5 ways to talk to your kids about race that can help make the future brighter.

PBS did a poll about the state of race relations in America. What they discovered wasn't too surprising.

We have some work to do when it comes to race relations. Photo from PBS NewsHour, used with permission.

It seems most people, regardless of skin color, think we can do better.  Taeku Lee thinks so too. He's a professor of political science and law at the University of California at Berkeley. Other than being a ridiculously brilliant dude, he spent years studying race relations and is one of the most respected thought leaders in that arena. 


Here are five things Lee suggests to raise racially conscious children.

1. Focus on teaching empathy. If you can imagine yourself in the shoes of a another person, your kids will too.

As parents, it's up to us to set the example of empathizing with others, and it's easier than we may think. When we teach our kids to share and to take turns and when we model that behavior ourselves, that teaches them empathy. They'll learn it by watching us.

We could probably start and end with that. If we all treated others the way we wanted to be treated, the world would improve instantly.

Classy kids. GIF via KBSEntertain/YouTube

Lee said in an interview with Upworthy, "By teaching children the simple acts of sharing and taking turns, they will learn to see the world through the eyes of someone else. When children develop into adults who value dignity and respect, they will better understand these as universal values if they first have moral foundations in the value of empathy."

When we have empathy for other human beings and recognize the value of their unique experiences, things tend to go better. 

Just ask a former white supremacist

2. Talk to your kids before everyone else does. Ask them lots of questions and encourage them to do the same. If you remain open-minded, your kid will too.

Stop me if you've heard this before, but parenting is hard.

Many of us are overworked and overtired and adding the "race relations talk" to our endless to-do list isn't exactly something we look forward to doing.

GIF from "Old School."

But, if we don't suck it up and have the racism talk with our kids, even if we reeeeealllly don't want to, Lee is quick to point out that someone else will: 

 "Children are endlessly curious and coming to their views about how to read and represent race. Left alone, there are enormous everyday forces — in the entertainment our children consume and in seemingly innocuous classroom and playroom interactions — where implicit biases begin to set their roots."

What happens if we wait too long to have the discussion with our kiddos about race and we start seeing them displaying those biases? 

Lee states, "One of the most powerful ways to counter implicit biases is to call them out, question the unconscious associations we make about what and who is 'good' or 'bad,' and by doing so, take a fresh new look at things. From this standpoint, parents should talk about race with an open mind to learning from their children as much as they convey learning to their children."

3. Words are great, but if you tell your kids one thing, you better make sure your actions reflect what you've told them. In other words, you gotta practice what you preach.

Kids are smart and extremely observant. Just as easily as we notice the not-so-pleasant aroma of a blowout diaper, our little ones notice when our words and our actions don't jibe. 

According to Lee, "Children are frighteningly good at picking up cues that you don’t even know you are giving. It's one thing to discuss all the reasons why you should not judge, hate, celebrate, respect, but those reasons go deeper when they are embodied in your actions. It's not just about explicit things, like using epithets to describe groups or publicly voicing negative stereotypes, but also subtler things, like reacting to microaggressions."

From the mouth of babes. GIF from "Modern Family."

Put simply, it's easy to refrain from saying really horrible things. It's more challenging to stop the seemingly innocuous comments (known as microaggressions) that our kids could pick up on. 

"Well, you definitely don't act black."

"C'mon, you're Asian, you must be good at math."

"Puerto Rican, Mexican — you know what I mean." 

Be warned. Our kids are always watching and listening. 

4. Venture out of your 'hood and expose your kids to different people and places.

According to the Pew Research Center, close to 40% of Americans have never moved away from their hometowns. 

It makes it pretty challenging for kids to learn about different cultures if they rarely leave the comfort zone of their neighborhoods. 

There's a beautiful world out there. Experience it. Image from the Daddy Doin' Work Instagram feed.

How do you expose your kids to other cultures and races and tradition if you don't have the budget, time, or patience to travel the globe with your kids? 

Take advantage of the things in and around your community that will help your kids experience things outside their comfort zone. 

"That could be anything from spending a weekend afternoon at a neighborhood flea market or going with your children to a Black Lives Matter protest or walking around an 'ethnic enclave.' Experiencing difference is much more powerful than just reading or talking about it. One of the enduring conditions under which genuine learning about the 'other' happens is through deep, meaningful interactions and experiences with other groups," says Lee.

You don't have to travel the globe to get beyond your community and introduce kids to things they don't normally see on an average day. 

5. Help your kids learn how to identify racism, and teach them how to deal with it when they see it.

This is huge.

Teaching our kids to be "colorblind" or to not "see" race can be detrimental because it makes it harder for them to identify discrimination when it does happen.

Instead of raising our kids — regardless of what race they are — to see colorblindness as a solution to racism and discrimination, we need to teach them how to identify it when it happens and how to appropriately address it when they see it.

Should they tell a teacher or should they wait and tell you about it when they get home from school? Should they try to stop a bully themselves or should they find the person being bullied and offer them a hug?

Riley Curry requesting wisdom from her amazing dad.

There are no simple answers. However, there are some resources to help you have those talks

In the meantime, we'd love to know, what are you doing to help guide your kids down a better path? Let us know on Twitter and Facebook.

True

When Sue Hoppin was in college, she met the man she was going to marry. "I was attending the University of Denver, and he was at the Air Force Academy," she says. "My dad had also attended the University of Denver and warned me not to date those flyboys from the Springs."

"He didn't say anything about marrying one of them," she says. And so began her life as a military spouse.

The life brings some real advantages, like opportunities to live abroad — her family got to live all around the US, Japan, and Germany — but it also comes with some downsides, like having to put your spouse's career over your own goals.

"Though we choose to marry someone in the military, we had career goals before we got married, and those didn't just disappear."

Career aspirations become more difficult to achieve, and progress comes with lots of starts and stops. After experiencing these unique challenges firsthand, Sue founded an organization to help other military spouses in similar situations.

Sue had gotten a degree in international relations because she wanted to pursue a career in diplomacy, but for fourteen years she wasn't able to make any headway — not until they moved back to the DC area. "Eighteen months later, many rejections later, it became apparent that this was going to be more challenging than I could ever imagine," she says.

Eighteen months is halfway through a typical assignment, and by then, most spouses are looking for their next assignment. "If I couldn't find a job in my own 'hometown' with multiple degrees and a great network, this didn't bode well for other military spouses," she says.

She's not wrong. Military spouses spend most of their lives moving with their partners, which means they're often far from family and other support networks. When they do find a job, they often make less than their civilian counterparts — and they're more likely to experience underemployment or unemployment. In fact, on some deployments, spouses are not even allowed to work.

Before the pandemic, military spouse unemployment was 22%. Since the pandemic, it's expected to rise to 35%.

Sue eventually found a job working at a military-focused nonprofit, and it helped her get the experience she needed to create her own dedicated military spouse program. She wrote a book and started saving up enough money to start the National Military Spouse Network (NMSN), which she founded in 2010 as the first organization of its kind.

"I founded the NMSN to help professional military spouses develop flexible careers they could perform from any location."

"Over the years, the program has expanded to include a free digital magazine, professional development events, drafting annual White Papers and organizing national and local advocacy to address the issues of most concern to the professional military spouse community," she says.

Not only was NMSN's mission important to Sue on a personal level she also saw it as part of something bigger than herself.

"Gone are the days when families can thrive on one salary. Like everyone else, most military families rely on two salaries to make ends meet. If a military spouse wants or needs to work, they should be able to," she says.

"When less than one percent of our population serves in the military," she continues, "we need to be able to not only recruit the best and the brightest but also retain them."

"We lose out as a nation when service members leave the force because their spouse is unable to find employment. We see it as a national security issue."

"The NMSN team has worked tirelessly to jumpstart the discussion and keep the challenges affecting military spouses top of mind. We have elevated the conversation to Congress and the White House," she continues. "I'm so proud of the fact that corporations, the government, and the general public are increasingly interested in the issues affecting military spouses and recognizing the employment roadblocks they unfairly have faced."

"We have collectively made other people care, and in doing so, we elevated the issues of military spouse unemployment to a national and global level," she adds. "In the process, we've also empowered military spouses to advocate for themselves and our community so that military spouse employment issues can continue to remain at the forefront."

Not only has NMSN become a sought-after leader in the military spouse employment space, but Sue has also seen the career she dreamed of materializing for herself. She was recently invited to participate in the public re-launch of Joining Forces, a White House initiative supporting military and veteran families, with First Lady Dr. Jill Biden.

She has also had two of her recommendations for practical solutions introduced into legislation just this year. She was the first in the Air Force community to show leadership the power of social media to reach both their airmen and their military families.

That is why Sue is one of Tory Burch's "Empowered Women" this year. The $5,000 donation will be going to The Madeira School, a school that Sue herself attended when she was in high school because, she says, "the lessons I learned there as a student pretty much set the tone for my personal and professional life. It's so meaningful to know that the donation will go towards making a Madeira education more accessible to those who may not otherwise be able to afford it and providing them with a life-changing opportunity."

Most military children will move one to three times during high school so having a continuous four-year experience at one high school can be an important gift. After traveling for much of her formative years, Sue attended Madeira and found herself "in an environment that fostered confidence and empowerment. As young women, we were expected to have a voice and advocate not just for ourselves, but for those around us."

To learn more about Tory Burch and Upworthy's Empowered Women program visit https://www.toryburch.com/empoweredwomen/. Nominate an inspiring woman in your community today!

Screenshots via @castrowas95/Twitter

In the Pacific Northwest, orca sightings are a fairly common occurrence. Still, tourists and locals alike marvel when a pod of "sea pandas" swim by, whipping out their phones to capture some of nature's most beautiful and intelligent creatures in their natural habitat.

While orcas aren't a threat to humans, there's a reason they're called "killer whales." To their prey, which includes just about everything that swims except humans, they are terrifying apex predators who hunt in packs and will even coordinate to attack whales several times their own size.

So if you're a human alone on a little platform boat, and a sea lion that a group of orcas was eyeing for lunch jumps onto your boat, you might feel a little wary. Especially when those orcas don't just swim on by, but surround you head-on.

Watch exactly that scenario play out (language warning, if you've got wee ones you don't want f-bombed):

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