Love Is Stronger Than Fear with Amy Julia Becker

S3 Bonus | Talking with Our Kids about Race, Justice, Love, and Privilege

July 07, 2020 Season 3
Love Is Stronger Than Fear with Amy Julia Becker
S3 Bonus | Talking with Our Kids about Race, Justice, Love, and Privilege
Chapters
Love Is Stronger Than Fear with Amy Julia Becker
S3 Bonus | Talking with Our Kids about Race, Justice, Love, and Privilege
Jul 07, 2020 Season 3

In this follow up to last week’s interview with Patricia Raybon, Amy Julia interviews her three children. Penny, William, and Marilee all talk about what they’ve learned from books, museums, and the recent protests after the death of George Floyd.

Show Notes:

We begin our conversation by talking about our family’s Civil Rights tour in 2019. Here’s a description of our four-day tour, as well as a recommended itinerary, which includes the Whitney Plantation that Marilee mentions, as well as the Legacy Museum, which is where we saw the jars of dirt that Penny talks about.

We talk about the death of George Floyd.

Penny mentions the song Way Maker.

All three children talk about books/resources they recommend for learning more about race and privilege. Go here for links to the resources they mention (as well as many more resources!). In relation to this conversation and reading books from different perspectives, Marilee mentions the Little House series.

This podcast season is called White Picket Fences, and it is based on my book White Picket Fences: Turning Towards Love in a World Divided by Privilege. Learn more about White Picket Fences! Also check out free RESOURCES to accompany White Picket Fences—action guide, discussion guides—that are designed to help you respond. Learn more about my writing and speaking at amyjuliabecker.com.

Show Notes Transcript

In this follow up to last week’s interview with Patricia Raybon, Amy Julia interviews her three children. Penny, William, and Marilee all talk about what they’ve learned from books, museums, and the recent protests after the death of George Floyd.

Show Notes:

We begin our conversation by talking about our family’s Civil Rights tour in 2019. Here’s a description of our four-day tour, as well as a recommended itinerary, which includes the Whitney Plantation that Marilee mentions, as well as the Legacy Museum, which is where we saw the jars of dirt that Penny talks about.

We talk about the death of George Floyd.

Penny mentions the song Way Maker.

All three children talk about books/resources they recommend for learning more about race and privilege. Go here for links to the resources they mention (as well as many more resources!). In relation to this conversation and reading books from different perspectives, Marilee mentions the Little House series.

This podcast season is called White Picket Fences, and it is based on my book White Picket Fences: Turning Towards Love in a World Divided by Privilege. Learn more about White Picket Fences! Also check out free RESOURCES to accompany White Picket Fences—action guide, discussion guides—that are designed to help you respond. Learn more about my writing and speaking at amyjuliabecker.com.

Note: This transcript is generated using speech recognition software and does contain errors. Please check the corresponding audio before quoting in print.

Speaker 1 (0s): Hello, I'm your host. This is Amy Julia Becker. Okay. So this was really fun. I got a chance to do record a bonus episode today with my three children. I put each of them in my desk chair with me. So there might be a little sound of wriggling in the background and ask them questions about what it has been like over the past five years to live in our household, because over the course of the past five years, I, and we as a family, Peter and I together have decided that we're going to be more explicit about talking about racism and injustice, but also just about celebrating various people, white and black from throughout American history and in our lives through what we read through what we talk about through what we visit. 

So we've done things like expand our bookshelf. We've talked about the news in different terms and exposed our kids to current events in a way that we didn't use to we've actually gone on a pilgrimage or a journey as a family down to visit the Whitney plantation and various civil rights monuments and museums in Alabama written about all of these things on various blog posts that we'll put in the show notes. And then most recently after the death of George Floyd, as protests went across our nation, we joined a protest here in town, and we also went to a prayer gathering in a local city where we gathered with Christians who were black and white and Brown and together prayed and worshiped. 

So I wanted to ask our kids about their experience of all of these things and put that conversation together here, both as a sense of like, here's where we are, here's what we're learning. But also, because this is what it has been like. I hope it's helpful for you in thinking about the conversations you're having with your children, how you're exposing them and yourself to current events, to our history, to our past, you'll hear from them that we have not figured all of this out. 

We don't get all the language right all the time, but we are bumbling our way forward together as a family. And I hope what we are learning along the way is not only about justice and healing and racism and current events, but also about healing and mercy and love. Thanks for joining us. All right. I'm Amy, Julia, and I'm sitting here and my daughter, penny, she's gonna introduce herself, Pam, what do you want to say about yourself? 

I will graduate to high school. This is very exciting. Penny is my oldest daughter. And let's see, what else can we tell a few more things about you? How would you describe yourself? Fun? You're very fun. Funny. So funny loves people. She does love babysitters. Yes. And you love people in general, I would say. Yeah. And what else do you love to do? Read you do love to read and pen. Can I also just share with our audience in case they don't know you personally, that you have down syndrome. 

That just might be something that's interesting to them about you as well. <inaudible> yeah, I actually don't even call it a disorder. I call it a genetic condition at, do you know how it affects you to have down syndrome? And I think a little be faster than me. That's true. Yeah. So that's what it does. How would you feel about that? The slow being slower in something you have taught me a lot about how wonderful it can be to slow down and what a gift that can be clearly. 

Can you just tell us a little bit about yourself? Hi, I'm Maili. 

Speaker 2 (3m 52s): I am nine years old. I like reading and math and I like going on our trampoline and taking bike rides. 

Speaker 3 (4m 6s): William is 11 years old and is just finishing up sixth grade has just finished sixth grade. And I asked him if he would be willing to talk a little bit about what it has been like to grow up in our family and think about some of these topics about race and class and justice and privilege and identity and all that stuff. Not that we always talk about it in those terms in our household, but William, I'm curious if you could just say a little bit about what you feel like you, I dunno what comes to mind when I even say those words, like race, justice and privilege. 

So what comes, what comes to mind when you say race is like the color of different people's skin? Pretty much, when you say justice, what comes to mind is like things being fair and right. And just, and then when you say privilege, that's what comes to mind is like different people having different privileges. Yeah. In general, 

Speaker 1 (5m 8s): We went as a family, down to the museums and memorials in where Montgomery Selma and Birmingham, Alabama. And I'm curious what you remember from that time, whether you learned anything, you know, what it made you think about then the prison thing? Like when you get a talk that people, Oh yeah. In the equal justice initiative museum, there was like a video. 

And it was as if you were with someone in a prison waiting room or TA visiting room. And so you would pick up the phone and as if they were on the other side of the glass and then they'd talk to you about their situation. Yeah. I had forgotten that part. Do you remember anything else from being down there are those bottles? Yeah. Can you tell me, yeah. The bottles of dirt. Do you remember what the dirt came from? The lens? Yeah. So the dirt was a, it's an opportunity. They've cataloged all the different names of people that we know of who were lynched over the course of American history. 

And they've invited people to go to those places and put dirt in a jar. And then there's a wall of those girls and they filled it all the way up. And did you feel anything when you were looking at those jars of dirt? I wasn't gonna say that people. Yeah. I felt, and either you were merrily when we were there asked me if there were any women who were lynched because you asked that. And so we started looking and honestly, for me, Penn, when I first saw that wall of dirt, it felt kind of like overwhelming so much that I didn't feel anything. 

But when you asked if there were women, we started reading the names of the women out loud. Then I felt really sad. Like it felt much more personal. And you actually, I think that question is what helped me to get to that personal place. Yeah. Yeah. So we went into Montgomery and Selma and Birmingham. And what are some things you remember from being there? 

Speaker 2 (7m 12s): I remember learning about some really cruel things white people would do to black people like lynching and stuff like that. And how did that affect you to learn those things? It made me sad that white people like us would do such horrible things just because they were a different, their skin was a different color. 

Speaker 1 (7m 44s): I have one other question about our trip. There was one place we went to in new Orleans because you really wanted to go there. Do you remember what that was? 

Speaker 2 (7m 52s): Bridges a school, Ruby bridges school. Can you explain who Ruby bridges was and how you learned about her Ruby bridges was well, is an African American. She's a woman right now. She's in her sixties. She was one of the first kids to go to an all white school, even though she was black. And she really changed the way goals were, I think. And like at burst, it was only her because no other kids or no other parents would let their kids go to a school that had an African American girl in it. 

But then the parents got really tired of their kids being at home with them all the time. And they started all going to school with Ruby. And, 

Speaker 1 (8m 55s): And do you remember, I remember 

Speaker 2 (8m 56s): From the book we read about Ruby bridges, that when she walked to school, people were yelling horrible hateful. I had to have the FBI, not the FBI, 

Speaker 1 (9m 5s): Some sort of protection. But do you remember how she handled walking through people? Yelling at her? 

Speaker 2 (9m 11s): Yeah, she would pray before she got there too, to, for all the haters and she would pray on her way back. 

Speaker 1 (9m 24s): Yeah. She prayed for them, which is pretty powerful. Is there anything else that stands out to you from that time when we were in new Orleans, we went to that plantation, the Whitney plantation. 

Speaker 2 (9m 36s): So in any plantation use to be a plantation that had how African American slaves was it a sugar cane, sugar cane. It was a sugar cane plantation. And we got to see some of the houses that they were forced to live in the African Americans. And we got to see some of the land that they worked in, how they made sugarcane. 

Speaker 3 (10m 12s): Did it change anything for you? Did you learn anything? What did you think about that? I'm up here? I was just like learning about what had happened in all of these places. And when we went down there, it was like, we're now here. And we're sort of not going through what they were going through, but seeing the places where they went through what they went through. And then when we were in Alabama and we went to the African American church, that was just like really, really just really interesting because we go to a small white pre, predominantly white church in a town of 4,000 people in Northwestern, Connecticut. 

So it was like really interesting to see how other people experienced church and how it's so different from our own church. Yeah. I was struck because it was so different. And yet it also was like, we knew some of the songs we take communion. We say the Lord's prayer. Like there are these other cool things that are like, we are connected even though there's like these different experiences. So what do you think about as far as like the North, like you've grown up in New Jersey and Connecticut, most of your life has been in the North. 

What do you think people in the North that need to be thinking about when it comes to questions around like race and justice? Well, I think that people in the North it's, they need to be thinking about what their fellow citizens in the South have been going through. So I think it is not responsible, responsible for people in the North to just be like sitting around, going through their daily lives while they're African American fellow citizens, friends, whatever are suffering, but just because of the color of their skin. 

Can you talk about what you know about George Floyd? I know he was African an African American man. He was a Christian. He and he was killed by a police officer. And you asked whether you could see the video of when he died and what did we decide? No, it would be too sad. So what did I show you instead of picture? 

Yeah, so we did that and we talked about it and then how did we choose to respond as a family? We went to a protest in Washington Depot in our little town. Yeah. And there were a lot of people there. And like from there were people from Marty's all the way past the GW. Yeah. Which is pretty far. Yeah. A lot of people. How did you feel about being a part of that protest? I liked it, it, there were not very many African Americans there, which is true of our town. 

Right. Yeah. But I liked how many white people were there supporting. We went to also went to a prayer gathering. And can you just describe that a little bit and how you felt about it? At first? I was really tired because I had just come back from a slave over and I did not want to go. But then once I got there, when it was time for us to go, I asked the mom if we could stay, I think it was also really cool because of being able to pray together and like worship together. 

When we went to the protest. How were you? I mean, not the protest, the prayer gathering. How were you feeling at first sad? Cause it was really loud. Yeah. You did not like that. It was loud. And then what was the first song? The first time is his main maker. And why was that song special to you? Cause they, my mom. So when we sing that song every night, so it's kind of felt like a way of welcoming you into that prayer gathering. Right? I think that going to the peaceful prayer gathering in that we went to was very interesting because there was a mix of white and black people, but we were all like United by our faith, which was really, I'd say meaningful. 

What do you think was the reason we went to that because of the mace and protest? Yeah. What, like, why would we, why would 

Speaker 1 (14m 52s): We want to be a part of praying about that? That is black lives matter, be a fan. Yeah. It is a real thing. And you know, people in America have not always had laws or actions that show how much everyone matters. I'm also curious because one of the things that has, we've tried to be pretty intentional about in our family is reading books that are not just about people like us, like white people who live in the country, even though sometimes we read those books, but we also have tried to read books that kind of help us explore different. 

Whether it's like people living in the city, people from different racial or ethnic backgrounds from different places in the world. And I know you've had a couple of books in middle school that you've really appreciated about kids who aren't like you, could you talk about like, tell us the names of those books? Well, I have one of my head good kind of Tebow. Good kind of trouble. Who's the author for the may something. Yeah. Our a M E is the last name of this author. Okay. So what's the good kind of trouble part of this book they have on land sometimes. 

What are the armbands about black lives matter? They're wearing these armbands and does that get them into trouble, but like a good kind of trouble? Yeah. Oh, okay. 

Speaker 2 (16m 9s): Well, some books that I would recommend, one is who is Barack Obama, who is Michelle Obama and who was Harriet Tubman. Yeah. Those are great. And then I, there's a book about Ruby bridges that I like to read. I've read it a lot. Then some movies are, I really like hit the movie hidden figures. 

It's about three African American women that change the world. 

Speaker 1 (16m 49s): Yeah. They're pretty awesome. Aren't they? Yeah. Yeah. Here is another question I have for you. We have also been intentional about reading some books about native Americans alongside white people. Can you describe like why we, what books we've read, why we've done that, how that's affected you? So we, I was reading the little house series and 

Speaker 2 (17m 17s): With my mom, we were reading the birchbark house series. Little house is about a white family and the birchbark series is about 

Speaker 1 (17m 31s): A native American family. And can I interrupt you for a second there? Around the same time in the 18 hundreds? Like in American history? Yeah. Okay. Go ahead. And it really think in Lauren Wilder's book, she 

Speaker 2 (17m 51s): Described how much they hated African, not African native American people and in the birchbark house, they describe that they didn't like, they only hated them because they were so mean to them. Like they didn't really do anything wrong. 

Speaker 3 (18m 18s): Yeah. So it kind of gave you a different perspective on the same types of events, right? To read both of them side by side, there's this book called Jefferson sons, which is about Thomas Jefferson's sons who are African American. Their mother was a slave of Thomas Jefferson and their father was Thomas Jefferson. So that really showed me, like, I think we all think about like Thomas Jefferson as this great guy who was like a founding father, but he also had slaves and did a lot of bad things in his life. 

So that was really interesting to learn about in school. We also had this book called ghost boys where we, yeah, we just read it aloud. Our teacher did read it aloud to us. It's similar to the story of Tamir rice. Right. It's not a true story, but it's similar to the story of Tamir rice. I'm curious whether you see faith as being significant in this conversation about like race and justice. I do think faith is significant in this conversation about race and justice, because I'm like, God is just, and he cares about everybody despite their race or their actions. 

What do you think when you think back on that history? 

Speaker 2 (19m 39s): I think that I don't get why people are treated differently because of the color of their skin. 

Speaker 3 (19m 52s): We, as white people have had a lot more advantages and that's true for us, not just because we're white, but also because we have had like a lot of stability and safety in our lives. So how should we use those advantages? Living like the causes. Okay. That's a good idea. Yeah. Yeah. Is there anything else you think we can do to kind of participate in making the world more jobs, go to protests, go to protests. 

<inaudible> yeah. I see you as someone who uses her as a gift of encouragement, and that's a way you bring like peace and goodness into the world is by encouraging other people. I haven't seen you do that really when it comes to this area, but I've seen you do that when it comes to people having babies with down syndrome, which I really appreciate about you William growing up to be a white man. What do you think about that? Like what comes with that? Do you think about the fact that you are white and if so, like how do you think about it? 

I mean, I don't really, I wouldn't really say I think about it that much. It's not like, I think every day I'm white, I'm white, I'm white. So I'm like, I that's like a reality, but it's not something that I like pay that much attention to. Yeah. Alright. Truly last question. Okay. Dad and I have in recent years, been more intentional about talking with you guys about these topics when you were younger and not just because you were younger, but we were feeling like we needed to shield you from like some of the sadness and pain in the world. 

That that was part of what we needed to be responsible to do that. And then we were challenged in that to actually introduce you to the pain and the sadness in the world. So that as you grew up, you could learn how to respond with love, to the pain and sadness and not just kind of stay unaffected and like away from it. I'm wondering, and it's hard for you to know what your life would have been like if we hadn't done that. But I'm wondering what you think about us in that decision to be like, we're going to tell you about these people who've been shot. 

We're going to tell you about news events that are really hard and that don't feel like they're connected to us in our, you know, relatively isolated, privileged world. What do you think about that? I mean, I think that it's really a good thing that you told us about that. Cause it will really like prep us for what the world is actually like, because I think if you didn't tell us those things, we might think that the world is like a perfect place everywhere and that it's all safe and that everything's right. 

So I think it's like really, really important that you told us that. Yeah. Well, I hope so. And I hope that the other thing I know we've had conversations about or that like whether or not you want this growing up as a white man with education, married parents, stability, wealth, all of those things like it's going to give you positions of power that other people don't have. And it's not because you're smarter than the other people or you're better than the other people. 

And so how can you hold that with love and how can you use that for good in the world and stay humble? You know, like not think super highly of yourself. And yet at the same time, know that you have gifts to give, like you've got things to offer because of who you are. And we want to like equip you to do that in the world in a way that blesses you and blesses other people. Yes. 

Speaker 1 (23m 48s): I love you. Thank you for taking this time. Yup. Thanks so much for joining me today for this bonus episode of the white picket fences season of the love is stronger than fear podcast. If you want to know more about the books that my kids mentioned as they talk today, we do have a blog post that has various resources, including those books and also books and podcasts and movies for adults that I will list in the show notes. And there are lots of other resources on my website and in blog posts that I've written on social media. 

I'd love to have you join the conversation. What questions do you have about talking with your kids about race and injustice? What questions do you have about what it means to construct an identity that is based on our common humanity, but celebrates our diverse identities at the same time? What are you worried about? What are you excited about? I'd love to hear. Thanks again for being here and please spread the word about this podcast with other people who might benefit from it as well. Thanks again.