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  • Chris Wharton

Dinner Table Conversations Matter!

WARNING* - racially derogatory language used in retelling of this story.

Our 11-year-old daughter came home with her head held high on Friday eager to tell us about her day.

Two of her classmates (white males) called another classmate (Asian male) a "dog eater". In fact, they were chanting "dog eater, dog eater, dog eater". My daughter was nearby and turned her head to see what was going on.

The targeted boy looked at her and said "What are you looking at 'curry muncher'?"

"You know that hurt people hurt people? Do you like it when they call you 'dog eater?", she asked. "No!", the boy said.

"Well, how do you think I feel when you call me 'curry muncher'?" "Not good, I guess."

"Right. So what do you want those boys to do?" "Apologize, I guess", he said.

"Sooooo?", my daughter waited. "I'm sorry for calling you a 'curry muncher'", he said.

My daughter then encouraged the boy to go over to the other boys, and they apologized (for now).

This was not the first time my daughter heard the dehumanizing term "dog eater" and the othering term "curry muncher" used in her classroom. She had brought it up a number of times at our dinner table. We had offered to talk to the teacher; we had coached her on what she might say the next time it happened; we tried to explain why people say some of the hateful things they do. It understandably took her a while to speak up, but when she did, it was magnificent.

This story highlights the importance of repetitive, positive, and consistent messaging to children (and adults alike).

Research shows it takes five positive experiences to offset one negative experience, so keep that positivity flowing!

Silence is the enemy of racism. And breaking that silence starts with creating a safe space (e.g., a dinner table, an office common area, a boardroom, etc.) to open up, share feelings, and find the courage to speak up.

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