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Raising (White Male) Antiracists – Part One: Biodiversity

When I think of the most compelling reasons I want to become more culturally competent, number one on the list is to help raise children who are empathetic, hope-giving, (and getting) allies. I read two books recently that shaped my worldview, gave me a new perspective, and sparked lively discussions with my sons.

I am coparenting two budding scientists, ages 7 and 9. They are curious about the world, constantly reading, asking questions all day every day, and observing everything around them. Like many boys their age, they are also obsessed with the video game Minecraft. My 7-year-old loves architecture, adventure, and creating new “mods.” My 9-year-old is more interested in the elements, different rock layers, and biomes.

One recent morning we were discussing what the boys might build at Minecraft coding camp. (Yes, this is a thing!) The 9-year-old told us he’d like to build a new biome, but could not decide which one. As we started to talk about pros and cons, he decided he wanted to build a rainforest because “it’s the strongest biome.” I asked him why he thinks so and he said the biodiversity of the rainforest makes it strong, because any one species can die out and the rainforest remains strong because of the variety of species. (Shout out to Edjacent designer Caroline Morin, who also happens to be his excellent 3rd grade teacher!)

Earlier that morning I’d been reading a chapter in Better Allies, which talked about the benefits of building diverse networks, inside and outside of work. Inspired by the kind of conversations Ibram X. Kendi recommends in How to Raise an Antiracist, I decided to ask, “Is there a human ecosystem equivalent to the strength of the rainforest?”

My sons immediately made the connection. They talked about diverse neighborhoods and schools, which, they said, include “more ideas” and “different ways of solving problems.” Their examples included how people of different ages have different schedules and can help each other in different ways. They talked about how having both girls and boys to play with means more games and better chances of finding someone with the same interests. My younger son mentioned “more parties” because different cultures celebrate their own holidays and invite others to participate.

I’m going to be writing more about my family’s journey toward antiracism – it won’t always be this idealistic. We’ve had some hard conversations, as well as some revealing ones that have exposed our family’s privileged past and present, bias in my sons’ worldviews, and some awkward missteps along the way. To start this discussion, though, I wanted to start with an example of hope and joy. Young people, with the right guidance early in life, can see how diversity brings richness into their lives. They can understand how many voices bring strengths to the table. They can learn how to be better allies from a very young age.

Being antiracist and raising antiracists is not easy. Many of us were raised to be nonracist at best and we don’t have the skills. The world is not set up for antiracism. But it can be, and young people will help us get there.


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