Growing up the daughter of a Black mother and a white father, I was often acutely aware of race. You might think we talked about it often as a mixed-race family, but the opposite is truer. The topic of race very rarely came up in our household. When it did come up, both my mother and father responded like most good parents did in the 80s and 90s: they insisted that race didn’t matter and that it is what’s inside that counts.
That response made sense to an entire generation of parents and resonates with a lot of us today, as we talk with our own children about race. But as a kid, I had more questions. If race doesn’t matter and it’s what’s inside that counts, then why did my dad’s side of the family live in manicured, leafy neighborhoods, while my mom’s side of the family mostly resided in poor, cramped conditions? Why were the heroes in my favorite books white characters, with characters of color relegated to sidekick roles if they were present at all? Why were most of our doctors, elected officials, and other trusted leaders almost always white men?
If it’s what’s inside that counts, I wondered, maybe white people just had better insides. Smarter, richer, more heroic insides. With no one to help me understand the history of race and racism in our country, I was left to create my own stories to make sense of the glaring disparities I saw. The stories I concocted made it easier for me to ignore scary topics like racism and injustice and view disparate racial outcomes as the simple result of bad luck or bad decision making. Luckily, I learned more about systemic structures of inequality in college -- things like redlining, over policing, and underfunded schools. I began to see disparate racial outcomes not as a result of individual shortcomings, but as the result of a structure that made it harder for Black people to access credit, economic opportunity, and quality education.
While I’m glad I eventually educated myself on the causes, effects, and solutions to systemic inequality, I became a parent and faced my next challenge: how to educate my children to get there sooner. What can I do to empower them to recognize and properly respond to racism? What can I do to raise the generation that will finally dismantle racism, once and for all?
With those questions in mind, I sought out academics and activists to guide me. I met Dr. Keffrelyn Brown and Dr. Anthony Brown, the co-directors of the Center for Innovation in Race, Teaching, and Curriculum at the University of Texas. Their whole body of research investigates how teachers can most effectively engage children on topics like slavery, segregation, and systemic racism. I spoke with countless parents who wanted to embrace their children’s natural curiosity and extend it into a healthy framework for talking about race. I realized that we all craved a community we could turn to for practical support in raising kids who are excited to stand up for racial justice. This is that community; Ripple Reads is that practical support.
At Ripple Reads, we know that one of the best ways to improve racial attitudes and resilience in children of all races is to have regular, honest conversations about race. As a family book club, we do this in three ways. First, we scour the internet for the very best books on race, justice, and empathy. The books we select are the ones your children will ask to read every night, the ones they’ll remember fondly as they grow, the ones they’ll read to their own children. Next, we turn to our experts, Dr. Keffrelyn Brown and Dr. Anthony Brown, to provide parents with an overview of key themes of each book. This helps ensure parents feel confident delving into conversations on potentially uncomfortable topics, like repression and racial bullying. Finally, we work with our experts to create discussion questions and activities that will help children solidify their identity as people who can and will stand up for racial justice.
I’m so glad you’re here and it is my deepest hope that you will join me in raising a generation of children of all races who are excited and empowered to dismantle racism, once and for all. We are the ones we have been waiting for.
Kelli Mason, Founder
Me with Cory and Henry, my future change makers