Several years in America General Mills highlighted the cutest kid in their commercial. Little did they imagine that the little girl's parentage would spark such an ugly debate. Yet, race in America is still a large issue. This black man/ white woman intercultural; couple is just the start of the of the process. Many black women are also choosing to marry from other racial groups and the more our children share high school and college experiences the more families we will see with intercultural couples. In February 2012 the Pew Group released a report on this issue http://www.pewsocialtrends.org/2012/02/16/the-rise-of-intermarriage/ .The report shows that 8.2% of married couples are multiracial. This means that at least 8.2 % of children entering into early childhood programs are going to either see or be in a multi-racial family.
We here in the US have such a problem with cultural differences it is often astounding. I remember when I was 16, I was in line at Venture (wow throw back!) I was standing in line with a friend who was older and I babysat for; a very light skinned black woman. She had run out of a conditioner she used on her daughter's hair, She had been out playing in her kiddie pool, we ran to the store to get it. While in line; a woman behind us said very loudly,"I just hate it when these white women marry black men and have no idea how to take care of their children's hair." It was the first time I had ever heard something so blatantly racist and mean. My friend turned to the woman and said in her very inner-city St. Louis dialect, "I ain't white, and I know exactly what to do with my baby's hair. Life might be easier for you if you minded your own business." The other woman's mouth dropped open in surprise and she tried to apologise. But, my friend who had had a bad day already was not in the mood for apologies and just ignored her. I share this story because it is important to realize that mixed cultural families face bigotry, and prejudice in today's world as shown with the Cheerios commercial as they always have. They should not also have to face it in their ECE community.
The facts are children who are taught to accept all of who they are develop a stronger and more well-developed sense of self. In her blog Chantilly from Bicultural Familia writes there are ( things families can do to raise conficent kids. Who know who they are as a person.(http://www.biculturalfamilia.com/tips-for-raising-confident-multiracial-children/).
Those of us in early childhood can help children of mixed heritage by helping them and their peers understand a variety of cultures. Learning to accept all kinds of cultural and famiiy member make-ups; help children learn from the wold around them. As they participate in the ECE classroom children become exposed to a variety of cultural differences which help then learn to value themselves and others. This is clearly a component of social/emotional development and learning about it must be supported. Here are a few suggestions:
Books about multiracial families
No Tildes on Tuesdays: by Cherrye Vasquez
The Aunt in Our House by Angela Johnson
Black is Brown is Tan by Arnold Adoff
Brown Like Me by Noelle Lamperti
Dumpling Soup by Jama Kim Rattigan
Hope by Isabella Monk
How My Parents Learned to Eat by Ina R. Friedman
Create snacks that showcase a variety of multicultural tastes and talk about differing ways people prepare foods in dinfferent cultures. Discuss how in a multiracial family cooking practices are mixed.
Pictures and Posters
Hang a variety of pictures and posters that showcase all kinds of family groups and multiracial families.
Circle Time Discussions
Teachers can use circle time to discuss family. Invite children to bring in pictures of their own families to share and discuss all the differenes the children's pictures exhibit.
Because teaching culture has often included asking parents to bring in dishes, tell stories, and give children a picture of their lives as part of our cultural teachings. Inviting parents iof multicultural families to come in and talk about how their family meld the two cultures in their homes.
Using these tools will expand the social/emotional aspects of ECE classrooms and help children like the little girl in the Cheerios commercial begin to accept themselves as a single person who is a reflection of two or many other cultures. This is a large part of family engagement and support we in the field of ECE can do to support our families.
Believe in Parenting
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