We are writing to you because you will soon learn that we are not your ‘typical’ family. We are white parents with a black child, and because of that, we do some things differently that we want you to be aware of. Being proud of the skin he is in is very important to us and because you will be spending a lot of time with Eli this year, we realize you will play a big role in the way he sees himself. From the confidence he gains in his individuality, to how he views his own history and race, you get to help shape that and we are so grateful for your contribution to the person he will become.
Here are some things we do to advocate for him, and if you don’t already, we would love to see you implement them in your classroom this year, or let us know of your own suggestions.
We are not a ‘colorblind’ family. We love and celebrate all the shades we see. We appreciate beautiful skin colors and notice them wherever we go. If there are projects or reports this year that will involve Eli showing his individuality, please provide him with colored paper, pencils or markers and material that represents his skin color.
Eli’s hair is a big part of who he is and how he expresses himself. Please don’t let anyone touch it without his permission. We love when kids are curious about him and want them to notice and appreciate his differences along with his similarities, but please use this curiosity as a lesson to teach them about the many different ethnicities there are in the world.
We don’t use any of the N-words or slang that belittles his race or his culture. If you are going to be reading a book that uses these words, please censor them and use it as an opportunity to discuss why we don’t say those words as well as the historical context.
We don’t tell or tolerate jokes that discriminate against anyone, but especially ones that demean African Americans. If Eli tells you that he heard a joke or comment that made him uncomfortable, please take it seriously. Even if the student saying it does not understand the harmfulness of the joke.
Because we believe representation is important and mirrors matter to our son, we have black Santas, elves, angels and a black Nativity scene around our house during Christmas time. If you would like to display more diverse holiday figures around your classroom, we are happy to donate these.
Eli is usually the only black student in his classroom, and because of that it’s so important that he sees his own race represented in the lessons you are teaching – like his classmates have the privilege of doing. We celebrate Black History Month every month of the year, not just in February. We read books and have discussions about this complex and hard part of our country’s past. We learn from all perspectives in history, not just white ones. The more we’ve learned from those left in the margins of our past, the more we recognize that black history is not just slavery and civil rights movements, but a history filled with artists and dreamers. Doctors and Scientists. Mothers and Fathers. Real individuals who accomplished so much despite being kept from their full potential. We would love for you to introduce these people into your classroom so Eli can see himself in them, and his classmates can learn about the achievements of African Americans. You might not find them in history books but there are many books about them and I’m happy to recommend some or let you borrow ours.
Please don’t think this letter means we don’t value your knowledge or your teaching abilities. This is a subject not many teachers in our small town think about. I didn’t always know these things before adopting Eli and love that when I know better, I am able to do better. Whether he is the first black student you have had in your classroom or one of many, wherever you are on your journey learning about race, we are here to learn and grow alongside you. Please let me know your thoughts and questions and if you would like me to provide any resources. Thank you for all you do!
A Mom advocating for her son.”
This story was submitted to Love What Matters by Kortni Miller of Utah. You can learn more about her adoption journey on her Instagram, born.from.my.heart. Do you have a similar experience? We’d like to hear your important journey. Submit your own story here, and be sure to subscribe to our free email newsletter for our best stories.
Read Kortni’s adoption backstory of her son here:
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