Talking about Race with Kids

Today I had the pleasure of chatting with Kyle Boyer about kids and race relations. I am eternally grateful that he took time out of his busy day since he is running for State Senator and today is our Election Day.

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Kyle J. Boyer is an educator, minister, and a life-long resident of Chester County. His work has intersected public education, the faith community, and public policy. He has taught various subjects at the middle and high school levels. 

Kyle is a member of the Tredyffrin/Easttown Board of School Directors, chairing the Policy Committee and serving as liaison to the Pennsylvania School Boards Association. As president of the West Chester, PA NAACP, Kyle has championed the cause of civic engagement and advocated for marginalized individuals throughout Chester County. Since 2010 he has been an associate elder at his lifelong church, the Mt. Carmel Church of God in Christ in West Chester, PA serving for eight years as a youth pastor, and chairing the first strategic planning initiative. 

Books and Resources for Parents to talk about Race Relations.

Here are some of the books Kyle mentioned as well as some that my page followers suggested. Please know that I have not vetted any of them (yet) in the essence of time. I wanted to get this published for Blackout Tuesday.

Books Mentioned During our Chat

The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness, 10th Anniversary Edition
15,804 Reviews
The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness, 10th Anniversary Edition
  • Audible Audiobook
  • Michelle Alexander (Author) - Karen Chilton (Narrator)
  • English (Publication Language)
  • 04/03/2012 (Publication Date) - Recorded Books (Publisher)
Stamped from the Beginning: The Definitive History of Racist Ideas in America
12,644 Reviews
Stamped from the Beginning: The Definitive History of Racist Ideas in America
  • Audible Audiobook
  • Ibram X. Kendi (Author) - Christopher Dontrell Piper (Narrator)
  • English (Publication Language)
  • 02/01/2017 (Publication Date) - Novel Audio (Publisher)

Talking about Race

Here is the transcription of today’s chat for the hearing impaired.

LL: All right. We are on, welcome everybody. I want to go ahead and get started on time today because, Kyle has so graciously agreed to appear, and I know this is a very busy day for him. it’s election day. And so if you live near me and the Pennsylvania state Senate district 19, and you haven’t already voted, you have five more hours to

KB: What municipality are you in Again

LL: I live in Avondale borough.

KB: Okay. I’m out here in Oxford right now. Sorry,

LL: You’re an Oxford. Okay. So he’s in Oxford, if you want to go say hi, I’m at one of the precincts there. but we wanted to have a quick chat about kids and race. And the reason that I invited Kyle is that, first of all, he, you know, when you think about, should I invite a minister to come speak or a teacher to come speak or a school board member to speak he just checks all the boxes, including being president of, a chapter, a local chapter, the Westchester West Chester chapter of the NAACP. So, that’s why I have him here today. If you want to ask the question, go ahead and type it on the right hand side and B or type it as a comment and we’ll see it on our right hand side. but Kyle, I just want to ask you for people like me, and I’m just a middle aged mom sitting at home in a quarantine, you know, watching all this. And all I can think of is that, you know, this is not the world I want to live in. This is not the world. I want my kids to grow up in. What can we do

LL: All right. Well, I like leading with that question. It’s a, it’s a big question. The first thing is seek to have greater understanding of one’s own privilege and one’s own place in the issue. And I’m not going to say place in the problem. We know it’s a problem, but placing the issue because a lot of the times, and, these to find teenagers that are volunteering with me today and being my incredible helpers, they, they witnessed, we have a conversation with, you know, a pastor and we would just talk to him about our various perspectives. And it was a challenging conversation for a couple of minutes. And that’s not why I’m out here in Oxford, but what I’ve learned through my experiences is, that’s why I’m here among other things is to lean into sometimes the difficult conversation and to do it in a difficult way.

KB: And I like to think that’s one of the reasons, according to the testimony of some folks coming out of the polls, it’s one of the reasons some individuals are voting for me is because I believe that there is a way to engage in the difficult work and, and still respect one another. But really going back to the crux of your question, we have to understand where we are and our privilege, all of us come to issues from a perspective as a black man in America, I have a certain perspective. I know what it is to be racially profiled. I understand what it is to have the mother sit you down and give you the talk before you start driving. though that is a, a burden that is a part of life in the United States. So that’s my perspective. And for those who have not examined their perspective in their privilege, they won’t understand it. So a self examination is the very first thing practically after that, you can join and become a member of the NAACP or join some sort of civil rights organization. But if you haven’t examined your own privilege, you’re going to bring your privilege to that organization and continue to do damage. So I would really say as philosophical as it sounds, the first level is to seek an understanding of oneself and one’s privilege and then move.

LL: So how do we, I know that I’m sure, you know, there are decades of ingrained, you know, even though right now, I can say, as I sit here, my heart is in the right place. I know that there are ingrained biases. And just like, you know, as you know, I have a disabled child and just like when people are really well-intended and I know they truly care about Kevin, they say the wrong thing. I don’t ever want to scare people off from caring because they’re afraid to say that say or do the wrong thing. And that’s kind of the way I feel about this issue. Like, I, I feel like I’m frozen into inactivity cause I’m afraid of saying or doing the wrong thing because of things I don’t know, because I don’t know, like, I, it’s that whole, you don’t know what you don’t know. And I don’t know what I don’t know.

KB: Yeah, yeah. Learning, I’m glad you said that. I know at home I have a library of, critical conversations and, Michelle, Alexander’s the new Jim Crow and, stamped from the beginning and a bunch of other books that, that helps anybody understand, race and class issues more. But I liked that you, you mentioned your son because, you know, one thing that happened happens often is we get into this sort of like oppression Olympics. So it happens among, you know, groups talking about race and groups, talking about, sexuality and gender issues and groups talking about disability issues, any sort of marginalized or oppressed population. We can still get into this. What, what some of us call the depression, the Oppression Olympics. And I know if you invited me into a conversation, Lisa, which, you know, I think you kind of have through the things we posted and do our conversations.

KB: If you invite me into a conversation about disability issues, one of the worst things for me to do is say, well, you know, with race, no, the conversation at that time is about disability issues. And that’s what we’re there to talk about. That’s the population we’re there to lift up and esteem. And what so often happens in America is when there is an elevation of the race conversation, it’s like, yeah, well, you know, as a this I’ve experienced that when I was 17 in Brooklyn, this happened. It’s like, no, you know, this is what we’re talking about. Let’s deal with his issue and not get into the comparison, the quantification, all that kind of stuff. That’s a part of it too, staying focused and really challenging oneself to listen and to, to learn, to read, to examine, to study.

LL: So if we were still back in school, what would you be talking to your students about this week?

LL: I would be doing one by one. I would be doing more listening than anything else because I’ve taught in different environments a bit. How are you good I’ve been blessed to teach different populations? I’ve taught classrooms with a majority of African American students. I’ve taught classrooms with majority Hispanic students, majority-white students. And I’ve loved all of them, urban, suburban high school, middle that I guys already social studies. I would first listen and I would let them see the world right structured, let them see what’s happening. Most of them already know, but let them see what’s happening and we’d have conversations. one of the worst things that teachers can do is proselytize. And I’ve never done that. But to this day, some of the best comments I get from former students, particularly white students, Mr. Boyer, I love that you exposed me to, because you made me think about….. And not, “You told me not, you said, this is what black men think I don’t do that,” but I’ve always invited students regardless of race into a conversation. And, I think that’s the way the most learning happens. It’s sort of this discovery. They begin to see, you know what I have, privilege, that person lacks privilege, this person has experienced and continues to experience this type of oppression. That’s kind of what I like as a teacher, social studies, I am finishing a year in math, so it’s a little different, but there are opportunities, even, even if you structure it the right way.

LL: Okay. so I mean, I know I have, we all have things to learn from each other. Is that kind of the advice right now That, I mean, just because I am an advocate and a lobbyist by nature, it’s not my nature to sit silent. It’s, I’m a doer, but you’re saying to just,

KB: You just told me I was awesome and he’s a Republican, that’s it tell you, you know, it when you speak the truth and you stand and you approach it the right way, you, you invite people. I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to interrupt.

LL: No, no, that’s all right. so are you saying right now, as, as for those of us who are activist-minded and we’re doers and we like to do things we like to help, but you’re saying just right now, sick sit and listen and learn? And that’s really,

KB: I don’t want to make a false, a false dichotomy there. You can definitely attend the rallies and, and peacefully, and demonstrate you can also support, honorable police at the same time and make sure that they know, you know, that you want them to be protected. I mean, when these things aren’t mutually exclusive, but, I think for some people there’s always this sense to like, do sometimes doing is just being an ally and just, what are you, what are you doing I see you all as an oppressed group. What, what can I do ask there is a local chapter of the NAACP, wherever you live, whoever’s watching seek out, seek out the leadership and ask that the faith community is still very important. regardless of what it is, seek out one of, one of your local churches with a predominantly African American membership and ask the pastor, how can I, how can I partner What can I do to support I think right now they are very affirming actions and you can go back into your space and do certain things too, but I’m seeking ways to learn into affirming at the same time that they’re not mutually exclusive.

LL: Okay. Well, listen, I know you’re crazy busy and you’re trying to get votes. So,

KB: And if you got one, I think one more.

LL: Okay. does anybody have a question they want to ask while, I’m sorry, I’m scrolling through, a question for Kyle about your kids? I guess also then as a white mother, how do, how, you know, I don’t have your lived experiences and you don’t have mine. So how do I talk to, you know, I’ve tried explaining my 11-year-old when he saw all this stuff on the news. He said, yeah, yeah, I get it. It’s because of George Floyd. and I said, well, it’s not really just about George Floyd. and I kind of went into that a little bit, but what he’s learning is basically from the NBA and NFL players that he follows. Cause he follows a lot of them on Instagram, but what, what should we be telling our kids are And I’m talking about not ones that we want to form their thoughts, but little are ones who truly need an explanation of, Hey, you know, this, the city of Philadelphia is shut down, mom, like, should I be concerned And there’s one, Oh, how did discuss it with those who have literal thinking?

KB: Ooh, That’s, that’s hard. it’s hard in any context, it’s hard as a teacher to teach a kid who’s who, because of what they’ve experienced and because of how they’ve been conditioned thinks one way that that question is very difficult, but I think the two are tied together. This is one thing that is difficult to Wade through because I don’t have children in my own as much as I think I’ve been a father figure to many, I’ve got kids. I have a little cousin who’s whose ear of many kids who look up to me. I don’t necessarily bear the burden of the parent, but I feel like maybe if, if I were a white parent with a little kid, I might first assess, cause you always want to assess, you know, and sometimes the assessment is just the comment they bring to you, right And say, you know, sometimes honey in the world, there are in America, in our country, in our neighborhood, there are sometimes people who are treated differently just because of the color of their skin.

KB: That’s simple. And that is not, that is not right. You know, I heard you say form their thinking. Sometimes there has to be some sort of, for me, we have the racism is learned, you know, the discrimination, prejudice, bias. That’s learned in kids. They aren’t born thinking that Johnny is different because Johnny is black or white. It is a, it is a formed sort of thing. So I said that to say, and I do have to go now. Cause there, there was another meeting I would say dis discern a certain truth that you can tell your kid in the way of formation because we do teach our kids, things, flush the toilet after you’re done. It’s not an exception. You know, I’m not, not debating whether or not I’m going to fork your opinion. I don’t want to come in and see the little bloated wash your hands and under normal circumstances where I’m asked in public, it’s not a debate. I’m trying to form your opinion. This is a value. It has to be a value that in our family, whether that be because we, it’s our faith, or because that’s our values. However, you form it. We treat people right. Regardless, not, we’ve not this fake. We don’t see a color thing. Everybody looking at your screens sees a Brown face. So I don’t want to, I don’t want to pretend to not see color. No we do. But we treat people right. Regardless of the color. That’s, that’s the value that that should be formed.

LL: Okay. All right. Well, since you have to go, I’m good luck today. Unfortunately, we’re not going to have our results for a week. Right, We better get ours. Oh, Governor Wolf said he was giving a week to count mail and ballots.

KB: I think it just those six, six counties, Philly, Erie, Delaware. it may be Burke’s but it’s only six counties, not Chester. So get those mail-in ballots to vote or services before eight o’clock.

LL: Okay. That’s it. Thank you so much. Bye bye. Bye.

LL: Okay. I’m going to stay on for just another minute or two because I had some, I see some questions about literal thinkers and you know, autism, obviously, little more literal thinking, kids on the spectrum, I’m going to try to dig up a list of resources and books, in, you know, books about racism and discrimination and books about, you know, just books about this, but particularly those written by black authors. because I think that’s something that needs to kind of get out there. So I will be transcribing this as I always do and sending it out. And that’s it. I’m sorry. I couldn’t be longer. Sorry. It was only 15 minutes today, but again, it’s election day and he’s out, out campaigning. So just another reminder, if you are in Washington, DC, Indiana, Iowa, Maryland, Montana, New Mexico, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, South Dakota, and Delaware. Those are the States that have your primary today. So please go out and vote. Okay. Thank you so much.

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