The Race Conversation

photo of woman and girl talking while lying on bed
Photo by Ketut Subiyanto on

“What is the meaning of race?”

My elbows are flat against the kitchen island, my face level with my girls.


“Bring children up?”

The twins come up with every possible meaning but the one I was curious to know what they knew. We drank our kaapi, set Laddu up so she could Facetime her cousin, and locked the door behind us as we stepped out into the early evening sun.

The three of us stood in a triangle on our driveway, squinting.

“How many kids have black skin in your class?”

“Not many”

“How many brown-skinned?”

“A few”

“What are stereotypes?”

The conversation warmed up to race. We stood there, the three of us talking about skin color, about stereotypes, and eventually the horrifying details of Mr. Floyd’s death. I took the time to sketch out semi-graphic details so the cruelty of the act would register. It did.

We started with slavery. We spoke about emancipation. We spoke about the people who lead the country today. The children made connections to the shows they watch.

“The last Airbender never kills anyone even if he could.”

“Race is like colors on a rainbow, all equal, all beautiful.”

Mostly, we just spoke, mother to daughters, daughters to mother. We had an honest, hard conversation on how through the middle school they might see and hear things that are not okay. We talked about how in the not too distant future, they will see their black friends treated not the same as them. We talked about how their sister will not be viewed the same as them but how it was different from being black.

We talked about our last name and a similar history of persecution that it carries. I talked about India and how things were similar but different. We agreed that treating people differently because of skin color or to whom they were born was not cool. It just was not done.

“I want to grow up and be a cop so I can protect my brown and black friends.”

“I will stand up for my friends.”

The words ring in the air, empty and true to its childlike optimism.

We walked around the development, Pattu and I, talking about bravery and courage and protest and civil rights. It may not have accomplished a whole lot but it made me feel a little better.

There has been an enormous sense of hopelessness and grief that has been weighing me down this week. These conversations as pointless as they seem to be, give me an out, a way of channeling those feelings and hopefully making impressions on children who have their lives ahead of them.

Talk to your children. Even if we cannot change the present, we stand a chance of changing the future.

2 thoughts on “The Race Conversation

  1. I had a similar conversation just now with the son Laksh. We came back from our stroll righteously angry that this happening, but feeling that talking about it may bring about an awareness, and that awareness one day will translate into justice.

  2. We’ve been talking about race a lot at our home too. About privilege. With me being white, my husband Hispanic, and our kids conveniently a mix of the two, we have very interesting race conversations. I LOVE learning about new cultures. I LOVED learning my husband’s family culture, and about the larger Hispanic culture. So we talk about how sometimes my kids will be treated differently. Mostly we talk about how they can “get away with” being “white” and therefore have a privilege they didn’t earn or work for. I think it is so important to just keep talking – and loving our own culture as well as others. Let’s see color, and celebrate it just as gleefully as we celebrate the colors of a rainbow.

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