Our family lived down the road from Shelvis and Nancy Smith-Mather when I worked in South Sudan, and we were enormously blessed to be their neighbors and friends. They, like us, have had to relocate and are now doing peacebuilding work in Northern Uganda among South Sudanese refugees. This conversation between Nancy and her daughter was an interesting jumping-off point for thoughts on race, language, and raising kids:
“Mommy, did you press ‘English’?” my three-year-old daughter asked.
“Yes, I pressed ‘English,’” I responded.
“Why? We don’t speak English?!?!” she said, flustered by the thought she may not understand Winnie the Pooh.
“Yes, you do. English is the language that you speak,” I tried to reason with her.
“No, we don’t speak a language, we just speak ‘normal,’” she explained, in English.
My daughter’s grasp of the concept of language is just like my comprehension of race growing up as a European-American child in the United States. Other people had race or ethnicity, but I was just “normal.” Kind of like the way there is an “ethnic” foods section in the grocery store, and all the other food is just “normal” food, right?
As she has been putting together our family’s homeschool curriculum, my wife has struggled mightily to find a good history book that is appropriate for younger ages and truthful about the atrocities committed against native peoples all over the world and doesn’t use words like “savages” to describe those peoples. And while we are thankful that our kids have had the opportunity to make friends from all over the world, we know that just having friends who are of different ethnicities and living overseas doesn’t let us off the hook when it comes to teaching our kids about race, racism, and history.
Nancy and Shelvis are great writers… you can subscribe to their newsletters here!
My wife did up finding the Blessed Heritage curriculum and I will write more about it after we get our hands on a copy and try it out!