Desegregating Your Child’s Life

by Jasen Frelot

Many of us grew up learning that racial segregation was a thing of the past. Even though the laws have changed, the realities of segregation are as alive today as they were in the 1960s. Desegregating your child’s life will not be an easy task, but it is not impossible.

Take time to notice who is in your neighborhood

Before starting Kids and Race, I ran a sports program for preschool aged children at a local park. As I was teaching, I noticed that the soccer programs were filled with affluent white families. These programs took place on the nicely manicured sports fields at the center of the park. On the other side of the park there was a another soccer program, one filled with black and brown children mostly from rent-controlled housing. Both programs were organized and well supported by parents; both programs had kids laughing and playing; only one of the programs had diversity.

Our children imitate what we do much more than they listen to what we say. If you lead a segregated life, then your child will act accordingly. It’s not easy, but be intentional.

As I watched the kids from the predominantly white program play soccer, I couldn’t help but wonder if any of the families would leave the nicer field and the “nicer” program for the sake of teaching their child how to be with people from a different background.

Play at public parks and encourage your child to wander and chat with other children

My family and I live in a predominantly affluent white part of town. When I take my daughter to the playground near my house, parents are up playing with their child. Whether that’s coaxing them down the slide, pushing them on the swing or spotting them on the monkey bars, parents are right in the middle of the playground action.

This type of parenting extends to how caregivers respond when children begin to interact with each other. If one child begins to cry while another is near by, the parents are quick to rush in to reprimand or coddle (whether or not they saw what happened). This type of parenting robs children of the skills they need to take risks and to interact with people who are different.

The experience at a more diverse public park is very different. Children wander around and play with each other while the parents sit and talk. This gives the children the chance to learn from one another and play together in a way they cannot with adults near by.  

Black and Brown cultures especially value instilling independence in our children which means encouraging our kids to wander, play and when appropriate, find solutions for their own problems. This teaches children that they are capable and safe.  Does sand sometimes get in eyes? Do children sometimes choose not to share? Yes, but not as often as you think.

Be sure your child sees you interacting with people from different backgrounds

The majority of white Americans only know and interact with other white Americans. It is no wonder that when our children enter into increasingly diverse public schools that they don’t know how to interact with people of color. The best way to ensure your child is ready to be a contributing healthy part of America’s black and brown future, is to intentionally desegregate your own life. How often do you and your family leave your neighborhood to eat or play? Do you self segregate by being a member of a pool or beach club?

Our children imitate what we do much more than they listen to what we say. If you lead a segregated life, then your child will act accordingly. It’s not easy, but be intentional.

About the Author

Jasen Frelot is a father, husband, community organizer, early childhood educator, and social justice advocate based in Seattle. He is the founder and Executive Director of Kids and Race, a new non-profit organization focused on educating parents on how they impact their children’s racial identity development. Jasen is also the founding director of Columbia City Preschool of Arts and Culture, a preschool founded on the principles of racial equity.

Jasen’s work has been featured on KUOW, King 5, The Seattle Times, Real Change, and Parentmap Magazine. Jasen lives in Seattle with his wife and young children. And check out his first podcast, Talking Race!

  One thought on “Desegregating Your Child’s Life

  1. Shawna Gamache
    November 22, 2017 at 5:23 am

    Thank you so much for this piece, Jason. I have tried to be intentional with my children in the way I talk to them about white supremacy and racism. It’s so easy for me to call out a book or a movie for lack of diversity. But it’s a lot harder to look at my life as I actually live it and admit that what I am showing them is an appallingly segregated reality most of the time– especially in the restaurants and parks we visit most often. Thank you for the ideas on some baby steps I can take out of this!! Not to mention, that more diverse park setting that fosters independence and community and isn’t so steeped in helicoptering sounds way better to me.

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