Short Take: Dinner Talk

Remember when the woke discussion at dinner was for parents to teach their boys to be girls? No more. There’s a new dinner conversation.

Ibram X. Kendi, author of the best-selling book “How to Be an Antiracist,” has compiled a reading list he calls a “step ladder to anti-racism.” It’s not enough to be “not racist,” he says, because it’s a claim “that signifies neutrality.“

“Those who are striving to be anti-racist realize it’s not an identity,” said Dr. Kendi, who is the founding director of the Antiracist Research and Policy Center at American University. “It’s something they’re striving to be, to be sure in each moment they are expressing anti-racist ideas and anti-racist policies.”

But what’s Kendi, whose perspective is that colorblind society is racist because one needs to see black people and elevate them above others in compensation for their historic treatment, got to do with dinner chat?

Dr. Kendi recently published a children’s book, “Antiracist Baby.” The book, written in rhyme, offers nine steps, including seeing skin color, celebrating differences and growing up to be an antiracist. “Parents use books to teach about love or kindness or to potty train. Why not do the same for teaching our kids to be anti-racist,” Dr. Kendi said. He notes that people who are uncomfortable talking about race often come from homes where it wasn’t a topic of conversation.

“Our parents didn’t want to talk to us about it in a controlled constructive environment,” he said. “We didn’t even learn to start having these conversations because we’d already been trained by our parents that this was something you don’t talk about. There’s a cycle.”

It’s not enough that your kids will go to elementary school, where their teachers will explain to them that they’re racist and should dedicate their lives to being anti-racist. If your parenting at home doesn’t obsess focus on how they should loathe themselves for their privilege and dedicate their lives to the pursuit of anti-racism, they will not deserve your love.

Parents can start conversations about race with books, documentaries or even movies like “Black Panther” or “Crazy Rich Asians,” two box office hits that proved the power of diversity in movie making.

I thought both movies were great, by the way.

“Bring it into your house and say to your kids, ‘Let’s talk about why that movie was different than every other movie we’ve seen,” said Julie Lythcott-Haims, whose books include “Real American,” a memoir about her life as a black and biracial woman living in predominantly white spaces. “Don’t ask leading questions. Let kids fill the space with their thoughts. They might not even mention race. Then tell them why it was different for you. After the movie is over, that’s where you show up with your values.”

That wasn’t why I thought either movie was great. Maybe I need to watch them again? But there are pitfalls that a good parent must avoid.

A common mistake some parents make is to say they don’t “see color” and they want to raise their children to be “colorblind.”

“To say, ‘I’m colorblind is to say ‘I have the privilege of never having to worry about color,’” says Ms. Lythcott-Haims, a former corporate lawyer and Stanford dean. “Those of us who wear skin of brown don’t have that luxury. The right approach is to recognize that humans come in innumerable varieties of color and hair texture and eye shape and noses and lips and height and weight. There are differences aplenty. The key is to teach our children that differences aren’t bad.”

Apparently, the only difference that is bad is to be sitting at home, at the dinner table, eating good food with one’s parents, and if you, a parent of this privileged little shit, do not teach your child to hate herself for it, you parented all wrong.

22 thoughts on “Short Take: Dinner Talk

  1. B. McLeod

    Kendi doesn’t live in the real world. In this era of microwavable, prepackaged everything, there is no conversation around the dinner table. There is no dinner table. If Kendi wants people to work his stuff into the fad du journey, he needs to conceal his Cro Magnon provenance.

    1. SHG Post author

      50 years of fighting for civil rights and equal protection and we end up with Kendi changing the head on the corpse.

  2. Jay

    Kendi has made a good point about the kind of “colorblind” culture that permitted racism to continue in this country unabated. It’s the kind that cj Roberts uses to end bussing and the voting act. Your straw man argument is telling. As usual, you can’t handle change of any kind that might call into question your own golden calves. Give it a rest Greenfield

    1. B. McLeod

      My guess would be that the Admiral can, in fact, handle change of any kind. But don’t expect to find a kid at the grocery who can count change. That ship, too, has sailed. If the electronic register goes down, they have to call the manager over to figure it out. If they punch in the figures wrong, they will still try to hand you whatever it says on the display, even if it is more than you tendered for your purchase.

    2. Elpey P.

      The unintended (or conspiratorially intended) negative consequences of so-called “colorblindness” have been peanuts compared to the unintended (or conspiratorially intended) negative consequences of racialization.

      1. SHG Post author

        I suspect Jay means that us libs “permitted” it by not burning all the racists at the stake and giving their fortunes to the oppressed, which was definitely a conspiracy.

    3. Rengit

      Let me guess, they should have killed every white Southerner after the Civil War too, just to make sure racism went away? And also those Irish immigrants who rioted in New York City because they didn’t want to go fight for the liberation of slaves? Racists who derailed the cause of antiracism by being concerned about their own livings, they’ll have to die.

      The only good thing in the world is fighting racism against black people. Anything and anyone that’s not working toward that is therefore objectively against it, and will have to be dismantled and totally destroyed. If you disagree, “you can’t handle change of any kind that might call into question your own golden calves”, like having a family or making an honest living.

  3. John Barleycorn

    And here I though the plan was to lobby the Entertainment Software Rating Board into self-regulating themselves into letting some interracial porn slip and threating a boycott if the kids weren’t presented with a few story lines based on Larry McMurty novels?

    Back to building treehouses I guess….

  4. Elpey P.

    “The right approach is to recognize that humans come in innumerable varieties of color and hair texture and eye shape and noses and lips and height and weight.”

    So we should treat “color” like noses and height. Did she run this message by twitter first?

  5. Curtis

    My family moved to a lily white community in Virginia in the 1960s and my mother was concerned about the racism there. Instead of lecturing me, she made sure I met black children. She found the only church in the area that was truly biracial. I went to Sunday school and summer camp and half the kids were black. I was too young to realize that this was very rare. During the rest of my childhood, I probably talked with fewer than a dozen blacks. One of my first bosses was black. I was too ignorant to give it a second thought.

    When I look at my most progressive nieces and nephews, I realize that all virtually all their Facebook friends are white. One lives in Philadelphia and does not have a single black friend but she is very righteous in her support of BLM. I would not be surprised if her daughter has never met a black.

    For me having black friends was part of life. Many progressive in academia appear very nervous talking to blacks because it is so rare for them. Until recently, I did not realize how fortunate I was to have raised the way I was.

    1. SHG Post author

      I don’t understand why it would be that your progressive nieces and nephews have virtually all white friends. A mix of people would be entirely understandable, but only white? Is there a reason?

      1. Curtis

        I do not know for sure but I can speculate. Hipsters (or whatever you want to call them) are almost exclusively white. Some are academics in fields with very few blacks. My friends and family tend to live in outdoorsy communities which appeals to whites more than minorities. At the university my wife works at, it is clear that some people have never really interacted with blacks and are nervous about talking with them. I have no idea about the lack of Asian friends considering the number of Asians at the universities and high tech jobs.

        I was listening to a podcast by Bangladeshi academic who who talked about being the only non-white at weddings. He looked at Facebook accounts and found the same lack of minorities. My wife and checked and I saw the same thing. Our conservative friends tend to have more minorities friends.

  6. JMK

    I try to respect your blog by trying to only submit comments on something I have knowledge of, or at least a reasonably cogent opinion about, so I ask you our forgiveness for this one:

    “Fuck that guy.”

  7. Julia

    “The right approach is to recognize that humans come in innumerable varieties of color and hair texture and eye shape and noses and lips and height and weight. ”

    Doesn’t an ex dean of Stanford realize that kids (of various ethnic backgrounds) living in the area already figured it out on their own? That her skin tone is very common? Or is she living on Twitter? I looked at her photos, she doesn’t look like anything special. Maybe, she needs to move to a whiter place.


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