My guest today is Britt Hawthorne.
Casey and Britt dig into what being anti-biased and anti-racist mean. Britt shares strategies from her new book, “Raising Anti-Racist Children: A Practical Parenting Guide,” for talking about racism with children and teens including embracing getting uncomfortable & admitting what you don’t know. Britt shares her wisdom on how to tackle tough topics like police brutality with your kids and family.
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Takeaways from the show
- Conversations about race and racism are not just for people of color
- Keeping the focus on love, justice, compassion, and empathy
- Being anti-biased and anti-racist is a set of skills we can strengthen
- Anti-bias is a framework and methodology of intersectionality
- Anti-racism is a set of skills & actions being taken to dismantle racism
- Make space for messy conversations about race with children and teens at home
- Knowing your family’s beliefs & values
- Supporting teens & broadening perspectives while moving from “me” to “we”
Casey O'Roarty 0:05
Hello, hello my friends. Welcome back to joyful courage a conscious parenting podcast, where we tease apart the challenges and nuances of parenting through the adolescent years. I am your host, Casey over already positive discipline trainer, parent coach and adolescent lead at Sprout double, where we celebrate not only the growth of children, but also the journey and evolution that we all get to go through as parents. This is a place where we keep it real. Real stories are real parenting. The teen years are real messy, and there aren't many right answers. But the more we trust ourselves, and trust our teens, the better the outcomes can be. The Parenting we talked about over here is relationship centered, you won't find a lot of talk about punishment, consequences or rewards. What you will hear is a lot of encouragement about connection, curiosity and life skill development. Our teens are on their own journey. And while we get to walk next to them for a bit, we don't get to walk for them. Their work is to learn from the tension of their life. Our work is to support them and love them along the way. I'm so glad you're here. Enjoy the show.
Right Hey listeners, I am so excited to introduce you to my guests today. Her name is Britt Hawthorne. Britt is a black biracial mama, teacher, author and anti biased and anti racist facilitator, Britt partners with caregivers, educators and families to raise the next generation of anti racist children. Together with her beloved partner, they are raising their kids to be empathetic critical thinkers embracing justice and activism. Her days are filled with coffee teaching and joy. You can find out more about Britt at Brett hawthorne.com Hi, Brett. Welcome to the podcast.
Britt Hawthorne 2:17
Thank you so much, Casey for having me and creating space. I'm so happy to be here.
Casey O'Roarty 2:21
Yeah, I'm so glad to have you on the work you are doing is so important to me personally and to the world. Can you share a little bit about how you found yourself doing this anti bias anti racist work?
Britt Hawthorne 2:35
Yeah, so the origin story started when I was young, and I am black, biracial, my mom is white, my dad is black. So we oftentimes have conversations about race, about culture about differences. But we also had a lot of conversations about unfairness about prejudice about discrimination, racism, sexism, as well. And so I've always felt pretty comfortable with naming and discussing. I know, some folks that I work with will say like, that was not our dinnertime conversation at all, where for me it was, but I still wasn't really strong in my skills of anti bias, anti racism, right? I became a teacher and followed my mom's footsteps. And anyone who has spent time in public education will tell you the inequities and disparities are so visible, even before learners come into our classroom between how some classrooms have desks or chairs or tables or not, or computers. And then if you do have computers, do they turn on? Do they actually have internet access? Is it high speed, internet access, and so on and so forth? And so me really trying to figure out how do we solve this great generational concern? really brought me to the work of Gloria Ladson Billings? And she was saying, no, no, no, no, it's not an achievement gap, which in education we hear all the time. The achievement gap is the idea and the impact of what is the difference between white learners and learners of color when it comes into reading and math, choosing it's an education debt, and really placing that blame on a system of saying that there has been a divestment, a generational divestment that has happened over decades, and a disservice that has happened to children of the global majority. And when we place the blame on systems instead of an achievement gap, which really places the blame both on the learners of color, but also their caregivers and teachers, right, when we place the blame, where blame is due, that allows us to take a system approach and start to look at how we are under how schools are under resourced and the divestment there. So kind of a long journey and I'm still on that journey. I think in my origin story is still still being created even in this moment. Yeah,
Casey O'Roarty 4:54
I love your focus on systems. I think that is such a crucial reframe and and how we're looking at injustice. And in the work that you're doing, I also really appreciated because I'm one of those people who are like, I mean, I'm a white woman, I lived in the white bubble my whole life. And those were not the conversations we were having, because we didn't have to, is that the right way to put it? Like, it just wasn't top of mind. Because, you know, the community that I lived in, everybody looked like me, and privileged right on top of that, and so what I love what you said too, though, is, even with those conversations, the word you use, you know, strengthen your skills and how you have grown, strengthen skills. And what I love about that phrase, is there space for all of us to strengthen our skills in these conversations, and that's what I'm excited about having you on is not only to strengthen my own skills, but also to provide a conversation that others can listen to, and invite them into that work, as well. So thank you for that. Yeah. And I had Tracy Baxley on last June, talked about her book. Yeah, social justice parenting, I love her. And that was also a powerful. Yeah, she really, as I'm so grateful to both of you, and to all the people that are doing this work, my audience is primarily white, white women. So I think it's really extra important to bring authors and speakers and educators like you on Yeah, to help us basically, to help us because we need help. And especially if our work our typical day to day isn't inside of the work of anti bias, anti racist work, I think it's easy to just not have to think about it.
Britt Hawthorne 6:49
And I wrote it down on a sticky note, I know your listeners can't see this. But I wrote it down on a sticky note when you had said, it's not the right word have to. And when you pose that question to me, I was like, huh, is that the right word? And I think even unpacking that a little bit of like, because we didn't have to have the conversations, I do think that there's space for that there's space for we don't have to have the competition. But I think the larger concern, and the larger issue is, it's not that we don't have to have the conversations. But those conversations are bad conversations to have. And so it's not like I don't have to have it right. Like, I don't have to have the desert, that's a very different way than looking at that desert is bad, right. And I am bad if I have it. And I think that for so long, we've, you know, been stuck in this cycle, kind of on a hamster wheel that if I bring up race, if I talk about racism, if I identify if I talk about skin color with my children, like all of these different kind of segments to the work that therefore I'm somehow either contributing to the problem, or creating a problem, both maybe for myself, but even for my children. And so I think it's even it's, you know, kind of putting half two on one side of our spectrum. And to the other side of, well, if I have this conversation, what does that make me? Right? And I say that by watching my white mom who had this conversation regularly, but she was an anomaly within her family. The rest of my white family members. Absolutely. It was like, Robin, why are you bringing that up? This is in the past, we've moved on, you have a black husband, we have, you know, you've black girls, right? Like we have made it to the mountaintop. And all the while, right? My sisters and I were just talking about this yesterday, the amount of racism that we then had to experience because our white family members didn't want to have open and honest conversations, right? They didn't want anyone to hold them accountable. They didn't want to feel uncomfortable. They didn't want to admit that. I don't know what I don't know. And I'm not, you know, just when you said have to do like, Is that the right? And I love that you said that. I think if we also have more conversations where we say something or like is that the most accurate way to say that? Let me like sit with it. Like, is that really how I want to define my container through that?
Casey O'Roarty 9:10
I love that defining our container. Well, and I'm curious too, with all this work that you've been doing? How have if you don't mind me asking like how are your white family members responding to your book and the work that you do in the world?
Britt Hawthorne 9:25
You're the first person to ask me this question. And I love that you ask the question, because I think that some folks make the assumption when you're in an interracial family, that you've reached some harmony, and we have not in my family. It's actually I'm gonna back up a little bit and share something super quick. So I was talking to some educators yesterday, professionally, I'm an educational consultant and I work with teachers and educators and yesterday I had an art teacher had said, Hey, every time conversations about racism or Black Lives Matter Police brutality are brought up, I noticed that my black students look really embarrassed, and they look like they want to run out of the classroom. What is it that I could do to help them. And the guy said, you know, and I'm an art teacher, so I don't regularly have these conversations. And I have them for a limited amount of time when I see them once a week. And so the framework that I use at home and in the classroom is a framework called an anti bias education. It's these four goals that we want for our children. We want them to have self love, and brace people identify in fairness and act justly. And so when we skip over those first two goals of self love, and embrace people, and we only focus on identifying unfairness. And acting justly, what can happen is that we have a very interpersonal approach to this work. And so that told him long story short, spend a lot of time on making sure that they feel really good and affirmed and all their many identities, they have language for who they are, and they feel comfortable and confident about who they are. And then when you start to have conversations about goal three, identifying unfairness like racism, it's so important that we place blame on systems, because far too long have we shaped the conversation around race, and racism as a person of color conversation. And so then people of color feel like not only is it my duty to have this conversation, but it's gonna have to bear the weight of the conversation. And I have to hold everyone's feelings. So for me, kind of bring it back to your original question, my mom's side of the family, I'm in a space that I know enough that talking about racism does not mean that one, I somehow created a problem that wasn't already here. Anytime that I'm sharing the truth, that only means that I'm just ready to reckon with the truth, because I'm ready to create a solution, not to like harp on a problem. And number two, I also know that whenever there is an incident of racism, and it involves me, no matter what, it's not my fault, right, there was not anything that I could have said or should have said, or that I maybe should have smiled, or I should have handled it differently, or I should have, you know, talked nicer, or more quiet or any of that, which I think for a very long time, we somehow made like an abusive cycle relationship, we've made folks of the Golden majority feel like it was their fault. So with my mom's side of the family, I've made peace with the fact that we don't really speak anymore. And that I don't own it. But it's not me. It's not my delivery. It's not the message. It's not, you know, the way that maybe a lot of folks will bring up white fragility, and like, how do I kind of position this conversation to bring people along, and instead really focusing on love, justice, compassion, empathy? And if I know, I'm checking those boxes, I know I'm doing my job. But I can't continue to move through life at the pace of the most resistant person. Because that means that's
Casey O'Roarty 13:07
a mic drop moment, right there say that, again, you can't move through life at the pace
Britt Hawthorne 13:13
of the most resistant person. Thank you. We are not moving anywhere. Yeah, right. And so I am open, right, I am open, my heart is open, my arms are open and ready to receive folks that are also ready to receive the truth. But again, like I've been, I've done the work long enough. And to your point, this is a set of skills. And the more that we can see anti bias anti racist work is a set of skills that we can all learn and that we can shrink them and get better at and we can practice, the better than we become at it versus putting ourselves in these binary boxes of I am anti racist, or I'm not, or I know how to do it, or I don't really know everything, or I know nothing. Right? Anytime there's a binary, it's always proceed with caution.
Casey O'Roarty 14:02
Will you tease apart those two words anti racist and anti bias and what they mean to you? Yes.
Britt Hawthorne 14:10
So for anti bias, medical with that one first. And anti bias really is a framework and it's a methodology of saying how do we from the very beginning approach this work with intersectionality in mind, and intersectionality being different than positionality. So positionality means I acknowledge that I have multiple identities that make up who I am. Those can be personal identities, like my temperament, it can be my Enneagram it could be my Myers Briggs. It can be the things that I like to do, how I like to spend my time, some of the identities that I hold near and dear being a mom, Wife, Daughter, so those are my personal identities. And then our social identities can be your political affiliation, your racialized identity, your sexual orientation. It can be your spiritual worldview, it can be your socioeconomic status, those are ways that I belong to larger groups of people, how I connect with them. So all of that is my positionality. Intersectionality is a way that I'm examining how I experienced compounding discrimination. Right? So that means I take those social identities and I started to ask myself, which of my identities experience marginalization or are minoritized, and which ones experience advantages. And so for me, being a black woman, a queer woman, I know that those are parts of identities that will be minoritized. Whenever we have more than one, that intersectionality says, I wonder how that discrimination is going to be different for you, versus someone else who may be trans disabled, and working class, right, their discrimination will be different. So anti bias takes that intersectionality approach. So in my book, raising anti racist children, it is why it is so important that I included things like pronouns, and ableism, and transphobia, and fat phobia, it was so important for me to include all of those in an anti racist book, because people of the global majority can experience any of those right, they can have compounding discrimination, we have to move the conversation forward and beyond the idea of thinking about racism only affects cisgender, Christian, hetero black men. Right, like so often, that's kind of how that conversation is not only shaped, but it is who also shapes the conversation to that anti racism is a set of skills, it's a set of actions that we are taking to dismantle racism and the United States, I think it's really important that we have both for me, I put them together, and we call it a bar and this work. But for me, it's important to say, I'm not going to jump over conversations about racism, because I know that racism is the undercurrent to discrimination in this country. And it is one of if not the biggest predictors of outcomes in the United States. So we have to tease racism, race and anti racism out to always bring it back. And at the same time, I also can't forget about all those other identities that are just as important, right? I'll hear this a lot of times from learners that they feel like they have to pick one part of who they are, you know, like I'm queer and Latina. So but which one is more important? And it's like you don't have to pick, right you can be all of those things at the same time, does not have to be an either or.
Casey O'Roarty 17:49
It's so big. It's so big. It's so big. It's over. Like even as I listened to you, I'm part of my mind is like, I should be taking notes. Although I, I have your book. And sometimes that overwhelm can come with a shutdown. Right. And I know like, in my personal experience with my kids, the word racist is so interesting, and the way that they will use it, and you know, their siblings, so they have their banter. And I'm always fascinated when one of them says something. And the other one says, well, that's racist. And I sit with what ever it is, I can't think of an example right now. And I'm like, I don't think that's racist. And I don't have the language I'm feeling unskilled around how to navigate the conversation around well, what is it if it's not racist? I know that I have implicit biases. I know that I'm blind to my blindness. And I know my background, and my kids too. I mean, granted, Gen Z has so much exposure through technology and culture, you know, much more so than me as a Gen X or being a teenager in my little white bubble that you know, and we live in, you know, this beautiful little liberal yet white pocket of Washington State and Bellingham. So they're pretty savvy in a lot of ways. And it's interesting the way that they throw out like, well, that's racist. And so I know that there's a section in your book where you talk about how to talk about that. Can you share a little bit here and help me?
Britt Hawthorne 19:33
Absolutely, yes. So and I'm glad you brought that up, because it is very, very common. And it's interesting, I did an Instagram post, and the post was actually supposed to be geared towards caregivers. And the amount of teachers that responded to that post. I ended up having to pin a comment that says, teachers, I am noticing your comments. I recognize your comments the amount of teachers that said, Oh my gosh, my students, particularly in middle school, throw this word around and I never I knew how to respond to it. So I just didn't write. And so first and foremost, I think it's important when we have children in our lives, they have a working definition for racism. So we want to make sure it's dinner talk conversation, right? We want to talk about racism around the dinner table. We want to ask our children continuously. Hey, did you notice anything that was racist today? I wonder, right? And that we're just throwing it out there. And they can then what we tell them by just making space for them, right, is that number one, it's not going to be a taboo conversation at home, that your questions and wonderings and the messiness are welcomed. You don't have to figure it out alone, like I will help you. I don't always know all the answers, but I definitely will help you.
Casey O'Roarty 20:42
You're seeing my face when you said, Did you notice anything racist? It is never occurred to me to ask that question at the dinner table, not because we don't talk about all the things but like, Thank you. Yes, I can't wait to tell my kids about this conversation, Brett. So yay,
Britt Hawthorne 20:59
I that warms my heart, like thank you for sharing that. Because what we're also telling them is that racism is all around us. Right? You're probably won't go a day without experiencing it or witnessing it. But the way that we view racism, oftentimes, and the way that our children will learn racism is that it's an interpersonal, it's only an interpersonal interaction, where you have one white person who's being mean, right to a person of color. And what we want them to see is like, So living in the state of Washington, we noticed any racism today, at some point, we want our children to say, yeah, the fact that I didn't witness I didn't see I didn't notice any person of color today. Yeah, that's a form of racism. Mm hmm. Right. Like we have sundown laws, and we've had gentrification, oh
Casey O'Roarty 21:48
and Bellingham. There is a history of sundown laws and Bellingham. Absolutely, yeah.
Britt Hawthorne 21:53
Yes. And so to say, there's actually a really long history of how come this has not only hasn't been historically a safe place, a safe space for folks of color, but that was put into laws, right? So it allows us to really expand the conversation beyond the interpersonal that they hear from the media that they see on social media that they read in books, right, to really thinking about what are the laws whenever somebody is missing? Right? We're always like, Hmm, who's missing from this book? Because missing from this TV show that I was watching who was missing from that movie? Gosh, that movie only had white people in it. And that's not representative of the United States. How did that happen? So we want to like just throw those questions out. We want to also examine different situations with our children. And then when our children are saying, like, that's not racist, or you're being racist, or in my classroom, one time the children were playing chess and someone was like, I don't want to be black, I want to be white. And then the other student was like, well, that's racist. Right. And I heard that my ears perked up. And I said, Oh, that's, I'm curious about that. Can you tell me what the prejudiced ones? And they said, Yeah, they said that they don't want to be black. Okay, and can you tell me the systemic misuse and abuse of power? And then they were like, right, and I was like, okay, and I was like, and is this color black, the same as someone's racial or cultural identity? And then they were like, No, and I was like, so I think you gotta use a different word. Love it, you know, you want to try different words. And all of that, to your point. I know, for folks are listening. I'm like, Brett, I would have never, ever responded in that way. I just want you to know, it's a skill set. You can learn it. Yeah. And it takes time and practice. Hopefully, my book, it's full of scripts. That's racist group is in there of ways that we respond. And I'm a millennial rate raising Gen Z children. Our children are 15 and nine at home. Open. Kobe corrected me to say almost 10
Casey O'Roarty 24:00
Thank you, Kobe.
Britt Hawthorne 24:02
Thank you, Kobe. And you're right. They are already ahead of us. And so sometimes it's okay. Just to tell your child Hey, you're ahead of me right now. And I would love if you can bring me on your journey, right? It's a great way to build connection with your child to right if pronouns are newer to you, or disability is newer to you that that work that you can say like, this is what I know. I wonder if there's anything in there that I need to unlearn. And oh boy, if you have a teenager they will
Casey O'Roarty 24:31
tell you? Oh, yes, they will. Yes, they will.
Unknown Speaker 24:38
Hey, it's Amy Lang birds and bees and kids. Casey and I are doing something super fun. Starting on November 1, we are doing a series called Talking with teens about S E. X. This is what we're going to cover. I'm just going to keep it quick and clean. And Casey will say more I know because she has lots of really good things to say about everything. The first session is going to be about what teens need to know, ASAP. So if you are behind, if you haven't even started, I'm going to help you know what to do what to say help you show up for them, regardless of your comfort level, and to make sure they are as prepared as they can be for this important part of life. second session, it's called the new world of gender and sexual orientation. I'm pretty sure you have noticed that things are different thing when you were a kid around gender and sexual orientation, our kids are so much more open have so much more information, I'm sure you know, someone who is exploring their gender and sexual orientation. And so your job as a trustworthy adult is to be right there for him to support him. So we'll be talking about that. And then finally, the last session, it's the porn talks, you have to talk with them about porn. I know you don't want to, but you need to they need you. They are going to see porn, they're going to use porn, they're going to know people are seeing it and using it, it is a fact of teen life. And the best thing you can do is help them understand what it is help them navigate it, and how to support them if they're having a problem with it. Anyway, please, please join us it's going to be really great and informative. And if you're feeling like you do not know what to do with your teen, when it comes to talking to them about sex, I can help you feel so much better and confident and have a plan and really help them at the end of the day. We all want our kids to be healthy and happy and safe and have successful romantic and sexual relationships. Even if you don't really want to think about it. You know, at the end of the day, that's what you really want for them. All right, join us. It's gonna be fun.
Casey O'Roarty 26:41
Yes, join us, we are so excited to be offering this up to the joyful courage community, you can find more information and get enrolled at biesbosch audible.com/sex. Talks, Bs browsable.com/sex talks, this is where you can get some more information and register for this program. If the dates and times don't work for you Don't worry, every session is going to be recorded so that you can refer to it when it's most convenient for you. All right, go check it out.
I do love that about your book. There are so many scripts for different scenarios. Can I give you another one that stumps me sometimes, I already feel like I know, I have an idea of what your response is going to be. And I'm excited for you to expand on it. So, you know, my kids and I, we go to protests, we've been to protests, we went to Black Lives Matter rally in the summer of 2020, wear our masks, and stood with community members and I look for those opportunities. And so, you know, when we talk about police violence, and I've got one kid who's very emotional, and she reminds she's a lot like me, when I get in conversations with my parent with my dad, especially like he's quoting the economist, and I'm bursting into tears, you know, not really able to, like come with facts, but I got I have the emotion and I'm hurting. And it feels really dismissive. And so but now that I'm in the opposite place of being the parent of this highly emotional, but it's not right or you're wrong, but not really being able to speak in a way like I watch her with her brother. And I'm like, you know, you're not going to be received if you're coming at him telling him how he's wrong. Right. And so anyway, we have lots of conversations and one of the interests and then my son is more like he stays really even keeled. And you know, he and that just that dynamic alone is really interesting and traumatizing some types. thing to witness. I shouldn't say traumatizing, that is a misuse of that word. But as a parent, it's like, okay, like, neither of you are listening to each other. One of the things that comes up is around police brutality. And when the news shows up, that there's yet another black man being shot by white police officers. And then the background story around who that person is, in the media does this too, right? Justifying? Well, he was on drugs, or he they thought he had a gun or like all of these things. And sometimes, you know, like, well, they ran or they didn't just do what they're supposed to do. And so, again, I'm hearing you and my voice blaming the individual versus the system. Do you have any tips around navigating the conversation around police brutality of black people specifically, in a way that doesn't demonize the person that has been unjustly killed? Yeah,
Britt Hawthorne 29:51
so for us, this is really interesting. I remember the first time we had a conversation around police brutality Kobe was awful. We're, and I was not prepared for the conversation at all. I thought we had more time, we went to a Social Justice Conference. And at the conference, they had a memorial and interactive memorial for falando. Castile. And they had his photo there, and they had art supplies. And so, four year olds gravitate to art supplies, and he goes over there. And he starts drawing a picture. And he keeps looking at this frame photo of Philando. And so eventually, I start responding with curiosity. You know, hey, Kobe, do you know who this is? And he said, Jesus, and I said, Oh, no, his name is Philip steel. And I said, Do you know what happened to them? Because they also kind of want to know, as you heard something or pick something up. And Kobe said that the police kill him. That really caught me by surprise, because we had never had an explicit conversation about police brutality with Kobe. And I said, Yes, they did. And he asked me why. And I said, really, for no reason. There's never a reason that's justifiable. And so then he went ahead, he drew an eagle hoping that it would fly up to fully Endo. And we were able to donate it to his family. But a few things that is really important in our household that we get across to our children. And that goes for police. It goes for prisons, it goes for ice, is that we want to not only defund all of those organizations, but eventually we want to abolish those organizations. In our household, we believe in strong communities and thriving communities. And we don't believe that those three institutions or systems that have been created over time contribute to thriving communities. And so we like to focus a lot of our conversations on what is it that a community does need so that the people can thrive, they can work, play exist and succeed to their fullest potential. And so we talk a lot about what is funding a community look like through parks, recreation, youth programs, summer programs, children should know how to swim, they should know how to ride a bike if they so choose. So right, we talk about the importance of public libraries, and that they can be cooling stations, heating stations, they provide access to internet, we talk about the role that schools, particularly public schools can play in educating a population. And so when conversations start to go down about police brutality, it's important that families know what is it that they believe, right? So we can say, we believe that please do not keep us safe. That's our one liner, so that we don't get caught into the weeds, right? Anytime we get caught in the weeds. My husband and I were like, I think we're in the weeds get out of the weeds get out of the weeds, right? And what can happen when you're in a conversation with a loved one like your dad, we can also isolate what someone says, right? And isolation looks like hanging on to one little fact that maybe you said wrong or you got wrong, or that they did do right. Do you hang on to that. And so it can be really powerful, especially if your child identifies as highly sensitive, like I consider myself a highly sensitive person, that I can say, you know, what, you're isolating what I'm saying? And are you listening to the big picture? Right, and the big picture is, we want to create a community for our children that people can thrive. And what is that going to take? And so if we defund those institutions, and we reinvest or reallocate those funds to mental health, right, that we can reallocate them to programs that are free, affordable, accessible for folks, then that is what is going to create a thriving community. And in fact, certain suburbs in the United States have done that. So it's not like a magical place or a fantasy that, you know, liberals are leftist, or, you know, any kind of group that sometimes will socialists kind of will say, like, Oh, you just want to create a fantasy. We do have models of what thriving communities can look like. And then we have models of what divestment looks like. And where we have huge divestment and public services. We oftentimes have a really huge police bill. I'm not police bill, but a police budget. And so that helps having those conversations about systems is that I'm not getting into the weeds about an individual police officer, but it's an entire system in which our taxes fund and is this the best use of funding taxes.