Love Anyway

Season 2 | Episode 5: Talking to Kids About Race

Join us for a candid conversation about talking to kids about race. Rapper and Preemptive Love's artist-in-residence Propaganda, and his wife, university professor Dr. Alma Zaragoza-Petty, share their experiences growing up as people of color, explore how they've talked about racism with their children, and speak into what they want white parents to know about humility and allyship.

Join us for a candid conversation about talking to kids about race. Rapper and Preemptive Love’s artist-in-residence Propaganda, and his wife, university professor Dr. Alma Zaragoza-Petty, share their experiences growing up as people of color, explore how they’ve talked about racism with their children, and speak into what they want white parents to know about humility and allyship.


Show Notes

Babies begin to notice race at six months old. Children are paying attention. And as we’ve learned this season, what they hear the adults in their lives say and do⁠—or not say and do⁠—deeply influences the people they are⁠—and who they’ll become.

Rapper and Preemptive Love’s artist-in-residence Propaganda, and his wife, university professor Dr. Alma Zaragoza-Petty, join us for a candid conversation about parenting and talking to kids about race.

Alma Zaragoza-Petty and Propaganda, the couple behind the Red Couch Podcast, share their parenting perspectives, especially how it relates to race, on this episode of Love Anyway. / Photo courtesy of Propaganda
Alma Zaragoza-Petty and Propaganda, the couple behind Red Couch Podcast, share their parenting perspectives, especially how it relates to race, on this episode of Love Anyway. / Photo courtesy of Propaganda

A majority of Americans say race relations in the US are bad, and of those, about seven-in-ten say things are getting even worse. Roughly two-thirds told Pew Research Center that it has become more common for people to express racist or racially insensitive views since 2016.

And, it’s not just the US. Racism runs rampant in obvious and hidden ways around the world. The European Union’s Fundamental Human Rights Agency found that race-related violence, discriminatory police profiling, and discrimination in the search for jobs and housing are sky-high in many European countries.

In this episode, Propaganda and Alma:

  • Share their experiences growing up as people of color
  • Explore ways they’ve talked about race and peacemaking with their children
  • Speak into what they want white parents to know about humility and allyship

Further Reading:

The Love Anyway podcast is written and produced by Kayla Craig, along with Ben Irwin, and Erin Wilson. Skip Matheny is our digital production director. Jonny Craig is our audio editor. Our audio is mixed and mastered by Dylan Seals. Jeremy Courtney, Jessica Courtney, and JR Pershall are executive producers. Special thanks to Jason Petty and Alma Zaragoza-Petty. Featured music was by Propaganda. Our theme music is by Roman Candle.

Don’t miss an episode. Subscribe now on apps like Apple PodcastsGoogle Podcasts, and Spotify.

Additional Resources

Racism: There’s Something in the Water

Racism is more than an offensive photo of someone dressed up in blackface or a KKK outfit. Racism and white supremacy are the waters we swim in. We need new water.

Full Transcript

INTRO MUSIC

Erin: Babies begin to notice race at six months old. Children are paying attention. And as we’ve learned in this season, what they hear the adults in their lives say and do — or not say and do — deeply influences the people they are — and who they’ll become.

A majority of Americans say race relations in the US are bad, and of those, about seven-in-ten say things are getting even worse. Roughly two-thirds told Pew Research Center that it has become more common for people to express racist or racially insensitive views since 2016.

And …  it’s not just the US. Racism runs rampant in explicit (obvious) and implicit (hidden) ways around the world. The European Union’s Fundamental Human Rights Agency found that race-related violence, discriminatory police profiling, and discrimination in the search for jobs and housing are sky-high in many European countries.

For white people like me, we have the privilege to choose to enter conversations about racism. But people of color don’t have that choice.

MUSIC

Erin: Rapper and activist Propaganda, and his wife, university professor Dr. Alma Zaragoza-Petty, talked with our producer Kayla Craig for a candid conversation about parenting and talking to kids about race.

Jason: Check, check, check, check, check.

Jason: Yeah. So my name is Jason. Also known as Propaganda. I am an artist in residence this year for 2019 at Preemptive Love. I do poetry, hip-hop, you know, some activism, and one half of the Red Couch podcast.

Alma: And I am Alma or Dr. ZP as I was called when I was a professor. Um And I am also the other half of the Red Couch podcast. And I work for a nonprofit, mentoring low-income first-generation youth through college.

Erin: They’ve been married for ten years and they live in Los Angeles with their two daughters.

Jason: Yeah, two kids. One just turned four. The other is turning 14 in two weeks. So that’s quite a spread. But yeah, we’re both like, you know, type-A’s.

Jason: You know, highly passionate about what we do, there’s a lot of overlap and what our passions are about. So we, we hold tightly to a Google Calendar. And in the midst of trying to balancing kind of balancing our like public passions, we want to make sure we’re putting our children first, our home first, our own sort of mental and spiritual health as a priority, just kind of like getting our kids on planes when they can, and figuring out when they can, and when we shouldn’t get on planes. And, yeah, just kind of all that.

Alma: I work very closely with our students through the scholarship program that my organization sponsors, and yeah, just being able to see, you know, students of color, since from really marginalized backgrounds be able to go to college.

Erin: As Preemptive Love staff, we gather online once a week for a video call. Sometimes we open the floor to process what’s happening in our cities, states, and countries. The wisdom and insight Prop brings is parallel to none.

Jason: My thing is more like culture from a, like, 30,000-foot perspective. So like, how does sort of all those things, whether it’s economics, education, you know, racism, justice, equality, like umm all arts cinema, you know, how they all sort of are like, intertwining and working with each other. And then when you get back down at the ground level, like how are we sort of interacting to create this, like, sort of flourishing of civilization, I know, it’s so huge, but like, that’s the type of stuff that like really gets me jazzed.

So when I like, see things that are like, a ground level, you know, really working to make, like, you know, a lot of positive change in the world. To me, it’s like, it gets me excited because I can see how that sort of connects with other parts of culture and society, and how that all works together. And I just, like, try to link arms with those that are like in the trenches doing those things, and kind of uplift those stories, tell those stories, and translate them to other people that may not know that that’s what’s happening, you know, on the other side of the city, or the other side of the world. So like, to me,  it’s the, it’s the understanding of culture as a whole is the part that like, gets me gets my juices going.

Kayla: Yeah, I love that. So do you have a story of maybe a time when you kind of brought your daughters along for the ride, and they were part of, you know, kind of the work that you’re doing and the things that you’re passionate about?

Alma: when I was living in Oakland over 10 years ago, I remember just bringing Luna along with her scooter, whenever we would go to marches like this was when there was protests for, you know, just black lives matter. And just like the Oscar Grant situation that happened there in the Bay Area, I remember just bringing her along with her scooter and her legs scootering along as we were protesting, like me and some friends. And that was kind of probably the beginning of her being involved

Erin: Oscar Grant was a 22-year-old Black man who was fatally shot in the early morning hours of New Year’s Day 2009 in Oakland, California by a Bay Area Rapid Transit Police Officer. But Alma doesn’t take the decision to involve her children lightly.

Alma: just, developmentally, because of my background and education, I tend to err on the on the side of caution and like temperance in the way that we want to like, unleash all of like, the horribleness of humanity, we’ve done, on like, young ones.

Jason: Whereas I don’t.

Alma: I think Jason takes a much more scared straight approach.

Jason: This is the world you gonna be in!

Erin: How do they balance their parenting perspectives? Prop put it this way: They incorporate their values into every day lived experiences.

Jason: This is our ebbs and flows of life, we step in for the vulnerable, we participate in things, when we see that there’s injustice, this is just, this is just a part of our everyday goings, you know, and if you’re just if she’s just around this, not like, Mommy, Daddy going to work, but this is what we do as a family.

Jason: So with our daughters, the oldest one she started looking over our shoulder on the news, like, what is it really talking about? Why is this fair? Why is this happening? She started picking it up on things that herself realizing, you know, on her own that, oh, man, I have a black Father, you know what I’m saying, and that’s he’s a black man. And if he leaves, there might be situations where the police may not treat him fair, you know, she kind of picked that up on our own, by us just participating in moments that it was happening and culture.

Jason: Just the idea of like, not as an add on, but just as a normal ebb and flow for our families is kind of how we’ve been like working through those sort of conversations.

Kayla: Yeah, yeah, that’s good. Do you have a certain any memory or story of sitting down and having a really intentional talk about race? You know, we kind of mentioned they hear things on TV, they make those connections? Is that kind of the path that it goes? Or have you sat down and had like, a really kind of one on one conversation about when it can look like to be a black man from your perspective?

Jason: I have with my big one. Like I said, she’s 14, so like, it was coming up. It first started when I came to pick her up from elementary school, and some other little girl at the school was just flabbergasted that I was her dad, you know because she’s full-blooded Mexican, she’s from a previous relationship with Alma. She was just so confused as to why that other little girl doesn’t understand that I’m her father, you know, like, the thought it didn’t cross her mind that this was different. So her sort of trying to understand herself, period, you know, in, in the world that she lived in, in turn, started the conversation with me.

Jason: Now, I come from a background like, like, she said, like, I come from, like, throw you and kick you out the bird’s nest, you gotta fly type way of understanding your ethnicity. Because that’s, unfortunately, like, as a black man, it’s like, kind of not an option. You gotta learn this quick, you know? That was my only window into how to parent a person of color. So that’s what I did. You know, like, she’s in third grade. I’m showing her slave ships in the Middle Passage, like this, how we got here, you know what I’m saying and I’m like, we need to rent Roots, watch 12 Years a Slave, you know, just stuff that wildly inappropriate for her.

Jason: I was doing that with her to the point to where she was afraid for me to, like, leave the house. I had to, like, sit down and say, there are things about being black, that are beautiful, that I am very proud of, you know, but unfortunately, live in a country that like, has not always seen us, as you know, equals. So like, it’s kind to the place to where it’s like, I’m not going, Hey, on Tuesday, sit down, I want to talk to you about this. But more like, as she is facing situations, I’m trying to guide her through them. 

Alma: As people of color, who are pretty well educated and have gone through their own either prejudice or racist kind of experiences, like, we’re very aware of things and can point out like microaggressions to her, point out, like, different kinds of things happening where I don’t know, like an average home, that would happen. I don’t remember a time when we weren’t talking about race. Yeah. You know, it’s, it was never an option. Yeah. 

MUSIC

Alma: I don’t know, it’s hard to say like, there’s this one conversation we had, because I feel like we’ve always kind of had conversations as it’s come up, because we don’t have the option as nonwhite people to not think about race. Yeah.

Kayla: That’s so good. That kind of reminds me of another question I wanted to ask you: How has your upbringing and your own childhood affected how you are now coming to the table as a parent and raising, you know, kind of the next generation?

Erin: Like all of us, Prop says the way his parents raised him was tied to their own personal socio-political experiences. His father is from the Jim Crow South: He grew up in Dallas, moved to Los Angeles, became a Black Panther, and went into the Vietnam War. His survival and defense mechanism, as Prop puts it, was living in a constant state of trauma, and it influenced how he parented. His mother, on the other hand, was from Washington, DC, and brought her own perspectives as a Black woman to the table. It has all influenced his parenting.

Jason: So, for my own parenting, there’s like, Okay, let me parse out what was just unhealthy practices. And then there’s, like, what was great, what was necessary. And one of those things, I guess, in terms of like, race was like, I need to, I need to get out and front of this, like, in the sense that, like, I don’t want you to be shocked that when you leave this house, the rest of the world may not consider your brown is beautiful. But in your home, I want to fortify you and have you see so many images of sort of beauty, success, trial, failure, you know, hard times good times to get a full gambit of the personhood, of what it means to be black.

MUSIC

Jason: I had posters all over my house of like, you know, one of them still here, when the picture of Martin Luther King, Malcolm X, the day they met, and they’re shaking, like that wasn’t in my remember that as a child, you know, I’m saying so these images, I was like, I want to do that with my children, that they’re just saturated with images of beauty for who they are

MUSIC

Alma: I um grew up in a very different context, obviously, because I’m not a black man. [laughter] My parents, they just really loved being Mexican. Like, we just have a lot of pride, you know, around their nationality. I grew up in Mexico for most of my childhood. And so I learned how to read and write Spanish. And so I have a very strong connection.

Erin: Dualism is an important part of Alma’s story as a bicultural woman, the daughter of Mexican immigrants…

Alma: And so I had to kind of find a space for myself, where I’m just like, Okay, what do I feel like I am and what does that mean, for me, and to me, that really helps me my biculturalism, like really helps me to kind of broker that for my kids.

Erin: We wanted to know: As parents raising children with brown bodies, what does it look like to raise your kids as peacemakers in the US, recognizing their role is going to look different than their white peers?

Prop shared about “the talk” — the conversation Black people have about police; the talk that was given to him, the talk that he has given to others. He reflected on having this conversation recently with a young friend.

Jason: Your white friends, when they’re kids, are going to be allowed to make mistakes, they’re going to be allowed to just do stupid stuff.

And just the reality is: Dude, you’re, you’re a black boy, and you just won’t have that option. You just, you don’t get to be a dumb kid. It’s unfortunate, but it’s the reality, this is the life of a brown body. 

So if this is the truth, here’s you can navigate this for your own safety. And here’s how you can navigate this for the safety of the people around you.

MUSIC

Jason:  We are all we got, nobody’s looking out for us except for us. So if that’s the case, then we need to not only hold each other responsible, but we also need to make an environment that’s not going to put us in a place where it’s going to cause danger, it’s going to cause trouble, it’s going to cause war, you know, so in whether it’s for your own safety, or for the cause of peacemaking, you have to somehow take on a maturity greater than your yours. It sucks. It should, but it’s just what it is. Right? With our children and with our children’s friends, I’m trying to lead them in that is is to say like, Hey, here’s the reality, the system is unfair, it is what it is, you’re not going to be given the chances everybody else is going to be given. I don’t know what to tell you. That’s just the life we’re in. Right. But it doesn’t have to be that way.

And maybe you and your buddies can start that change and how you start that changes, just First of all, being aware of the system. And when you have an opportunity to wage peace, step in and wage peace, even if it’s just as simple as like, hey, that guy down the street, man, he’s not your enemy. I like we went to the same preschool. You know, we had the same with the same Sunday school teacher, I don’t know, like that, that you get to be that voice.

Erin: About three-quarters of Black and Asian Americans – and more than half of Hispanics – say they’ve experienced discrimination or have been treated unfairly because of their race or ethnicity.

We have to be aware of the mental, emotional, and physical toll it takes on people to be expected to speak on behalf of their race or ethnicity. It’s important to Alma that her daughter knows that she’s never obligated to represent an entire community.

Alma 38:26: One of the things that I’ve tried to just teach my teenager right now is to be able to vocalize not feeling comfortable, or not needing to do certain things with certain people. So, like, how does that look within, racial discussions for me is saying, like, hey, like, I know, you want me to be that like, to represent my whole community as a Latinx person right now by that question, but what I’m going to say is like, I don’t, you know, I don’t really feel like I can talk about that right now. Or, like, why don’t you tell me about yourself instead.

Because often, I think we get put on the defensive off, you know, in many times, because we we buy into the idea that I’m here to teach y’all something, and that it’s totally my job as a brown person to deconstruct racism and to make this a better place for the world. And, and I’m just like, no, it’s not, you know, and I think for me, it’s really important to teach my girls that like, you know, as much as you want to step into spaces and be a peacemaker, like know, your gifting to and like, you know, the fact that like, if you’re This is not what causes you joy, and causes you to like, to feel like you’re flourishing as an individual. Like, you don’t have to be mom and dad part two. We’re doing this work, because we feel called to it like we feel like or this is like what we really are passionate about. But if you just want to dance, or if you just want to be a photographer, you know, I also want to give her that hope. And like that, that option, because I feel like oftentimes, we, you know, we don’t get that option. As people, you know, we almost feel like we have to be the ones teaching out there. We have to do it all. And it’s like, no, it’s time for some white kids to step up and do their work to, you know.

Alma: I would just say like, it’s a lot about marrying the idea of like, yeah, this is who we are. And this is what it means that this is a burden that comes with this. But also, this is what our boundaries can look like. And this is what hope can look like, within that space, because we don’t want to burn out either. Yeah.

Kayla: I wonder if it is not, you know, tokenizing, or emotionally, spiritually, mentally taxing, what you would say, just to our listeners who are white, who are raising white kids, is there anything you would like to speak into, from your personal perspective?

Jason: White supremacy is a white problem. And it’s almost like, hey, talk amongst yourselves. You know, Science Mike says this, and I’ve used it a bunch of times, it’s like, I shouldn’t have to describe the smell your boot leather while it’s on my deck, you know. So don’t make me diagnose and fix your problem. Like, I am on the bottom into your problem. So that’s your thing. Like, Hey, you know what, I’m going to go home and I’m going to try to raise the best kids possible. Can you please just kind of do the same? I’m gonna go home and expose my children to a world that they’re going to walk into that is very unfair and unjust because of this. Can you just kind of do the same, please?

MUSIC

Alma: I have two words: Humility and allyship. So humility, I would just say to parents out there reason why kids were also themselves white, is you need to have a lot of humility, to really learn and unpack your whiteness, and to allow yourself to really go through that journey. I can see why it’s very, like taxing and burdensome and why some folks just tap out and are like, yeah, whatever, these people are crazy. That’s not it’s not that bad. It’s fine. You know, like, I get it, I get why that escape route is like, way easier, often, I know that why people get shut out and shut down from brown people, when they’re genuinely just asking a question, not out of hatred, or ignorance or racism, they genuinely do not know. And the reason I can understand that I’m okay with understanding that is because, see, my parents as immigrants to this country, being completely bought into the idea of it all. And so I get ignorant, like, like being ignorant, or like, just not knowing, like, like, beyond what you think is maybe like personal dynamics and relationships, or like how people some people are and how some others aren’t.

I get that there’s, there’s a lot there. And that’s sometimes it’s when you ask a question out of true, just want like, just really wanting to know something, and you get completely shut out by you know, a person who is at that, at that tipping point that I mentioned earlier, where they’re just tapped out, like, they’re just like, burnt out in there. And so when you and when you’re that person to step in and ask that question, and it all blows up in your face. Of course, it’s scary to come back and keep investigating.

But I would just say like, humble yourself, you know, like, if you just Humble yourselves that time, and keep asking and keep learning, keep inquiring, you will learn. Sometimes when white people ask a question like that from someone, and they get shut down, they’re like, well, nevermind, you know? And I would say, no, not nevermind. That person just was not the right person for you to ask that question at that time. So just keep going, you know, like, humble yourselves and just say, Hey, that was that’s what that was about.

MUSIC

Alma: And then allyship. If I were a white person, raising white children, I would want my kids to be allies, to be real good allies. And that means like, helping my children understand like, that they’re not better than anyone. There’s no superiority or inferiority in racial issues. It’s not about that at all. And often, that’s what people make it about. And that’s where it gets uncomfortable. But it’s about being able to navigate, like your kids. In understanding that, it’s not about appearance or superiority, but that it’s about power dynamics, and how they work given your light complexion, it’s important that if you’re going to subvert power, to do it in this specific kind of way, where you’re uplifting others that don’t have power

Erin: Humility and allyship. What does it look like? Prop puts it this way … 

Jason:  Like imagine like, if you’re the white parent, and you’re 16 year old comes home, and he’s like, I got suspended. And the question comes to why and it’s like him and his, like, brown friend were messing around, but the teacher was going to let him off but the brown kid was about to get in trouble. Like, take your son at Disneyland. If he’s like, I wasn’t going to let them you know, just let him get in trouble. We were both doing it that wasn’t right there was just doing that because he was because he’s not a white dude. You don’t saying like, man, pack your son up, take him to go get a burger like that’s, that’s allyship that he put himself on the line, because he saw you had already trained his little boy to see those types of injustices.

MUSIC

Kayla: Before we go, I do have one quick question. Since this podcast is called love anyway, if you were to summarize what that means to you right now, in this time and space, what is love anyway to you?

Jason: If you feel like you have a legitimate, justifiable reason to walk away, but choose not to. That’s the love anyway to me.

MUSIC

Erin: Prop and Alma host The Red Couch Podcast, a place for candid conversations and interviews covering everything from pop culture to important social issues—all with the unique perspective, insight, and wit only they can bring. And they’re going on tour.

Jason 52:29: October 10. In Chicago, it’s called the Hard to Love tour, where actually some of the stuff we’re talking about now, when it comes to like, sometimes, love is just hard. Whether it’s loving yourself with loving your past, loving your history, loving your situation.

MUSIC

Erin: That’s it for today … but we want to keep the conversation going. Visit our show notes at preemptivelove.org/podcast, where you can find behind-the-scenes photos of Prop and Alma, links to The Red Couch podcast and tour schedule, book recommendations for talking to kids about race, and more. You’ll also find a transcript for this episode, and you can catch up on previous episodes, too.

Next week, join us for our season two finale, about immigration and remaking home, featuring Saira Siddiqui, a doctoral student who has grown quite the following with her blog, Confessions of a Muslim Mom. And Shawn Smucker, a writer whose work interviewing a Syrian refugee named Mohammad, sparked a rich friendship Shawn didn’t know he was missing in his life.

Learn more about what we do via preemptivelove on Instagram and Twitter. Use the hashtag #loveanyway to give feedback or start a conversation.

This is Love Anyway, and I’m Erin Wilson. Thanks for listening.

MUSIC

End credits: The Love Anyway podcast is written and produced by me, Kayla Craig, along with Ben Irwin, and Erin Wilson. Skip Matheny is our digital production director. Jonny Craig is our audio editor. Our audio is mixed and mastered by Dylan Seals. Jeremy Courtney, Jessica Courtney, and JR Pershall are executive producers. Special thanks to Jason Petty and Alma Zaragoza-Petty. Featured music was by Propaganda. Our theme music is by Roman Candle.


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Love Anway

Season 2 | Episode 6: Mirrors and Windows

What are mirrors and windows? And why are they important in our lives and the lives of our families? In our season two finale, we talk with Saira Siddiqui of Confessions of a Muslim Mom, along with Shawn Smucker, author of When We Were Strangers.

What are mirrors and windows? And why are they important in our lives and the lives of our families? In our season two finale, we talk with Saira Siddiqui of Confessions of a Muslim Mom, along with Shawn Smucker, author of When We Were Strangers.