Words by: Lindsay Hufford
A few months ago, one of my favorite homeschooling accounts on Instagram, Homeschooling Unrefined, shared a quote from author Morgan Jerkins. The image declared, “You’re not well-read if all you read is white authors.” The caption called for followers to share their favorite books written by people of color.
I immediately tapped the heart icon beneath the square and shared a few favorite titles. Diversifying my bookshelf is one of the best decisions I’ve ever made and was my first step in embracing anti-racism, which is defined as actively engaging in work to oppose racism and racial inequity, in all aspects of my life.
While I and some others praised the post, a significant amount of push back played out in the comment section. Many commenters stated they “didn’t see color,” taking no account of an author’s race or ethnicity when choosing a book. Others voiced anger at even bringing the color of the author into the reading equation.
At one time, I am sorry to say I could have been a voice among the commenters defending a colorblind library. I am a voracious reader and have been since childhood. It wasn’t until college that I realized the vast majority of books on my shelves were incredibly homogeneous. I am thankful to a handful of professors who opened my eyes to what I was missing.
The problem with a colorblind approach, whether in literature or life, is that we risk silencing needed voices. We miss the lessons people of color have to teach us. When we say we don’t see color, we are saying we don’t see the unique way a person was made and the perspective they bring as a result of their culture and experiences. I would never want the bookshelves in my home to be filled only with the words of men, leaving women’s perspectives, stories, and talents out of my home. The same should be true of authors who look differently than I do.
Home educators are some of the most curious and creative people I know. They fight fiercely for an education best for their children. They research and investigate everything from curriculum to co-ops. They approach every new subject with logic and critical thinking. But, many white homeschooling parents abandon that famous curiosity and shut down the possibility for a much-needed conversation when it comes to discussions on race.
Fellow white homeschoolers, it’s time to stop shying away from the race conversation and make anti-racism education a vital part of our homeschools. Racial justice is a life and death issue for our friends, people in our cities, faith communities, and homeschooling networks.
If you think I’m exaggerating look at the data:
-Black families hold only $5.04 cents of wealth for every $100 white families hold.
-Black mothers are 2-3 times more likely to die from pregnancy-related causes than white women.
–Police brutality is a leading cause of death for young Black males. About 1 in 1000 Black boys and men will be killed by the police, a rate over 2.5 times higher than white males.
–Four out of five Indigenous American women are victims of violence.
These statistics result from racialized policies that have historically penalized people of color. We can’t go back and change the past, but we can be part of the solution. Just as we fight for educational freedom, we must fight for racial justice and equity.
I am no expert in this area. I am still confronted daily by how much I don’t know. I hope in sharing our family’s approach that I can offer some encouragement and resources for parents who are ready to educate themselves and their children on the history of racism in the United States to work toward a more equitable future.
One of the greatest gifts of homeschooling is getting a second chance at my education. It wasn’t until I began homeschooling my children that I realized how much history I missed out on in my public school, where history was taught from a predominately white, European perspective. Thankfully those college courses I took began to open my eyes. I became hungry for more robust historical sources.
If we are going to teach our children to become anti-racist, we must start working on ourselves. Here are a few resources that have been integral in my re-education. When possible, purchase works by people of color as opposed to borrowing from the library. These works would be appropriate to read/watch with teens in addition to your personal use:
I Am Not Your Negro – a documentary film based on the work of James Baldwin.
Audit Your Bookshelves and Curriculum
Take a look at your bookshelves. Do you see diverse authors on the spines? Does your picture book collection feature characters of multiple ethnicities? Does your American history curriculum start with the arrival of Columbus, mention people of color only in terms of slavery and Civil Rights, and speak of Indigenous people as if they were extinct? Adding diverse books to your shelves is the fastest way to introduce concepts of race and justice to your homeschool. We are big fans of picture books. These books often have incredibly deep messages for all ages and lead to robust conversations in our homes.
This list contains a plethora of children’s books to start anti-racists conversation in your homes. A few of our favorites from the list are My Hair is a Garden by Cozbi A Cabrera and Something Happened in Our Town by Marianne Celano, Marietta Collins, and Ann Hazzard. Oh! Freedom homeschool History curriculum from Woke Homeschooling is an incredible resource for homeschoolers ready to learn U.S. history from the perspective of people of color. If you’re looking for Black-owned book sellers and curriculum and resource creators, check out this blog post.
Have Big, Juicy Conversations
I love how Julie Bogart, author of The Brave Learner and creator of the Brave Writer curriculum, encourages us to have “big, juicy conversations” with our kids. We started talking to our kids about racism around the age of four when they noticed if a peer’s skin color differed from their own. The conversations began very simply by acknowledging that the differences made each person beautiful, and everyone deserves dignity and goodness. Now that my oldest is 12, our conversations go much deeper. We talk about identifying our privilege and how to leverage it for good. We discuss current events and politics. We talk about the need to speak up when we see racism, even if it comes at a cost. Most recently, we have started a family book club where my husband and I will read a justice-oriented book with our oldest and have weekly conversations. We plan to continue the club with our younger kids as they mature. Our first book club pick is Ghost Boys by Jewell Parker Rhodes, a young adult novel that tells the story black boy killed by the police.
Take those conversations outside of your home as well. Talk to your co-op leaders about their policy and stance on racial equity. Push for more diverse class offerings in your homeschool groups. Encourage other homeschooling parents to make anti-racism a part of their curriculum. When it comes to racism, silence is the same as complicity. Use your voice for good.
Racism is a learned evil. The good news is that means it can also be unlearned. The learning curve is steep. You will feel awkward, uncomfortable, and even shameful as you examine your complicity with white supremacy and white privilege. You will grieve as you realize how much you have to learn. Ultimately, my hope is that you will be spurred to action. Becoming anti-racist is not an easy road, but it is a necessary one. Our comfort can never be more important than the human rights of people of color, indigenous people, and other marginalized groups.
Just like a muscle, our anti-racism awareness and advocacy grows as we continue to re-educate ourselves, create a diverse education for our students, and lean into the messy work of dismantling white supremacy. It’s a tremendous gift to be able to learn alongside our students and model life-long learning. This may be the single most impactful lesson we teach our children; to love our neighbors as ourselves.
Lindsay Hufford is a small-scale flower farmer, home educator, chicken chaser, kitchen dancer, writer, and mediocre knitter. Her favorite things include spending time with her family, exploring the natural world, reading, eating spicy food, and singing loudly in the car (to the embarrassment of her children). Lindsay believes sharing our stories will change the world. She writes about farming, homeschooling, faith, social justice, mental health, sobriety, and living an unconventional life. You can follow her adventures at peckandpetalfarm.com, and on Instagram at @lindsayahufford.