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Thursday, June 3, 2010

Race, The Prince of Persia, CNN and Trevor

This Memorial Day week-end our youngest asked us to go see the Prince of Persia.  He loves the Prince of Persia Legos his father bought him (He says they look just like Indiana Jones)...

It was right about at that point in the conversation (when he was explaining how the Prince of Persia looked exactly the same as Indiana Jones) when I requested that we have a conversation about race since:

#1- The Prince of Persia is Persian.  

(Though in the movie the role is played by Jake Gyllenhaal who is a descendant of the Swedish noble Gyllenhaal family on his father's side and of a Jewish New York family on his mother's side.)
#2- It seems kind of strange that Indiana Jones and the Prince of Persia are interchangeable in Lego land since the Prince of Persia is from Persia and Indiana Jones is well, not.  
#3- Earlier in the month I had seen clips of CNN's study on race and what I had seen had shocked me.

Another clip from the study, "Why do you want that skin color?" 

Parts two and three of the study's findings continued here.

I have been in Trevor's life for the last three years.  Since I have been dating his father we have:

#1- talked about Thanksgiving and what happened with the Native Americans that were here before us; 

#2- talked about immigration and the DREAM Act and taken him and his brother to detention centers and immigration marches;
#3- talked about Martin Luther King Jr. and Rosa Park;
#4- talked about the struggles that the Irish have gone through historically both in this country and in Great Britain.

So this week-end we talked about the Prince of Persia and CNN's video clips on race.  Trevor's response when he saw the clips?

"They don't know anything."

We asked him, "What don't they know anything about Trevor?"

His response, "They don't know anything about anything. All people are the same.  It doesn't matter what color they are on the outside."

We proceeded to have a great conversation about what this means for him in school as a young blond haired white male, as well as the child of a multi-racial family (his cousins are mixed, African-American fathers and a white mother as well as one cousin whose mother is Latina and whose father is white).  Moreover, I spoke to him about privilege and structural inequalities and  explained to him that if someday his father and I had a child that his brother or sister may look like me, much tanner than either he or his brother.  I am happy to report that little Trevor was quite engaged in the conversation, asked many questions, offered up his thoughts and overall his main concern seemed to be that we not have the child too soon, since right now he's our little baby.

I was thankful that we were able to have the talk that we did with our six year old, especially in light of the
CNN study which says that children's views on race are informed by the conversations that they have/do not have with their parents.  Moreover, I was thankful that Rich has done such a phenomenal job raising the children the way that he has and I was thankful that I was there to be a part of the conversation with this brilliant little being as he continues to grow up.

For more on the importance of talking about race with children, regardless of their race, read this post from
Modern Familia


  1. The Prince of Persia casting hadn't escaped my notice, either, as my 10yo lives at and has been excited about the Legos ("Meh" about the movie) for weeks. I'm the white one in a black/white interracial marriage; my kid is fairly light-skinned. What he really benefits from is that his family and community is the veritable melting pot, as many of our friends are interracial couples as well. Key to combating racist attitudes is people having exposure to people of many races. It's why I'm hopeful that up and coming generations will be less hateful than their predecessors, but still disheartened when I see things like the recent race-bleaching of San Francisco (a city across a bridge from us).

    We had to explain race issues to our son at age 4, when we attempted to spend a night at a seaside hotel in Oregon, only to see that another family staying there had beat us down the cliff to the beach and written N-I-G-G-E-R in big letters in the sand, clearly inspired by seeing my wife. The boy is home-schooled, and, at ten, he's well-versed in civil rights.

    A great book on the subject of kids and race, which should be required reading for all families, is "I'm Chocolate, You're Vanilla" by Oakland educator Marguerite Wright:

  2. Totally lovely & uplifting post - am from mixed race/religion family myself, so very much resonate with this.

    I've always been taught to believe that all that matters is being the best human being you can be, & that every background is as totally worthy of respect as every other.

    If all parents would accept this & teach it to their children, the stupidity of race-hate would die out in just one generation.

    The Internet, & social media sites so many of us belong to, are the best potential way I've seen yet of achieving this.

    Please, can we all just stand up & say that we accept each other?