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Season Finale! Friends reflect on their race and kids journeys as caregivers
Episode 725th March 2024 • The Embrace Race Podcast • EmbraceRace
00:00:00 00:50:55

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On this last episode of Season 1, EmbraceRace co-founders and co-hosts Melissa Giraud and Andrew Grant-Thomas go back to where it all began. They invite a few friends and neighbors over - all parents, and one educator among them - to talk about their own learning journeys as caregivers trying to guide children around race back when EmbraceRace started in early 2016 vs. now. What have they all learned? How has parenting and caregiver changed in the intervening years? They gather with Farah Ameen, Khama Ennis and Dana Kadish (read more about them below!). We hope this episode inspires you to start your own kids and race support group! 

The EmbraceRace Podcast is an extension of the work of EmbraceRace, a community of support for caregivers, parents, educators, and other adults in the lives of kids who strive to be informed, thoughtful and brave about race so that their kids can be too. At EmbraceRace, we create and curate the tools, community spaces, and networks we all need to raise a generation of kids who are resilient, empathetic, critical thinkers on race and who are committed to racial justice. 


[door squeak open]

Andrew Grant-Thomas: Hey! Oh nice.

Melissa Giraud: Oh my goodness!

Dana Kadish: Hello! Hello. How are you?

Andrew Grant-Thomas: Nice to see you. Thanks for coming over.

Andrew Grant-Thomas: For the final episode of the season, we wanted to do something a little bit different. So back in Episode 1, we explained that we were inspired to start EmbraceRace in the first place because of experiences we had at our kids’ preschool. We were both on the school’s diversity committee. And while the committee would meet about school policy and, and school events, we always found the side conversations we were having about race and kids especially helpful, and we wanted to make space for them. That’s how we came to form EmbraceRace.

were launching EmbraceRace in:

Melissa Giraud: The conversations and community we’ve built locally have been so vital to our parenting that we decided to end this season there, where we started.

Andrew Grant-Thomas: Welcome to the EmbraceRace Podcast!

Melissa Giraud: A show about how to raise kids who are thoughtful, informed and brave about race.

Andrew Grant-Thomas: I'm Andrew Grant-Thomas, a Black man born in Jamaica on the 4th of July. I’m also a co-founder of Embrace Race and a dad raising two kids.

Melissa Giraud: I'm Melissa Giraud, a Black and white multiracial mom to those same two kids. I was born to a mom from Quebec and a dad from Dominica, and co-founded EmbraceRace with Andrew.

Andrew Grant-Thomas: For this episode, we are sitting down with some really good friends and neighbors who have been on the EmbraceRace journey with us. They are all parents – one of them is also an educator — and we’re having an unfiltered conversation about our efforts to guide kids around race.

Melissa Giraud: You’ll hear lots of kids and race stories. We’re going to talk about our parent and educator wins and fails – what we’ve learned and what we’re still trying to figure out. We share what gives us hope about today’s kids. And we invite you to join us and have your own get togethers.

Melissa Giraud: Hi, everybody.

Dana Kadish: Hi.

Khama Ennis: Hey.

Melissa Giraud: So glad you're here, and we brought all of you together because…

Khama Ennis: We're fun.

Melissa Giraud: Because you're fun. Because you're fun. Because you've…

Andrew Grant-Thomas: So before we jump into our conversation, some introductions. Sitting in our living room, we have three dear friends. To my immediate left, we have…

Dana Kadish: Yeah, my name is Dana Kadish and I identify as a Jewish white woman, and I've been in early childhood education for the last, gosh, like 28 years…

Melissa Giraud: We’ve known Dana for 12 years — she was the admissions director where we sent our kids to preschool. She has since become the co-head of that school. And it was there that we started having the group conversations that inspired us to create EmbraceRace.

Dana Kadish: I'm co-head of school for a small independent school that serves children ages three to 12. Um, and the essence of our mission is based on social and environmental justice. And that's where I met you.

Andrew Grant-Thomas: We know it well.

Melissa Giraud: Yeah, and very early on what we loved about the school and about Dana in particular introducing us to the school, was we asked, “What are you guys doing around race and identity?” And Dana said, “We're working on it. We have a lot to do. Come join us and do it.” Which wasn't what everybody said…

Dana Kadish: Mmmhmm…

Melissa Giraud: You know, a lot of people said, “Oh, we got that,” or “What do you mean? There are no issues.” Right, so the humility really mattered.

Dana Kadish: What's interesting is it's what, 12 years later, 11 years later, and we're still working on it. We're still working on it.

Melissa Giraud: Of course.

Dana Kadish: So that's just worth noting.

Melissa Giraud: Yeah. Yeah, yeah. Yeah.

Andrew Grant-Thomas: And to Dana’s left, we have Khama…

Khama Ennis: My name is Khama Ennis. I am a friend. We met at a, at a little shindig that another friend had to, when y’all first moved to the area. And I remembered one of my first things was like, oh my gosh, this is great. There's another Jamaican person here. I'm a Jamaican American immigrant. Though I grew up outside of Philadelphia, I still sort of claim all the cultures that I've had the privilege of being part of, though I did have some strong feelings when I learned that our younger daughters had the same name and I thought I had claimed the name Lena for Amherst. But you know, it's okay.

Andrew Grant-Thomas: Not are they both Lenas, but both b\Beans.

Khama Ennis: Both Beans, right?

Melissa Giraud: And the same age.

Dana Kadish: What?

Khama Ennis: Same age. Same grade. Yep.

Melissa Giraud: And now they go to the same regional middle school.

Andrew Grant-Thomas: There was a little tension to begin with, but we worked through it.

Khama Ennis: We, we worked through it. It was worth it, too.

Melissa Giraud: It was hard between us. But the kids liked each other.

Khama Ennis: They did. And they still do. My work has been in healthcare and medicine for the better part of forever. Um, as a physician in this community and, um, currently still a physician in this community, though no longer in the emergency department, which was my home for about 15, 20 years.

But now, uh, working in a different clinical area and also working on a project called Faces of Medicine to, you know, share the stories of Black female physicians and hopefully increase our numbers so that we can have an impact on health equity outcomes, which are not okay.

Melissa Giraud: Woo-hoo.

Andrew Grant-Thomas: And I do want to say, Khama mentioned, fellow Jamaican. So we were both born in Jamaica and both came to this country at an early age. And that, that moves my spirit. Right. That's like, that's my people right there. The cultural hybridity, the all of that stuff.

Melissa Giraud: Mm-Hmm. mm-Hmm.

Dana Kadish: Khama, how old were you?

Khama Ennis: Mmmm, I was, uh, almost three.

Dana Kadish: Okay. Little.

Khama Ennis: Very little, but it's…huge extended family.

Dana Kadish: Mmhmm.

Khama Ennis: In Jamaica. My mom is one of 11, my dad is one of 12. So I still have tons of cousins there and aunts and uncles and, you know, we went back every year or two when I was a kid.

Dana Kadish: Mmhmm.

Khama Ennis: So I very much feel like that's part of me and my kids do as well.

Dana Kadish: Mmhmm.

Khama Ennis: Which has been really, pretty awesome to see them develop that connection and own that, that place.

Andrew Grant-Thomas: And then last, but certainly not least, to Khama’s left, we have Farah.

Farah Ameen: I can't believe you didn't call me your people too. Andrew,

Andrew Grant-Thomas: You are my, you are my. Come on now…

Farah Ameen: All right. So my name is Farah Ameen and I am Bangladeshi American. I was born in Pakistan, grew up in India, lived in Bangladesh for a year and a half, and then came to the States when I was 22 or 23. And I've been here ever since. But I, um, somehow still call myself Bangladeshi.

How did I meet you guys? I met you actually, even though we had kids at Crocker Farm, the elementary school.

Farah Ameen: I met you through my husband, John uh, who's white. And I say that for a reason because we're gonna talk about race. Uh, when he was a trustee at the library and you came and there was an issue over where, about the Tin Tin comics at the library, which are now on a higher shelf. And then I guess we connected at the school and at the pool in the summer.

h Farah a little later around:

Andrew Grant-Thomas: Farah is a writer and editor. She’s a trustee for our public library, an elected position.

Andrew Grant-Thomas: So, um, we’d love to know, who are the kids you're likely to have in mind as we have this conversation?


Dana Kadish: In my case, I've got 110 students that I have in mind. Day to day. But I also have all children in mind. But it's also interesting 'cause I'm thinking, even though I was just saying to Farah, I have young adults as children now, I'm still thinking about it with them.

Andrew Grant-Thomas: Sure.

Dana Kadish: And I'm still in conversation with them. I have a 19-year-old and I have a 22-year-old. So, you know, I'm in a really different place at this point in terms of parenting. I'm a empty nester and yet, you know, I mean, you all know this, like the parenting is still daily. So, I'm still spending a lot of time engaged in important conversations with my kids around race.

Khama Ennis: Yeah. I mean, my kids are 15 and 12, both girls and they're both Black biracial. My ex-husband, with whom I co have a really great co-parenting relationship, um, is white. And when I say white, I don't mean just white. I mean like Mayflower white…

Andrew Grant-Thomas: [laughs]

Khama Ennis: On both sides. Like both of his parents go to the Mayflower. So he's got like, they've got that and then they've got the Jamaican immigrant experience.

And so they have this combination of ancestries to reconcile. And, so we talk about things very openly. We talk about things in a way that, you know, my parents and I didn't necessarily have these conversations because as immigrants, that wasn't necessarily on the table. And the transition into being in the U.S. came from their perspective as immigrants who grew up in a predominantly Black country where Black people held all roles and so…

Andrew Grant-Thomas: 90% Black.

Khama Ennis: Right?

Andrew Grant-Thomas: Yeah.

Khama Ennis: Mmhmm. And so they raised my sister and I, in a certain way, but without necessarily having conversations that they didn't think applied to us. And so I found out about things more experientially say, and I wanted to be really transparent with my kids about where they are, what their background is, and how they're growing up, and how they are perceived as light-skinned Black girls, essentially, and what that means in this country, in this culture. So I'm thinking about them and I'm thinking about all the other kids who have these multitudes of contributions to who they are and how they present and have to integrate all of that.

Andrew Grant-Thomas: It's funny, you know, I hadn't really thought as we were assembling this group. I hadn't put together that yeah, there's a lot of multiracial family happening, right, dynamics happening here. Farah.

Farah Ameen: So my daughter is 14, she's Bangladeshi and she's dark skinned. And it's strange because growing up in India, I didn’t really, like, I don't think I was as, I almost wanna say, obsessed with race until I moved to the U.S. It became all consuming once I became a parent. But, I mean, India's different, and Bangladesh, I mean, it's, there still is this thing about color, right? if you're lighter skinned, you're beautiful or…

Khama Ennis: Colorism. Yes. Everywhere.

Farah Ameen: Everywhere. And it's like, you know, you see someone who's darker skinned or something and someone will say, she's, she's a little dark, but you know, if she were lighter, whatever. The funny part was when we adopted Sophia when we brought her home, there were people, you know, sometimes making ridiculous remarks. Like, you know, once she moves to the U.S. she might get lighter or…

Khama Ennis: Seriously? Ouch.

Farah Ameen: Yeah, I mean, I just, just, or why, you know, she's cute, but she's, I mean, all this stuff and sometimes, I wouldn't tell my husband because I knew it would make him really angry. So, and I think when Sophia was really little, I noticed racism on the playground.

And I've talked to, you know, Melissa and Andrew a lot about this when, in, when she was younger. But now I think I have talked so much about it that she just doesn't wanna talk about race. I mean now she has a more, mixed group.

But there were a lot of times when she was the only brown kid, you know, in like, especially in elementary school and a group of four or five white girls, you know?

It just made me uncomfortable because I didn't feel like the other kids had the same stuff going. You know, they're all like, they were all prepubescent at that point. I mean, you are dealing with that and you're dealing with race And as she grows older, like things like going in a store. 'cause she would talk about things like, you know, this friend of mine stole something from the store. And I'd say, you know, you really have to be careful 13-year-old kids.

Khama Ennis: Yeah. Yeah.

Farah Ameen: Because you are the brown kid and everyone else around you is white. Mm-Hmm. So, you know, I don't wanna think like that, but I think about it all the time.

Khama Ennis: Yeah. Mm-Hmm.

Andrew Grant-Thomas: Melissa, hopefully folks know a bit about our kids 'cause we talk about them a fair bit, but do you wanna say something about our kids?

Melissa Giraud: So yeah. So, um, I mean, first of all, Andrew identifies as Black, right? Black American.

Andrew Grant-Thomas: Yes. Yes. It's true. It's true. Yes, I do.

Khama Ennis: Yeah, I'll pull your card.

Melissa Giraud: Jamaica American. But what really identifies as African American. I identify as multiracial, Black, white. I’m often perceived as white or mixed race. Our kids are, I would say light and medium brown skinned. Um, 13-year-old and 15-year-old. And just the other day, Khama, we were talking about colorism at the middle school, about these boys saying I prefer light skinned girls. You know, and just the way people kind of put out their, their standard and kind of as a light skinned or medium skinned person. And, as girls, as Lena, Lena identifies as a girl, you have to be careful not to feel, you know, validated by that. You know what I mean? Yeah.

Andrew Grant-Thomas: It is, it is amazing. Right. So, yeah. Farah, you're talking about back home and how people might talk about your daughter and, you know, she's beautiful, but she's dark and that's too bad. It is amazing. Right? I mean, whereas with race and racism, at least a lot of people feel they need to be really cautious in expressing that stuff.

Melissa Giraud: Right, right.

Andrew Grant-Thomas: But colorism not just in South Asian American communities..

Melissa Giraud: Yeah, it's okay.

Andrew Grant-Thomas: Or South Asian communities, but…

Khama Ennis: Yeah.

Andrew Grant-Thomas: Black, I mean all of them.

Khama Ennis: Yeah. In Jamaica, the, my girls would be called Browning, in which, you know, puts them in a different potential social category, which is just, you know, it's absurd, 'cause I'm still their mom. Right? I'm still

Melissa Giraud: They work at the bank in the front.

Khama Ennis: Exactly. Exactly. And that is, it’s…

Andrew Grant-Thomas: I have extended family members who would, who said very freely, “Oh, I wouldn't date a dark skinned boy.?”

Khama Ennis: Absolutely. Right. No.

Andrew Grant-Thomas: Straight up.


ow, we started EmbraceRace in:

How old were your own kids? To what extent was race on your radar? What your kids were learning about race…

Khama Ennis: Mmhmm.

Andrew Grant-Thomas: Your own sense of responsibility for how to teach them about race, ethnicity related things. What were you thinking?


Khama Ennis: So:

Trump: I humbly and gratefully…

Clinton: accept your nomination…

Trump: For the presidency of the United States…

Clinton: He called this woman Ms. Piggy. Then he called her Ms. Housekeeping. Because she was Latina.

Trump: Wrong.

Clinton: That was absolutely proved over and over again.

Khama Ennis: And when those election returns came in, my kids were about the same ages as yours around, five and eight I think at the time. And I woke up saying, I'm gonna go to work late today because I have to be the person who tells my kids about this election.

Wolf Blitzer: Donald J. Trump will become the 45th president of the United States defeating Hillary Clinton at a campaign unlike anything we've seen in our lifetime.

Khama Ennis: And I have to tell them a lot of words that they're gonna hear or that they will be more likely to hear now than they would have had the election gone differently. And we sat in the car and I went through a list of, honestly, every racial slur I could think of.

For all different races and ethnic categories. Like, the first time I heard racial slurs directed towards me, I was in second grade and I didn't know what they wer. I didn't recognize the words, I hadn't heard them before. So I went home and I said, what does this word mean?

And I wanted my kids to understand, one, what it would mean if somebody said those words to or about them. And also if somebody said those words to or about somebody else in their presence

Andrew Grant-Thomas: Mmhmm.

Khama Ennis: So that they could call it out. 'cause I didn't want them to hear another slur and tolerate it and think that it was okay.

h, that's, that's kind of how:

Andrew Grant-Thomas: You said an interesting thing, Khama, at the end there, which was, you know, first you refer to it as a shift that the dynamics around the 2016 election and you know, what was being said sort of shifted your thinking about what your kids would need to be prepared for, and then you said, well, no, maybe it accelerated., yeah, right, your approach. So I wanna bring that to you, Dana, and, and you Farah. Like, did all the stuff, whatever it is that you associate, right. with the election of 2016, and we know that it was super racialized and overt and all of that, but did that kind of shift the work you thought you needed to do?

: Um, I think the thing about:

Khama Ennis: Mmhmm.

Farah Ameen: Because the one thing that I kept thinking was like, my mother's never gonna be able to get a visa to come here. And that shifted everything for me.

a, an American passport till:

You know, we listen to NPR all the time when Sophia was little and there had been that story about Trump saying that, you know, he was gonna go around shooting people on Madison Avenue. I don't know if you remember Mmhmm. Sophia was…

Andrew Grant-Thomas: If he did that, yeah. No, that away would be okay. You get away with it.

Farah Ameen: Yeah. And Sophia, she had no context and she was six. And we said something like, don't talk about it in school because we were like, oh, should we not have been listening to this, you know, with our 6-year-old, because, you know, it's, it's not funny because if Trump is elected Nanu, my mom will not be able to visit us.

And Sophia went to school. And how that translated for her was she was talking to a friend who was Mexican American. I got a call from school and the teacher said, this incident happened. And it turned out she was talking to her friend and she said, if Trump is elected, your family's gonna go back home.

Sophia had no idea what she was talking, you know, the kids started crying. It was just like this whole picture, like, oh my goodness, you know, now we have to worry about race, we have to worry about religion, we have to worry about, you know, and we all know that on and on. That was, yeah. Yeah.

Dana Kadish: I have all these different threads running through my head because I remember actually distinctly the impact on the school, right? So I remember having a special meeting where we brought teachers together to sort of try and get our heads on straight around, like, we have our work cut out for us.

And also to just hold how upset everybody was and perhaps naive we had been, right? So, and I'm thinking about, you know, the work you had to do, Khama, and I had to do sort of slightly, of course, different work, which was first I had to break it to my kids that we didn't have the first woman president, which I naively really thought was gonna happen.

So that was, that felt really hard. But then for us, I think the conversation became more complex around our privilege and what it meant to have that privilege and what our responsibility was around that privilege and how we couldn't be complacent, right? Because of the responsibility that we held.

Dana Kadish: And then the other key thing was talking to my white son about when he snuck out, we caught him, we caught him sneaking out. But the best part was, you know, we were tracking him on our phones. He had no idea. So we were like, Sam, where are you? And he's like, oh, I'm, I'm just, we're walking around the neighborhood. We could literally see them, like, booking it back from downtown Amherst. Right.

Khama Ennis: That's sweet.

Dana Kadish: In like middle of the night. It's like 2am and they're running back from Amherst and, um, lying the whole way.

Khama Ennis: That's hilarious.

Dana Kadish: And, and then when, you know, it was hilarious and my husband and I are like watching this unfold and like laughing, not laughing, but then later was the like, “So Sam, you went downtown with yourself and several kids of color and your Black best friend. And I just wanna say the impact of being downtown in the middle of the night and being mischievous could be completely different for your best friend than it is for you.” And then we proceeded to have a whole series of conversations when kids are on JOL when they, they have their learners' permits, so they, what is that junior license?

I don't even know what the acronym is, but anyway, where they're allowed to drive, but they can't drive their friends. They broke this rule all the time and would sneak around doing this. And I kept saying, you realize that the impact of you breaking that rule versus potentially a Black boy, breaking that rule can be completely different. Yeah. And even here in sunny Amherst.

Khama Ennis: Mmhmm, absolutely.

Dana Kadish: Safe Amherst. I need you to take this into consideration. So anyways, I'm having all these memories of all these different moments where I was trying to provide that scaffolding.

Andrew Grant-Thomas: Did Sam get that or did he resist that?

Dana Kadish: No, he did get it, but they, they teased me about it. You're being, you're being overprotective. You're being a, a neurotic mom, calm down. It's fine. I mean, he really did get it, don't get me wrong. He was very attuned to it. But he and his friend would laugh me off a little and I'm imagining, and I imagine then that it was like too much.

Khama Ennis: Yeah. 'cause you don't want it to be real.

Dana Kadish: No one wants that to be real. Right. So it's easier to just say, okay, Mom, we got it. Mmhmm. But yes, they got it. They did get it.

l of your conversations about:

And it was 2015 before Trump was elected and we really didn't think he was a viable candidate. Mmhmm. And it, they were talking about it at school and, and, and Rio came home and couldn't sleep at night because they were very nervous that Trump was gonna put up a wall. Mmhmm. And our family was gonna be separated by the color of our skin.

Oh, and we sort of thought, well, oh, come on, he's not gonna be at first. I literally said he's not gonna be president. But then I said, what if he is?

Andrew Grant-Thomas: And to be clear, you made some you alluded to this before, but there are four of us and four different skin tones four different, right? Yeah. Four different shades of browns, as it were.

Melissa Giraud: Yeah. So that felt, and, and, and, and so I said, well, what if he, if he is, let's play this out. Like who are people really targeting with the wall? You know, and who are your people and how do we organize, right, to be safe? And so then, then we had to have a conversation about documentation and who was being targeted with the wall, and it was not us, right, with that particular thing.

And we had this privilege, right. Among other privileges where we had to stand up for people who were being targeted, right? And it did become, because he was saying so many things at the time that it felt like, you know, who's safe? Like we really have to band together people of very different identities and understand we're positioned differently and sometimes we have privilege and sometimes we don't. And we have to be aware of that and stick up for each other.

Andrew Grant-Thomas: Mmhmm.

Khama Ennis: Yeah.

Melissa Giraud: So I wonder, um, just looking back on sort of the growth or just how, or the environment, you know, I think, um, what you guys would say about how your parenting or your teaching, your curriculum has changed since, you know, Floyd and, uh, certainly the election of Donald Trump before that, and so many other incidents.

Andrew Grant-Thomas: And Dana, when we met you…

Dana Kadish: Mmhmm.

Andrew Grant-Thomas: You were director of admissions.

Dana Kadish: Mmhmm.

Andrew Grant-Thomas: Now, for the last several years we've been co-head of school.

Dana Kadish: Mmhmm.

Andrew Grant-Thomas: And the school itself has been on, you know, a very thoughtful journey.

Dana Kadish: Yes.

Digging deeper and deeper into this work of how to help kids engage with this in a healthy way. So yeah. You really, yeah.

Melissa Giraud: Where are you now?

Dana Kadish: I mean, this is like a whole story and, and it would take so much time to really unpack it fully, but I would say we've changed significantly. I think that is a fair statement, and we are unapologetic about our mission and very explicit about the work we do with young children.

And that is a key distinction. So when we first started on the journey, not everyone was on the same page. So one of the big pieces of my work that I shifted was every family I meet, as I had referenced earlier, I am naming precisely what their children are gonna be learning about. And I make it clear that if you're not on board with that particular approach to education and early racial learning, this probably isn't the school for you.

Um, and so what's great is that there was a time where there was a tremendous tension around being that explicit for so many reasons, but also the fear that we would lose families, right? I mean, the bottom line is it's an independent school. It's not a classic private school, it's not a wealthy school.

And we are not typical in that way. However, we're powered by tuition. So if you have a mass exodus of families, you, you're in trouble, right? Yeah. So, you know it's political, right? And you're constantly having to try and be diplomatic. At one point I finally said to a colleague, well, if we go down, we go down with integrity. And I meant it.

Khama Ennis: Absolutely.

Dana Kadish: I meant it. And I was like, we're gonna do this. And we are. And the cool thing is enrollment is way back up. And I think part of that is that, is that clarity and that commitment, but also being so thoughtful, right? There's so much learning that had to happen. And Andrew, I know you and Melissa with Embrace Race, one of the key things that you have said that I have repeated to numerous families is, if we don't teach it, children are going to make their own assumptions because of the water we swim in, in the greater world. And so we have a job to do and this is what we're doing here at the school.

Dana Kadish: Couple other key things that I think are worth noting. Um, Yeah. Our school is, is represented by 47% kids of color. And one thing I feel sheepish saying it, is that when I started to work very intentionally on diversifying the school, we put the cart before the horse. And what I mean by that is that we were not yet leared enough about what it would mean to then have a truly diverse community in this greater community.

Dana Kadish: And so we've had to do a lot of work. We've had to do a lot of learning, and we've had to think really carefully about every aspect of our program. And we've done that.

Dana Kadish: Um, had some really hard conversations about what it truly means to belong. What does it feel like? What do we need to do as a community to create a sense of belonging? How are affinity groups valuable in an institution? Why do we press for those, even though some families have felt excluded from them through time? The curriculum, the content itself, talking about race with three year olds, creating social stories to talk about race, um, to talk about oppression and fairness with three year olds. So we're building that foundation, right? So then as children move through the school, we can grow more sophisticated in our thinking.

I think also though, here's a tricky one. There was a lot of emphasis in teaching hard history, but in doing so, are you eradicating, like,Black joy? Are you eradicating all the amazing people who have made incredible progress in, in the world, who are people of color. Like what are we focused on?

Dana Kadish: It's not that we didn't do both, but it became imbalanced. Mm-Hmm. How do we put that back in balance? Right. We don't wanna just have a narrative of only oppression, right? That would be detrimental as well. So those are just a couple of examples. Yeah. But it's, it's ongoing.

Andrew Grant-Thomas: Sounds easy.

Dana Kadish: Yeah. Really easy.

Melissa Giraud:But that goes back to what, that also goes back to what Farah was saying about what are the supports, you know? Mm-Hmm. I mean, that's what we're trying to do with EmbraceRace, create supports that we need, that other people need and knit. Mmhmm. The resources together. But, uh, what I have found, and, and Farah, you were.

Saying this as well, that um, there has been sort of progress in some areas that really helps the work. Like there are more books. Mm-Hmm. You know, there are more movies you could use. There are more TV shows. There are more people but who think that, um, this work's important. You know, who explicitly think it's important. I mean, there's also pushback.

Melissa Giraud: Khama, how have things changed for you sort of then and now in terms of how you're parenting, how you're feeling supported or not around race?

Khama Ennis: Well, I would say that, you know, compared with eight years ago, I guess it's now, I don't like that math. [laughter] It feels like…numbers are a little too high.

But, um, I think the conversations have evolved, right? I mean, the kids can handle different levels of content, different levels of challenge, you know, if they say something, they repeat something that they heard in school. I can dig into that a bit with them if they don't acknowledge their own privilege in, in certain aspects. So I can dig into that. When they come with me to Jamaica, 'cause we still go every couple of years or when they go with their father to a beautiful part of the country that has very little diversity. Uh, when he goes back to where he grew up, they have to reconcile with that as well.

And so we talk about all of these things, I think really explicitly, and they are not afraid of the conversation, which makes me really happy. And they can see things when they talk about like different hair textures and hair colors. And you know, one, one of my kids, when she was in preschool at one point came up to me and said, “Mama, I wish I had straight yellow hair.”

And I was like, first died a little inside. Mmhmm. And then had to talk about like why her wonderful curly hair was wonderful. And like mama's hair is even curlier than yours? And it's in these, you know, it's in this particular style. I've got locks. And so what does that mean?

And what is different hair and how does different hair come about? Because all of the hair of their cousins on one side is blonde. And all of the hair of the cousins on the other side is everything from, you know, is, is multiple textures, multiple colors, but I think at this point they see a lot of it.

A lot of that early foundational work in just having plain conversations, I think has paid off. And so they point things out to me when we're at different places. They, for better or for worse, like when I was a kid, my mom…one of the, one of the lessons I did get when I was a kid was when I was a teenager, you know, catalogs would come to the house 'cause it was the ‘80s and that's how that went.

And we would go through like the catalogs. I'm like, oh, I like that, or I like that. And she'd say, “Look at the people in these photos. Like, do you see anybody Black in any of these photos?” And I was like, and I would flip through and I would see nobody and she'd say, “Then they don't want our business.”

Mm. And so we wouldn't get anything from that catalog. And so when I related that story to my kids multiple times, and so now they go into a space and they, they see where they are welcome. They see where they're not, they can call it out and what I love is that they don't personalize this.

They, they see it as a systemic flaw. They understand that they're like the bomb. Hmm. And it's not as far as I know, they don't internalize that, which I think is huge. It's one less burden for them to work through. They still have to work through the crap, but they don't have to work through whether or not any of it is because of who they are, truly who they are. So yeah…

Andrew Grant-Thomas: Mmmhmm. Farah, I'm wondering how much of what Khama just said is resonating with you?

Farah Ameen: I keep thinking about the one thing that's at the back of my head and that I've been trying not to think about, and now I'm mad at you guys because now I'm thinking about it. But, um, so when Sophia was little, like, she hated the color of her skin. Like when she was really little, she wrote a letter to Obama because one day she asked John, she was like…

Andrew Grant-Thomas: John is your husband.

Farah Ameen: My husband John.

Mmhmm. She said, dad, so President Obama is Black, right? And John was like, yeah, She was probably five or six. And she said, well, so I'm darker than him, aren't I? And he said, yes. And she said, well, then how come I'm not Black? So John said, why don't we send him an email or a letter? And they crafted this letter and sent it to him. And just, you know how she was thinking, this…

Andrew Grant-Thomas: John is so “can do.”

Farah Ameen: Yeah. And there was a letter back from the White House, but it was sort of more, you know, from Obama, but about how, it's kids like you who are changing the world. I mean, didn't address the fact that, of course…

Melissa Giraud: I'm sure he penned it.

Farah Ameen: Of course he did. But, um. All that to say is she doesn't like the color of her skin. Right. As she's been growing older but I think what she has been pushing, and I really hope she never listens to this, one of the things she's pushed against for many years is being South Asian, and it's partly to do with, with how she's being raised. But, you know, we're raising a confident young woman, I'm hoping, but it still bothers me because she pushes against that. And, um…

Andrew Grant-Thomas: And that's bothersome, but what about the skin color issue?

Farah Ameen: So I wanna, it's so funny 'cause you said foundation and I was thinking about makeup because one of the struggles has been, no makeup until you're 13. Then we realized it was a losing battle because she was getting makeup from friends who were white girls. And with these, I'm sorry to say, but these horrendous colors that did not work with her skin tone at all. And then I had to give in.

And sometimes John, my husband and I would talk about it and you know, sometimes she'd find some kind of like, highlight or whatever. And one day I looked at her skin and I was just like, what'd you put on your skin? Because it just looked lighter. And so John and I were talking about it, and I think that still there's some of that going on, that she's a, partly maybe trying to cover up the blemishes, you know, young kid hormones, eating crap all the time. But, um, I haven't been thinking about that for a while because I'm talking about sex and boys now all the time. But, um, that's still there.

Andrew Grant-Thomas: So sorry.

Farah Ameen: Yeah, no, I know. It's just like, why do I have to have these conversations? My mother never had these conversations with me. Mm-Hmm. Which is why I am having these conversations. Exactly.

Andrew Grant-Thomas: Look how you turned out.

Farah Ameen: Yes. We're gonna talk about this. And you know, I'm dying because I just, I don't wanna look at her while I'm talking about all this stuff, but I'm doing it.

Um, so because I'm so close to it, and I would get into these battles with her. So I would have John talk about it, you know, with her about being, you know, you're Bangladeshi American or, you know, I don't know how to approach it right now. Because there's so many battles you're fighting with teenagers and you just wanna be on their good side, right?

Andrew Grant-Thomas: Yeah.

Khama Ennis: Mmhmm.

Melissa Giraud: And rounding up this conversation and really just wondering, sounds cheesy, but what are the things that give you hope in terms of this generation, you know, that we're raising and the many generations that you're raising and that EmbraceRacers are raising and, and how they'll approach race in the future? Like, what are the things, what are the stories that you could tell that make you think, oh they’re gonna be okay. Like, they’re preparing for a future that is different from our present, and they’re going to be okay?

Dana Kadish: I could weep over it because the kids set me straight every day. The thing is, the kids are okay. It's the grownups. Um, the kids were raising right now doing this work. They're amazing. Like EmbraceRace gives me hope, my school gives me hope. Khama, your project gives me hope. Like there's great work happening right now.

So I, I do legitimately feel optimistic when I hear you engaged with your children in the way that you are, Farah. But yeah, the kids are okay. We just, we can't let up. That's the thing. We just have to keep pushing the work forward and we have to stay in conversation and we have to keep going. And I will say the work can be really exhausting, right? It's hard work.

Khama Ennis: Yeah.

Melissa Giraud: And doing it in community.

Dana Kadish: And doing it in community. I'm so glad you said that. 'cause that's everything. I don't know if you folks know Loretta Ross, but she's an amazing professor and she talks a lot about calling people in rather than calling people out. And I'm a huge fan of hers because I'm like, you know, you can spend all the time you want calling people out, but it may not get them to the table. I want people at the table. Right. So I think a lot about her work and calling it in. And the other thing Loretta Ross talks about is you gotta way to find a way to do it in community.

And you gotta find a way to find joy in the work because if you don't, it's not sustainable. So this what we're doing right now, this is good. This is finding joy in the work. Mm-Hmm. Right. Being with your people and having these conversations and feeling inspired. That's good stuff. Yeah.

Khama Ennis: I think that’s superencouraging and inspiring.

Andrew Grant-Thomas: And Dana, you know, I wonder how you feel about going even a bit more broad than find the joy. You know, find, find the solidarity. You know? Certainly joy is part of that. And a lot of it is hard and it's different when it's hard together. Right. Like, it's hard for me. It's hard for you. We can talk about that. You know, sometimes we really can shed tears together. We can laugh together, we can, sometimes it's hard. But it's different when, you know, it feels like there are a whole bunch of us on a very similar journey supporting each other through it. You know? Then, oh, I'm isolated. Yeah. This is my, oh, am I the only one out here feeling this way? And what we find is, yeah, there are, we certainly do the work we do.

You know, just to give you a very quick example, back in December ‘22, we had a national survey of parents, of kids 13 and younger. And one of the amazing takeaways from that is literally four in five parents said, we need to do this work.

if we took our cues, only from what news media tell us, right, it's images and headlines about angry parents storming school board meetings and saying, no, we can't talk about gays and lesbians and L-G-B-T-Q people in general.

We can't talk about race, we can't talk, but all these things and, and saying it in the name of quote unquote “parents' rights.” Right. Which implies that lots of parents feel this way, but actually the vast majority of parents don't feel this way. Yeah. Right. And they want their schools to be able to talk. I mean, there's a range of opinions to be sure.

It's not that there's one side in everyone, right. It's just chomping at the bit, waiting for an opportunity. But a lot of people would much rather see us do this work than not do this work.

Melissa Giraud: And that survey was not EmbraceRacers. It was a thousand…

Andrew Grant-Thomas: A nationally representative. Yes.

Melissa Giraud: Right. Some of them knew EmbraceRace, but most of them didn't.

u all started embrace race in:

They want to go to that uncomfortable place and do the work so that it can be better down the line. So I am inspired by my kids, by their friends. When I hear them interact with each other, it's hilarious. And yes, they just, you know, they're just able to feel comfort in conversations that I didn't, and when I read some of the things that they put together for school, I'm like, girl, you're deep. Like, I didn't, I didn't know you got that, but you know, here, here, let's do this.

I think that. You know, I love that finding joy in the work because it is hard. But I think that it's, you know, obviously it's necessary still. And the thing that I try to enforce for my kids is holding two truths simultaneously. Like people think and do horrible things. And most of them aren't horrible people. They've just grown up with very different influences. Very different exposures that you have. I'm a sort of assume best intentions, but take notes. So like…

Dana Kadish: …collect that data.

Khama Ennis: Right. So I think that they have some of that in them as well, though they can sometimes be a little like, eh, they suck. Like, yes. And like, let's figure out how to, how to bring it back a bit, which is painful and hard sometimes.

Melissa Giraud: I mean, holding the nuance. Adults have a hard time with it. Right. Exactly. But that's just the thing. How can we hold the nuance? Yeah.

Khama Ennis: But they, they're, they're in it and they're doing what they can. And I think that's super encouraging and inspiring.

Melissa Giraud: Hope, Farah. Hope. You're always the person I turn to for hope.

Farah Ameen: For hope because, you know, I'm sort of raising my kid as, you know, expect the worst. You'll be surprised. She actually said that the other day and I felt like, oh my goodness, I never said that to her. Has she just like absorbed that from living with me? Um, hope, uh, I feel in some ways that we're lucky that we live where we live, though I feel for the, all of this towns, you know, we don't see color. People see color all the time, and it's not just color, it's socioeconomic. And we've talked about this a lot.

I am impressed that Khama's daughter is letting her read what she writes because I get a lot of, you know, no, you can't, I don't wanna show you this. Part of it is because being an editor, I spend a lot of time saying, oh, maybe you want to fix that spelling or you want to, um. Yeah. But I feel like they talk about so many different things at school these days.

Though last night, I was getting complaint about how's it gonna help me in the world to know how the colonies were formed. So there is that as well. Yeah. Right. Um, I just feel like as a parent, I can give my kid the tools. I know she's, she's strong. The world, the world is not an easy place. And I have to say that I, I spend quite some time letting her know that, we don't bubble wrap her.

I'm just hoping that we can talking, you know, and I just resent the fact, Andrew, that you haven't brought us here for conversations in a long time, 'cause I miss this. Is it Covid? Yeah. You guys don't like, like us anymore? Talk. There's a thing. Know what it's…yeah.

Andrew Grant-Thomas: It's a whole different conversation.

Farah Ameen: Yes, I know.

Andrew Grant-Thomas: Melissa.

Melissa Giraud: Yeah.

Andrew Grant-Thomas: What gives you hope?

Melissa Giraud: You know, having a strong community, knowing that to have authentic relationships, we really need to not expect joy. Joy, happy, happy, but like we have to get through and know each other. And that authentic, you know, closeness with people like you, with people not like you. Mmhmm. is really worth it.

I'm really impressed with our kids. um, Dana, you were saying that the kids teach you every day. Every day. Yeah. And I feel that way. About our kids and particularly about intersectionality or even our own things. You know, if very early I used to say about colorism, I'd say the Black or the berry, the sweeter the juice.

And, and they would both say, oh yeah, you hate yourself, mom, you're pretty light. You know, so yeah, check, or, or Lena would say, yeah, you know, post Floyd, you can't really say something openly racist at school, but you can still say you run like a girl, you know?

So things like that, they really do just push you, push you, push you in great ways. And they're having, because they're having the conversations, they're just really sophisticated about them. They're so sophisticated, you know, it makes me really, it makes me really hopeful, as does, you know, being in contact with you guys and with like just a lot of people through Embrace Race, who I'm learning a lot from, who are doing amazing things. I mean, it's hard not to be hopeful when you have so many people doing amazing work.

Andrew Grant-Thomas: Yeah. That, that is to me, I mean, both with EmbraceRace and with all the sort of race work I've done over a long period of time, that's one of the best parts, right. Is just being that it allows, it puts you into contact with people who are smart and passionate care every bit as much as you do about this stuff and are doing things about it.

If you weren't doing the work, you'd have no reason to know that they're out there, that they're working so hard. And so that starts from Yeah. Other parents, right. And educators and folks. Um, so here's a thing that I think there's no reason a lot of people would know, but we do because of the work we do.

There are a lot of psychologists, an increasing number of pediatricians. There are a lot of researchers, social science researchers, parents, educators, children's media, people who are thinking, how can we do this better? Right? Philanthropy, folks. Journalists. Think about 10 years ago now, after every, you know, typically horrible thing that happens around race in this country that's high profile, there's a spate of articles right around how you talk to your kid. That wasn't true 10 years ago, certainly not 15 years ago. That's a sign, right? There's a, there’s a demand for this. It's seen as important.

We created this collectively, and we can create something different. And more and more people, I think, are sort of bending to the task of let's create something different and better, that we feel really good about our kids inheriting and our kids in turn will take it further and farther, right? Yeah, just the possibility alone of doing better is more than enough to get us out of bed and feeling hopeful. Yeah.

Melissa Giraud: Thank you so much you guys for this conversation for coming over. We have to do more. So great.

Khama Ennis: It’s an honor to be a part of this.

Melissa Giraud: You just heard from our friends and neighbors Farah Ameen, Khama Ennis, and Dana Kadish.

Melissa Giraud: Andrew, that felt great.

Andrew Grant-Thomas: It really did! And that’s why community building is at the heart of the work we do at EmbraceRace.

Melissa Giraud: Mmmhmm.

Andrew Grant-Thomas: Sitting and talking with super thoughtful people who’re also trying to do this kids and race work is so helpful.

Melissa Giraud: It’s magic. It’s not that we solve the world’s problems or always get solutions to our own problems in these conversations. It’s more that we feel seen, accompanied, and inspired. And I think you could hear the joy and connection we felt in that conversation, too.

Andrew Grant-Thomas: Yep. And we want more people to feel that same joy and connection. If you’ve been following this first season of the EmbraceRace podcast, you know that in previous episodes we pushed back against some big myths about race and kids by digging into how kids actually learn about race.

And we shared strategies for how to do the work of raising kids who are thoughtful, informed, and brave about race. But what you might not know is that for each episode we shared good reflection questions and resources. We encourage you to listen to the episodes, get your friends/family to listen, and then get together to talk it through. Check out the show notes for resources that’ll help you host your own conversations.

Melissa Giraud: And the best way to stay in touch with all our offerings and happenings at EmbraceRace – including our plans for Season 2 – is by subscribing to our newsletter. We have a lot going on! Go to embrace race dot org, scroll to the bottom of the page to sign up.




Andrew Grant-Thomas: The EmbraceRace podcast is hosted by me, Andrew Grant-Thomas.

MMelissa Giraud: And by me, Melissa Giraud. Our senior producer is John Asante. Our editor is Megan Tan.

Andrew Grant-Thomas: Our engineer and sound designer is Enrico Benjamin. Our consulting producer is Graham Griffith. Graham believed in this podcast from early on, and that’s a big reason why it came to be.

Melissa Giraud: Special thanks to Team Embrace Race, Robin Deutsch Edwards, Andrea Huang, Tamara Montes de Oca, Christina Rucinski, and Maryam Zahid.

Andrew Grant-Thomas: And a huge thank you to our two kids who motivated us to make this podcast, and to the EmbraceRace community.

Melissa Giraud: Subscribe, rate, and review our show on Apple Podcasts or your favorite podcatcher. That really helps us.

Andrew Grant-Thomas: And for more resources related to today’s show and other topics about race and kids, please visit us at embrace dot org.

Melissa Giraud: Thanks for listening! We’d love your feedback as we plan for Season 2. Send that to our email, hugs, h-u-g-s, at embracerace dot org.

Andrew Grant-Thomas: Thank you!



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