As a white mom of two preschool aged multiracial kids, I find myself bracing for the holiday season. We celebrate Thanksgiving and Christmas in our home in a big way. They offer an amazingly fun time with our larger families and, best of all for the kids, great food and gifts!
Yet, both holidays focus, largely, on white skinned characters and people in the media – in stores, in books, in movies and, really, everywhere you look.Thanksgiving takes a very complicated Native and Colonial history and distills it into something, well, far too simple that celebrates our nations colonial history without fully explaining the pain and complexity of that history. And commercial Christmas is filled with a very white Santa Claus, and his very white elf friends as dominant images everywhere.
Given all of that, we struggle to find a way to normalize what is normal – people of all colors and many cultures celebrating the holidays with gusto and joy or with complexity or pain. To help us recalibrate, we fill our library with any books we can find that feature kids of color celebrating the holidays (there are not a lot). We avoid watching people centered holiday movies as we haven’t found any with kids of color prominently featured in them, and instead look to animated movies that feature animals.
We spend a lot of time before Thanksgiving learning about Native culture through Native children’s books and talking about the rich and amazing history of Native Americans. We talk too about how the Native Americans may not have been too happy to break bread with Columbus and his crew and how lucky we are that they were willing to share their knowledge and time with them in their beautiful country. Yet, I’m struck that our children know the name Christopher Columbus but can’t remember the names of any Native American Tribes or Native American Chiefs.
We use Christmas as a time to add to representation of black and mixed race kids in books, toys and clothing. We do an audit of sorts and see where their desires (a garbage truck!) meet our goal for representation (a garbage truck with a black woman driver!). Last year there was a Black Santa at the mall. He was so busy we couldn’t even see him. But, it peaked our then three year old’s interest – could Santa be browned skinned like her? This year, though, she told me, confidently, “Mom, Santa is white skinned. The brown skinned Santa must have been a white skinned Santa that got sunburned or had all his freckles grow together.”
So, it’s time to admit – we haven’t navigating around the celebration of whiteness very well. Our kids are consuming all that they see and hear. And maybe our ways of pushing back aren’t strong enough?
Do you try to push back against the mostly white centric holidays? What are some traditions, activities, conversations, books, movies, anything, that help you and your multiracial family navigate the focus on mostly white characters during the next few months? What are things you want to try?