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  1. #1
    ha98ed14 is offline Diamond level (5000+ posts)
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    Default WDYT/WWYD-- DD told me she wishes she was not white (Caucasian)

    Hi, It's been many years since I have posted here, but this issue made me long for the thoughtful open-minded, yet practical advice this community gave me when DD was little. DD is now 12 and has just started 7th grade at the junior high on our side of town. We just finished our 2nd week of school. She has come into contact with students who are not from her elementary school and have a different set of cultural norms and expectations. An incident in one of her classes happened where a friend was pushing on DD's skin on her arm and then releasing it to make it turn white and then let the color come back. DD has a bit of a risidual tan from the summer, but she isn't pretty fair, blonde-blue. She is obviously white. Her friend is a person of color and she made a remark about how she did not understand why DD's skin did that. Another classmate, also a person of color, told the girl, "It's b/c DD is really white! No offense, DD." DD came home told me about and said that she wasn't offended because she didn't think her classmate was trying to be mean, but it made her really uncomfortable. She has also been uncomfortable because she sits at a table with a boy who says, "Daahhmmn!" (The word damn dragged out for emphasis) as an exclamation of surprise or dismay when the teacher gives assignments. She says she is uncomfortable because she sits next to him, and the teacher is regularly reprimanding him. She has also become very self-conscious and worried about grades and appearances since school started. I think her sensitivity is normal for this age-and-stage.

    As as a bit of background, the junior high is fed by seven elementary schools; four of those schools are Title I, ranging between 30 and 70% free-and-reduced lunch and between 30 to 50% ESL/ELL students. The other three elementary schools are what are known in our town as "The Hill Schools" because they are literally up on the hill, which is the wealthy part of our town. They are <20% ESL/ELL and <10% free and reduced lunch. (We live in CA, so every school has an ESL/ELL population.) DD went to one of the Hill schools. While the school was racially/ethnically diverse (equal parts Asian, Latinx, and Caucasian), nearly all the families were similar SES; parents were educated professionals and upper-middle class. DD felt comfortable with this culture because tho we were more modest in income, we both have graduate degrees and DD did lots of activities because she is an only, so she got all the extra we had to give. In sum, she fit in fine.

    The junior high is probably 55% Latinx, 35% Caucasian and 10% Asian, 60% free lunch and 30% ESL/ELL. DD has come home and said she is nervous around the Latinx students she doesn't know from her old school, and she is "worried they will think that she thinks like Trump" because she is white. She noticed that Some people break rules, use profanity and talk out of turn in class and it makes her uncomfortable, but she also said she *feels guilty about feeling uncomfortable*. She said she wished she wasn't white because "it would be easier." I explained that in the big picture of the larger society, POC experience hardship because of racism in a way DD would not experience because she is white so her life would not be easier. But I also tried to be supportive and acknowledge her feelings and tell her it is a new experience. We talked about how different communities have different cultural norms and expectations and that's what she is noticing.

    I am troubled by DD feeling unhappy about who she is because she is worried about people assuming she harbors prejudice. She is aware of what happened in San Antonio and that the person purposely targeted people of Mexican heritage. We talked about his actions as a product of that person's racist beliefs. I am sure that is making her hyper aware and uncomfortable with the differences she is noticing. How do I help DD be comfortable in her own skin (literally)? I think her discomfort is because her "culture" is not the majority or the dominant culture in this school population. I think in the long run, this will be a good learning experience about how POC must often feel when they are often not in the majority, but I'm not sure she is able to process that yet. She is not super mature and is definitely wrestling with her own identity and feeling self-conscious about herself even without this issue if racial/ethnic identity. TIA for any insights you can provide.
    Last edited by ha98ed14; 08-24-2019 at 01:44 AM.
    Mommy to my One & Only 05.07

  2. #2
    JustMe is offline Diamond level (5000+ posts)
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    This is complex, and although I have some ideas, I do not have a defined response. I almost left without responding, due to time limitations, etc, but then saw no one else had responded yet. All that to say, I don't know if I will have the best ideas about this, but I figured I would start somewhere and maybe others will add.

    -Firstly, I would agree that this is a sensitive age. It is good to support dd, but also know at the same time what she will have complex difficult feelings as she learns about her identity and how the world works (including racism and other issues). As parents, we can't make everything easy for our kids, nor should we, IMHO. Describe the process she has gone through (being in a school where her culture/skin color was in the majority and how now that is not the case). Sometimes just narrating what has happened is useful, as it may be clear to you but not to dd.
    -I would communicate to her that you understand she has a lot of "big" feelings right now, including about what color her skin is, that she may not understand it all, and that this is normal for someone her age. Many kids her age have feelings and concerns about their skin color, their culture, what kind of person they want to be, what kind of things they are interested in.
    -Tell her we are not supposed to all be alike and it is fun (best word I can think of, but there are better ones) to have friends who are from different cultures; we also get to experience many different things. OTOH, sometimes people from other cultures can say ignorant things about ours. It is true, in her friends' case, they don't mean it, but it can still be hurtful. There are ways to let people know when your feelings are hurt that are respectful.
    -Talk to her about how "the grass is always greener on the other side"/people wish they had what they do not have.
    -I think it is important to talk to her about her own experience, as well as continuing to talk about racism. If she is interested, you can let her know there are things she can do to support people of color as a white person
    Last edited by JustMe; 08-24-2019 at 12:05 PM.
    lucky single mommy to almost 16 yr old dd and almost 13 yr old ds through 2 very different adoption routes

  3. #3
    niccig is online now Clean Sweep forum moderator
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    Default WDYT/WWYD-- DD told me she wishes she was not white (Caucasian)

    Quote Originally Posted by JustMe View Post
    This is complex, and although I have some ideas, I do not have a defined response. I almost left without responding, due to time limitations, etc, but then saw no one else had responded yet. All that to say, I don't know if I will have the best ideas about this, but I figured I would start somewhere and maybe others will add.

    -Firstly, I would agree that this is a sensitive age. It is good to support dd, but also know at the same time what she will have complex difficult feelings as she learns about her identity and how the world works (including racism and other issues). As parents, we can't make everything easy for our kids, nor should we, IMHO. Describe the process she has gone through (being in a school where her culture/skin color was in the majority and how now that is not the case). Sometimes just narrating what has happened is useful, as it may be clear to you but not to dd.
    -I would communicate to her that you understand she has a lot of "big" feelings right now, including about what color her skin is, that she may not understand it all, and that this is normal for someone her age. Many kids her age have feelings and concerns about their skin color, their culture, what kind of person they want to be, what kind of things they are interested in.
    -Tell her we are not supposed to all be alike and it is fun (best word I can think of, but there are better ones) to have friends who are from different cultures; we also get to experience many different things. OTOH, sometimes people from other cultures can say ignorant things about ours. It is true, in her friends' case, they don't mean it, but it can still be hurtful. There are ways to let people know when your feelings are hurt that are respectful.
    -Talk to her about how "the grass is always greener on the other side"/people wish they had what they do not have.
    -I think it is important to talk to her about her own experience, as well as continuing to talk about racism. If she is interested, you can let her know there are things she can do to support people of color as a white person
    I think JustMeís response is a good idea. These are difficult topics for kids to understand so itís an ongoing dialogue. I spend time filling DS in on historical information he may not know or not know in enough detail to give him context for what is happening now so he understands the bigger picture rather than just the brief details reported in the news.

    Itís good to hear from you again.


    Sent from my iPhone using Baby Bargains
    Last edited by niccig; 08-24-2019 at 01:25 PM.

  4. #4
    KrisM is offline Clean Sweep forum moderator
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    I don't have any advice. Sorry. But I did want to say it is good to see you here!
    Kris

  5. #5
    twowhat? is offline Red Diamond level (10,000+ posts)
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    Your DD is smart, sensitive, and perceptive and I think it's fantastic that she is talking about this with you - because that's what we need. We need people to talk openly about race and not pretend that everyone is the "same". Yes, we are all human, but we are different and that's fantastic. I would just acknowledge how she feels and be totally honest with her about why many people of color have that "prejudice" against white people. Give her honest feedback about how families are different and grow up in different ways that she may not be used to because she grew up just one of those ways. Give her the tools to speak up for herself...if it comes up she can say "well, *I'm* white and *I* don't think that way." Teach her to be proud of who she is. Let her know that her voice is powerful...she can speak up if she sees unfairness! Just let her talk, listen, and let her know that you understand how she feels and that it's totally OK for her to be feeling that way.
    Last edited by twowhat?; 08-24-2019 at 03:21 PM.

  6. #6
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    I went to high school in Jamaica where everyone basically thought I was casper the ghost pale. They loved doing that to my legs during choir. At times it would be easier to be a more typical color and I think this is a normal feeling and she is just sharing that. It's a good time to talk about being friendly, open to others and confident in yourself. My classmates all eventually realized that I wasn't racist and I still (20+ years later) am friends with high school classmates (that I haven't seen in 20+years)
    Margaret and
    (DS 2/06) and (DD 3/08)

  7. #7
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    Let me preface my remarks by stating that I'm a woman of color and grew up as a minority in this country. When I was growing up in the 80s, it was still a novelty to see an Asian American. I can't tell you how many people remarked on how great my English was--even though I was born here. Fortunately, in addition to my brother, there were other Asians in the school so it wasn't like I was the only Asian American. But we were probably 10% of the school back then. Going from a school where your DD was in the majority to now being only 35% of the school was probably a shock. Some of your DD's experience is how I felt growing up.

    I wanted to be part of the majority (which is white in more than 90% of the US). I hated when classmates pointed out how I was different (e.g., instead of pointing to my skin, which is brown/golden colored, they made fun of my eye shape--"How do you even see?"). Back then, teachers didn't care if students teased you based on your racial identity so I just ran away and tried to avoid people. When I told my parents, both of whom are immigrants from a country where THEY were the majority, their response was to be proud of my heritage and stand up for myself. Frankly, it didn't feel like very practical advice but I think the fact that they were trying to convince me NOT to be ashamed of my racial and cultural heritage might be a similar message you can give to your DD.

    In your DD's case, she's not being insulted. She's feeling what it's like to be a minority in this country for the first time. She's also aware and hyper-conscious of how her classmates of color *might* perceive her as a white girl. Talk to her about how while there has been a racist history in our country (e.g., slavery, government-sanctioned genocide of Native Americans, theft of land and exploitation of Mexicans, the Chinese Exclusion Act that forbid any immigrants from China who weren't wealthy merchants, incarceration of Japanese Americans during WWII, anti-Muslim shootings/temple bombings, etc.), we have ALWAYS had white allies who stood up for minority communities.

    I also think part of this may just be adjusting to a bigger community with new faces (regardless of whether they're students of color or white), new norms (e.g., the swearing, the rule breaking which is all about tweens/teens pushing boundaries), and her own sense of self.

    Good luck navigating this.

  8. #8
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    The race/color issues are ones that she will need to figure out--and PP have given good advice. I honestly can't believe she hasn't heard kids swear until now. Maybe its because my kids went to Catholic schools that they knew plenty of swear words by middle schoolDS never liked kids who broke rules-it made him nervous. Last year he was a freshman in HS and he really struggled with all the kids he knew who drank or did drugs. I had to make sure he understood that ratting kids out to the principal for actions they took outside of school hours was a BAD idea. Meanwhile, DD had a pot deal go down right in front of her at her first day in HS and she just kept moving forward. Sensitive kids have a hard time with rule breaking. This is just something she is going to have to get used to. It doesn't impact her. (if it does, that's different) This is where I just kept telling DS--worry about yourself.

    I think some of what your DD is going through is totally normal--she is switching from a small pool of like people to a bigger pool of not so like people. My DD was in a school of 450 kids (K-8) last year and this year she is in a school of 3,000 kids from all walks of life. There are dozens of different languages spoken and she is not in the majority. It's a lot to adjust to for any kid. It is also an amazing experience. DD wanted the diversity and a bigger stage. DS went to the Catholic HS because he needed accommodations for his dyslexia and an environment that would not be overwhelming. (he was still overwhelmed when he started last year) Fortunately for him, his school was fairly diverse and he is used to being the palest kid in the room. They all joke about it and he knows its a joke and has fun with it.

    I have both of my kids talking to therapists as they navigate junior high and high school. It's very helpful for them and for me! YMMV.

    Good luck!
    Mom to:
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    DD '05
    Simon--the King Charles cutie
    RIP Andy, the furry first child, 1996-2012

    "The task of any religion is not to tell us who we are entitled to hate but to teach us who we are required to love."

  9. #9
    hbridge is offline Sapphire level (2000+ posts)
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    I have been there, complete with screaming and crying that they are the race they are. Unfortunately, there is not much you can do except commiserate and remind the child that they are an individual, no matter their race. It is VERY hard and just another indicator of when the child is not comfortable with who they are... Keep encouraging her to make friends with all races and reminding her that she can choose her own traditions and incorporate other cultures into her own life.

    Hopefully, she will find her people. By that I mean to include all races, genders and orientations; the people that make her happy and confident.

    Sending hugs.

  10. #10
    twowhat? is offline Red Diamond level (10,000+ posts)
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    Quote Originally Posted by smiles33 View Post

    In your DD's case, she's not being insulted. She's feeling what it's like to be a minority in this country for the first time. She's also aware and hyper-conscious of how her classmates of color *might* perceive her as a white girl. Talk to her about how while there has been a racist history in our country (e.g., slavery, government-sanctioned genocide of Native Americans, theft of land and exploitation of Mexicans, the Chinese Exclusion Act that forbid any immigrants from China who weren't wealthy merchants, incarceration of Japanese Americans during WWII, anti-Muslim shootings/temple bombings, etc.), we have ALWAYS had white allies who stood up for minority communities.

    I really like how you describe this - it's spot on! I grew up feeling this way (as a fellow asian) and then in college/young adulthood I felt much more comfortable as I was simply surrounded by more diverse people - and now as a middle-aged adult I am starting to "feel like a minority" again for various reasons that are beyond the scope of this thread

    I do think it's important to explain and talk about racism, and how minorities felt - FEEL - and that is how she's feeling now and that it's normal and uncomfortable at first. It's a tough age for this, as she just wants to blend in and not stick out. But it will make her stronger in the end! She will come away with a perspective that many people don't get in their young lives, and it will benefit her in so many ways. But for now, yes - it's hard. It sucks. It's uncomfortable. It's an adjustment. It will take time for her to feel good in her own skin. Maybe a lot of time. Just be there for her as she vents and try not to interject too much "But" into the conversation, e.g. I would try to avoid saying things like "I know you feel like your white skin sticks out but just think of how black people feel in school that are majority white!" and instead focus on saying things like "I know you feel like your white skin sticks out and it makes you uncomfortable when you just want to blend in. It sucks! Especially when you're at a new school and have all this other adjusting you have to do!" And give her a hug. Keep the racism/race/history explanations as separate discussions. When she comes home feeling blue, just address that feeling in the moment - without any "buts".
    Last edited by twowhat?; 08-26-2019 at 01:22 PM.

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