to helping me cope with the fear I remember most, he said, "Our prisons are full of untreated black dyslexics." Essentially, children with dyslexia had behavioral problems with my son and followed the pipeline between Preschool and prison. I want to cry now when I write it. Mothers like me who didn't know what to do and in a system that saw their little boy as a fundamentally different person than he was. He was a child who needed help and didn't have the words (literally) to ask. Not a bad child. Babies are not born bad.

Then I go on. For dinner. Or my wine. Or the book I'm reading. Because that is a privilege. I have the privilege to look away from my pain because my son is white and he is fine. This privilege is not granted to other mothers.

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