This mom's tweet thread about playground racism went viral because parents need to hear it.

Writer slash mom Mathangi Subramanian recently witnessed some playground discrimination. Even more disturbing than the words that were thrown around by the children is the fact that their parents turned a blind eye to it.

“Still processing this, but two days ago, two blonde girls at the playground told my daughter she couldn't play with them because she doesn't have blonde hair,” Subramanian explained in a multi-tweet post. “The girls' parents did not intervene. You better believe I did.”

Her message to the children was blunt and to the point, yet totally reasonable. She didn’t attempt to “school them,” but carefully explained that excluding others is never cool. “I told the blonde kids at the playground that they can't exclude people,” she continued. “I did it calmly and politely, while their parents watched.” Um, yeah. They just watched. And said nothing.


After the incident, Subramanian had a heart-to-heart with her daughter about race and discrimination, revealing on Twitter that this was sadly not the first time her little girl had experienced exclusion because of her skin color. She points out that it isn’t really fair that she is forced to have these sorts of conversations all of the time while white parents have the privilege of avoiding it.

“Parents of color talk about race with our kids all the time. We have no choice. It’s there, everywhere, and can’t avoid it.”

The bottom line is that as a parent, your job is to, well, parent. By promptly addressing the situation, the blonde moms could have taught their children an important lesson. “They should've said something. ‘My daughter was watching. Their daughters were watching,’” she tweeted. White parents: TALK TO YOUR KIDS ABOUT RACE. I know it's uncomfortable. But the rest of us do it all the time. We need you to do it too.”

Kids are not colorblind, but it is our responsibility to raise them with the understanding that skin tone doesn’t really matter.

As a mother, I have occasionally found myself in the position where I knew I needed to address race with my children. Despite the fact that we live in Philadelphia, one of the most racially diverse cities in the country, and that my kids have friends of every skin shade imaginable, they still say things that make me cringe a bit. They notice that other people don’t look the same as them — whether that has to do with skin color or missing body parts or if they have a penis or vagina. They are just figuring things out, and since kids rarely have a filter, that means they say what they’re thinking. Out loud.

When they’ve unknowingly said things that could come across as ignorant, I have immediately corrected them. Because that is my job. “You treat people equally, no matter what,” I have explained. “Never exclude others.”

The bottom line is: whether we are talking about race, nutrition, manners or hygiene, we can’t expect kids to just “know better.” It is our job to teach them right from wrong. It is our job to explain why differences aren’t a reason to treat people differently. If we, as parents, don’t guide them through social and racial awareness, how can we ever expect racism to dissolve for good?

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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!

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This article originally appeared on 03.19.15


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