Listeners regularly reach out with questions – things that they are seeing in their own neighborhoods, things that we haven’t addressed, but should, etc. For the final episode of 2021, we thought we’d answer as many as we could. Thank you to everyone who sent in questions. If we didn’t get to your question, or if there is something else on your mind, let us know so we can include it in a future “mailbag” episode – [email protected]

As we enter the holiday season and folks are thinking about year-end giving, we’d like to ask for your support of this work. If this podcast brought value to your life, made you think in a new way, helped you have conversations in a different way, or just brought you some joy, we’d be grateful for your support. You can join our Patreon –

Thank you for your support and we look forward to more great conversations in 2022.


Let us know what you think of this episode, suggest future topics, or share your story with us – @integratedschls on twitter, IntegratedSchools on Facebook, or email us [email protected].

We are a proud member of The Connectd Podcast Network.

The Integrated Schools Podcast was created by Courtney Mykytyn and Andrew Lefkowits.

This episode was produced by Andrew Lefkowits and Val Brown. It was edited, and mixed by Andrew Lefkowits.

Music by Kevin Casey.



Andrew: Welcome to the Integrated Schools podcast. I'm Andrew, a White dad from Denver.

Val: And I'm Val, a Black mom from North Carolina.

Andrew: And this is the first ever year end mailbag episode.

Val: Yes! So do you have any funny mail stories? 

Andrew: Funny mail stories?

Val: I have a confession about mail. I am notoriously bad at mailing it. And I've been married for 15 years and the very kind guests who attended my wedding never got their thank you letters. But it's not because they aren’t…

Andrew: They haven't yet gotten their thank you letters.

Val: Andrew, but they have stamps. Like it's not even that they are not written.

Andrew: You just have to take them to the mail box. 

Val: Handwritten, stamps, addressed. They just never…

Andrew: You don't, you don’t wanna rush it, Val. 

Val: They never made it. 

Andrew: They haven't yet made it. Don't give up. 

Val: They haven't yet made it. I'm sorry. Thank you for coming to my wedding. 

Andrew: Count it. Count it. I feel bad for our postal carrier. He is overworked and underpaid. 

Val: Oh my. Alright, shout out to all of our people delivering mail. 

Andrew: For real.

Val: We appreciate you. 

Andrew: None of the questions that we have to answer came through the postal service, however. They all came in via electronic form, direct messages on social media. 

Val: Shout out to everyone who is getting our electric mail to us. Thank you. 

Andrew: Thank you to the internets, yeah. So we've got some great questions and we're just going to jump right in to maybe kick things off here. Alex asks, during the Integrated Schools’ first webinar, one parent mentioned the challenges of birthday parties and all the other Integrated Schools parents knowingly laughed. As someone whose child is not yet enrolled in school, what is the story with birthday parties? Any pitfalls to avoid, as we strive to know better and do better?

Val: Birthday party pitfalls. So when my kids were in preschool, we had a group of friends, all of us, and there's literally somebody's birthday party, it felt like at least once a month. And we all went to the same bounce house place, same pizza, same everything. And the kids never grew tired of it. 

Our family was the only Black family in this group, um, which was fine at the time. I think, you know, looking back now, we never had conversations about race with these folks. But the idea that our children kind of define our adult social group, like we create these… 

Andrew: Right.

Val: …these groups based around our children and access to school. And so we get friendly with folks our kids go to school with, even though they wouldn't necessarily be folks that we would hang out with all the time. And so, I think there was a lot of, it wasn't like, it didn't feel like pressure at the time, but there was the expectation that we kind of hung out together and our kids were involved in the same things. And then after the 2016 election, none of them talked to me, so, uh, that's the end of that story. 

Andrew: I feel like you got a little bit of a hint of the White secrets. There is that pressure that’s like, oh, well, you should be involved in this activity because it's the right activity. It's the best activity. And, uh, yeah, there is that kind of pressure. And then if your whole day is spent driving your kids around to various activities… 

Val: Oh my.

Andrew: …then your only hope for friendship is other people who are doing those same activities. 

Val: Yeah. And so when they, when we invited them to our birthday parties, obviously the groups were more diverse. We knew other kids who did not go to the school and it was all fine. The kids were little and they all had a good time. 

And so I think any advice for the birthday party situation is, well, honey, you know, you don't have to go to all of them. There was a lot of pressure to do that. And in that, I just wish we had more authentic conversations about the world and what we are expecting.

Andrew: Yeah. In my mind, birthday parties and play dates are sort of tied together. You know, this sense that our kids should all be playing together. And I think that one of the cultural expectations that I bumped up against and that I certainly know a lot of other White friends have bumped up against is this idea like, well, let's just have a play date and you will just like send your kid over to my house. And I don't even know you. 

Val: Hmmm. That's weird.

Andrew: Yeah, yeah. So yeah, one of my daughter's good friends in kindergarten, her mom was a teacher at the school, and so I felt like there was some kind of connection there. Like, oh, why don't you come over? And she was like sure. And she was like, is it okay if my husband and I also come over? I was like, yeah, great, awesome. But there was very much a sense of like, I'm not sending my kid into your house unless I have done my reconnaissance first. 

Val: Right. 

Andrew: And I totally understand that now. I think I didn't fully grasp it at the time. And I mean it probably speaks to general confidence in, like, the systems and structures to protect my kids in the world, right? I'm kinda like, you're going to watch my kid instead of me? That sounds good. Take her, you know, like go for it. 

And I think just like acknowledging the different things we bring into that interaction because there's a. I know a lot of folks who are like, oh, like I tried to have six playdates and none of them worked out. So like, I must be doing this wrong. Or my kid’s not making enough friends or like there's this kind of, like, pressure to–like your pressure to go to all the White birthday parties–there's this like sense, okay, I just, like, I showed up in this integrating school. There's only a handful of White kids. I want to, like, have play dates with some of the Black kids, because I want to, like, expand their horizons and the parents are kind of like, yeah, not going to happen. And it can feel like, uh, it can feel like failure, I think. 

Val: That's interesting. You're seeking some belonging in this community. I'm trying to figure out how parents can do that authentically, right? Because the birthday parties are not for us, per se, right? They’re for the kids to hang out. And so maybe that isn't the place that we have really meaningful conversations. 

Andrew: Yeah. The, like, tool for building connection and building community that might happen at a mostly White school is often play dates. And I think that for parents who are showing up in integrating spaces, like setting that aside and figuring out other ways to try to build community, to try to get to know people. I don't know what the things are, but I think asking someone to trust you with their kid may be a leap too far, at least at the very beginning. 

Val: Did you have a lot of those play dates growing up? Cause I was thinking about my own experience. Like we had a set of friends. I could go over to their house whenever. You know, my mom had been friends with their mom forever. But there were, we didn't do a lot of play dating. 

Andrew: Yeah. I start to feel like an old person, because I'd be like, back in my day, you know, like, yeah, like the block. There were like, something like, 18 kids under the age of 13 on my block. And so there was this real sense of like, it was a village a little bit. Like everybody's parenting everybody. In general it's sort of like, yeah, you just like go, go everywhere. And I wish that my kids had some of that. And there's this sense of everything needs to be scheduled. And I think that may be where like the drive for play dates come from, right?

It’s like, they need X number of minutes of play dates every day. And then there's okay, well, let's schedule it cause it's not going to just happen automatically.

Val: I'm nodding vigorously over here because yeah, when you were talking, it really was like just go outside and whatever kids were outside…

Andrew: Leave me alone. 

Val: …those were the kids you played with. Like you played with the kids in the neighborhood because there wasn't so much structured time. And so when I like look outside now and I'll tell my kids, y'all go outside. One will, the other one was like, uh, there's bugs. And so, but he'll just go outside and play basketball by himself. And I'll say, hey, you know, there's a kid who waits in front of our house for the bus every morning. And I'm like, you want me to, like, ask him his name, see if y'all wanna play basketball? And my son's like, please don't, please don't ever do that. 

And so, I didn't expect this to come out of the birthday question conversation, but I think what you shared was a significant aha for me is that in the scheduling of all of these activities first for our children to make them like the perfect bottle or prepare them in the perfect way or to set them apart from other children, we lose the authentic opportunity to say, just like go outside and play and meet some kids.

Andrew: Make some friends. 

Val: Make some friends. Yeah. 

Andrew: And then I think, you know, layered on top of that is like how segregated so many neighborhoods are. If you want your kid to have a diverse group of friends, just going outside may not actually get them there. They may be surrounded by other kids who look just like them if they go outside.

One of the real benefits of my kids being in the school they are in is the group of friends that they have built who are all different from them in all sorts of ways. I want to be able to foster that, but I think it's easy to show up as White person and be like, hey, like, you know, send your kid over to my house.

Val: Mmmm. 

Andrew: Parents were like, nope, not going to do it. 

Val: Nope. I'm not doing that. Nope. 

Andrew: I don't know you. Yeah. 

Val: Absolutely not. 

Andrew: Yeah. 

Val: Thank you for that question, listener!

Andrew: Thank you, Alex. Um, let's see, Tom wrote to us on Twitter. For those of us who follow your community, but don't have school aged children, what are effective ways for us to engage in a mission that is aligned with, but perhaps adjacent to that of Integrated Schools? How can we show up as maybe formerly school aged parents or thinking about someday becoming parents or maybe not really on the parent train at all? How do people support the cause?

Val: I think that's an awesome question. Cause I'm graduating soon, right? And I hope, I mean. And “soon” is relative, but you know how years go these days. It'll be no time. And so, I imagine myself to continue to be a fierce advocate for this cause. And I think for me I'll probably be able to show up a couple of different ways. I probably have a lot more time to go to school board meetings. It seems like people without school age kids are spending a lot of time at school board meetings these days.

Andrew: Yep. 

Val: So I'll have time to do that. And you know, that's an example of being more civically active in what's happening, right? And understanding that having a highly educated and, you know, equitably educated population helps all of us, right? And so, I'm not supporting efforts that undermine the funding of schools. I'm talking to other people about those very things. I can certainly volunteer in schools. And I can volunteer in a school across like a racial difference, right? So that, it's not just me in my own community. Like I'm actually trying to work across difference. What are some of your ideas? 

Andrew: Yeah. The volunteering in schools piece, definitely. That's been on my mind a lot lately. I think particularly given how stressed out teachers are right now, thinking back to the last episode and, you know, the shortage of just like adult bodies to show up in schools. Whether that's to clean the bathrooms or watch the kids or serve lunch or whatever it is, like just actually showing up and setting foot inside of a school, you know. Both takes some strain off that school, which is great, but also, certainly across difference, you know, you end up seeing a school, particularly a school that maybe, like, everybody in the neighborhood talks about as being terrible or failing or some other way has, like, a bad rating. I think when you actually walk inside a lot of those schools, like, oh, look at those beautiful kids who are learning, look at the love that's in this building, look at the things that are going on. And so I think that is, that is powerful. 

And then, yeah, I think, you know, you're right, showing up and advocating for policies that are actually beneficial. But I think your ability to do that is even greater if you have spent some time, you know, you've become part of a community. So even though you don't have a kid and, to your point, it's not like a purely selfless act. If our schools are doing better, we're all doing better. We all benefit from it. So showing up and building community in a school. And by volunteering, by getting to know some kids, by getting to know some teachers, then it's like, oh, you know what? You know where my voice would actually be really helpful is at the school board, because they're talking about closing down the school. Add my voice to this cause in some way. And I feel like there's a, that's another opportunity. 

Val: Yeah. Yeah. I appreciate the question because I think it's easy to lose sight of such an important institution when you don't have a loved one actively participating in it, right? So understanding the importance of schools is awesome. 

Andrew: Yeah. Thank you, Tom. 

Val: Thank you!

Andrew: I think we've got a quick one here. Dana asks, where are the school districts with high percentage of Black and Brown students who have ongoing meaningful feedback loops where parents, including non-English speaking parents, are made to feel like partners in their children's education?

Val: Well, I certainly believe that there are pockets of those places and they are probably primarily staffed by Black and Brown educators who are committed to that type of work for their student body. You know, if I think about just general public schools, I think this is when you entered the cricket noise. 

And not to be mean. But I think we have so much work to do, in ways that affirm the dignity and humanity of all of our students. And again, you'll have pockets, you'll have teachers who are doing it, you'll have some schools that are doing it, but I think if we look across the country. And I've been looking, you know, I want to know, I want to visit, I want to see, I want to learn from the kids and the educators who are in that building and hear from the parents. And I don't have a good answer for that. 

Andrew: Yeah. If it was happening at scale somewhere, we would know about it. I think there are also probably a lot of teachers and administrators who would like for it to happen, but there are so many structural things that are in the way of that. Just in terms of, the demands on their time, the structures that exist for meaningful feedback. And even just the kind of, the ways that the kind of professionals, the people who have the PhDs. Not that there's anything wrong with getting a PhD.

Val: Better not be. I'm close. 

Andrew: But, you know, that there's this sense like, oh, well, they're the experts and so they must know. And a sense that that expertise is more valuable than the expertise of the parents and the families. And the sense of like, well, parents don't really know what they want, because they don't understand the literature and they don't know this thing and they haven't read this study and whatever.

And so it both serves to not allow the space for parent voice to show up. And then, when parents do show up, they feel, like, ignored. And they're like, well, why? Nothing changed. I came. I talked a whole lot. I said all these things that were important to me and nobody actually listened or changed anything. So why should I keep doing it?

Val: Yeah. I think it's quite egotistical for folks to think that parents don't know their kids and what their kids need, right? And so we should, as educators, humbly come to parents and try to get to understand what they know about their kids and what their kids need, and take that into consideration when we're doing this collective planning, this collective learning experience, right? 

So like the teacher has a level of expertise, the parents have a level of expertise specifically about the child, and when you teach, you don't teach content, you teach children, right? And so like, how do we make sure that we are honoring the expertise that parents have about their own children? 

Andrew: As a partnership, right? I mean, that's the other piece I feel like, particularly for White and privileged parents often fall into is like, well, teachers are sort of replaceable automatons. Like if they just, like, read the right stuff, like, it doesn't matter.

And so there's this need to elevate the expertise of teachers and the expertise of parents and then finding ways. I mean, I think Zoe talked about this last time about, you know, how do we build on collaboratively to make sure that all of our kids are getting what they need to actually be able to learn?

Val: Right. 

Andrew: So thank you for that question, Dana. I wish we had more hopeful answers, but, um.

Val: We're hopeful though. 

Andrew: And listeners, if you know of a spot where it's really working well, where that kind of community feedback loop is happening, definitely hit us up and let us know. Cause we'd love to learn more about it. 

Val: Yeah. Make sure if you're White that some Black folks co-sign you. 

Andrew: Yeah. Not just like, it feels to you, White mom, that like everybody listens to you. That is not actually what we're looking for.

Val: Right, right. Let's make sure some people of color have agreed. 

Andrew: Yep. So we've got a great question here from Gina. She says in my home area, there is a lot of opposition to school integration. Groups of parents that are actively opposed to integration. They fought rezoning a couple of years ago that would have made schools across the system more integrated. They were successful. Now our school system remains extremely segregated, aside from a small handful of folks who are choosing integrated or integrating schools.

So her question is how do we effectively deal with the somewhat organized groups of parents who fight measures that would integrate the school system? The usual talking points fall on deaf ears or incite White fragility and cries of “I'm not racist, but.” We have so much potential in our district and even administrators and board members who were willing to make changes, but it doesn't take off. What do you do about these, kind of, the organized White folks who are opposed to the idea of integration at all?

Val: Well, there can definitely be organized White folks who are in support of integration, right? And I think one of the things that I wish I saw more of is people who are not working from a place of fear and actually speaking out in support of that. And I'm not talking about the parents who are already doing it. I'm talking about the ones who are pretty silent. 

And I think we've kind of touched on this before. The whole draw of Whiteness must be really strong for me to just remain silent when I know something is wrong, right? For me to feel like, if I speak up, then I'm losing my community, my family, my friends.

And so that's why the Integrated Schools space, for White folks in particular, I think it's a really important community to cultivate, because in many ways we are asking White folks to go against the status quo and they need a place to land. They need a soft place to land when they get shunned by the rest of their family members, right?

I can't imagine that level of pain and separation from people that I love and who have, you know, loved me as a child and did the very best they could. And so it makes me wonder, like why sometimes we're okay with racist friends. Like why, why, why, why, why?

Like, what are they offering to you that is so meaningful, important, awesome, that walking away from that for, you know, a reality that is integrated and richer in, you know, human experience. Um, I don't know. I don't know. You need to tell me a secret on this one. 

Andrew: Yeah. I don't know exactly what the answer is, but I think a piece of it is about the no man's land in between, right? Like you don't immediately disown all your racist friends and then have this multiracial group of friends instantly, right? Like there's work to do. And it's, I think, it's often slower. 

I mean, going back to the play date thing a little bit, like there is ease in building relationships, at least surface level relationships, with people who are similar to you, right? It's easy to start talking about the similar things when you're all enrolling your kids in the same activities and going on the same sorts of vacations and living similar lives, in similar neighborhoods, in similar sized houses, like all of those things make the surface level much easier. And so I think that getting rid of that requires more investment in relationships that have the potential to pay off much more. But it's like that fear of letting go. 

And in some ways, I think, you do have to let go of it, because like, yeah, it's hard to build a multiracial group of friends, if some of them are racists, right? Like that makes it hard to kind of, you can't, you know, your birthday party gets real awkward, real fast. So like, how do you trust that there is something better on the other side to be able to let go of that?

Val: You know, thinking back again, that birthday party question was brilliant. So it got us thinking about all types of things. But um, and thinking back to my own separation from people who I care deeply about and consider friends, it was very difficult, right? For that to be severed. And to speak to no man's land, you know, I already had another community in which to find comfort. So, you know, that was just my kids’ school community. It wasn't my whole life, my whole community. And so if it's your whole life, right? And who knows how long that middle time is, right? 

Andrew: Particularly in the midst of COVID where you can't actually, like, meet new people or be in… Yeah. 

Val: I mean, that's really tough. And so, I'm imagining White folks who are pro-integration feeling super frustrated when they look at their neighbors and their friends who they know could be speaking up for it. And aren't even in opposition, but are just silent, right? Being like super frustrated with that, right? Because you are offering them a place to go. You are offering them a vision and a future that is more of the communities in which we want to live and grow and learn. 

And so I'm just encouraging folks who are silent to have a lot more courage. And I'm going to encourage the folks who are doing the work to keep it up because you don't know, like, which one of the conversations will be the bridge for that next person. Like you have no idea. 

Andrew: To build the community and grow that soft space to land that people need. The fear of losing connection is real for sure. And there is some kind of leap of faith. And I think, you know, I mean, it's one of the things I think about, the things that White supremacy costs White people, which is not to say that they are comparable to the things that it costs everybody else.

But there is a cost to White people in that there are not the same kind of cultural spaces to fall back on when you're like, you know what I'm getting rid of my racist friends. You don't have your Black church, you don't have the barbershop. There's like these other institutions that I think people of color have built to support themselves in, you know, pushing back against White supremacy. And there aren't similar institutions for White people. I mean some people find them in places, but like they tend to also be all White spaces that then carry some of these same challenges.

Val: That sounds scary. 

Andrew: I mean, yeah. And. Yes. And.

Val: Yeah. What's the “And?” Tell me the “And.” 

Andrew: Well like, and, you know, like a little, yeah, it's not as scary as being Ruby Bridges and having… 

Val: Oh, of course.

Andrew: …you know, pipe bomb, right? Like, yes, it is scary. And it is not like threatening to our physical well-being. It is not threatening in the same ways that racism and White supremacy impact people of color.

Val: Yeah. That’s interesting. And maybe it felt scary-sounding to me in that moment because I've always lived with that other type of impact of White supremacy, so that is super normalized. I don't know. White supremacy. It's not worth it y’all!

Andrew: It's not worth it. 

Val: It's not worth it. 

Andrew: Yeah. That was a good one.

Val: That was a good one. Thank you!

Andrew: Alright, thank you, Gina. So our good friend, Courtney Martin, has a question. What is the question that you are carrying around with you about parenting these days? 

So I feel like a number of our conversations have sort of come back to this kind of, what do we do with our kids? How do we teach them the lessons we want to teach? What are you thinking about in terms of questioning parenting these days, Val?

Val: Yeah. We talk a lot, my kids and I, about any number of things, but I think what my father did very, very well. And so we had a really structured Black history curriculum, you know? And so, I felt like, certainly by their age, I knew so many people, what they did, important points in history. Like I was well aware of all of those things. 

And while my kids are able to make connections to present day injustice and like, generally broad historical injustices, like the specificity that I knew, folks and their contributions, I haven't given that to my kids, in that same way. And so I was just thinking about that this week actually, and ways in which to do that, so that they are equipped with knowing, like, what contributions Black people specifically have made to this country that aren't just, like, generic. 

Andrew: Why do you think that is?

Val: Why do I think…?

Andrew: That you haven't done that?

Val: I went to all Black schools and so many of these conversations, even some of these people that my dad helps me to know, were also talked about in our school curriculum, right? And so, I think I assumed that they would get a little more from school. I feel like they get less now. And it probably is like with the standardized testing movement. 

And yet I still haven't made it a priority. Like my dad even used to have like the stick of knowledge and he would have all of these like black and white pictures of Black historians and authors and musicians on it. And he'd be like, turn it, and be like, who is this? What have they done? What are their accomplishments? So like, yeah, it was like real structured kind of learning. And I just haven't invested that type of time in it. And they know a lot more than I'm giving them credit for right now. But I feel like they could know even more. 

Andrew: So what I've been thinking about lately. There's two things. I'm sure they are related somehow, but. So one of them is, I feel like we do a lot of talking about systemic racism, about kind of the ways that systems and structures contribute to disadvantaging people. I think my kids have like a very good grasp of that. And I try to just like, whenever something comes up, talk about. You know, we refinanced our house and in the process we were like talking about mortgages. And like, what is a mortgage, like, what does that mean? 

And like, very quickly talking about redlining and talking about, you know, generational wealth and the ways that like we were able to buy a house was because my parents had enough money to loan us some money for a down payment. And they had enough money because their parents had enough money to loan them with some money for a down payment. And the kids are like totally with it. They got it. And one thing I'm struggling with is to move out of the kind of policy systemic realm and into the more interpersonal realm.

Val: Okay. 

Andrew: And I'm not sure that the kids would notice the kind of interpersonal ways that racism and White supremacy plays out in their day-to-day lives. 

Val: Mmm. Why? 

Andrew: I’m not sure that they are as attuned to it as maybe they should be.

Val: Why do you think they wouldn't notice? 

Andrew: I don't know. Maybe they would. 

Val: Yeah. 

Andrew: Maybe they would. We haven't had as many conversations about it. I mean, we, you know, like, I ask them sometimes, “oh, like your best friend is Black, like do you notice the teachers treating you differently?” “No, not really.” 

And I feel like probably some of that is real because there is a lot of talk going on at school about those sorts of things and may, you know, it may not be showing up in quite the same ways that it would.

But, um, it's also just like, that's a, it's a harder place. I mean, even right now, like that's a harder place for me to go. That's a harder place for me to talk about with them.

Val: Yeah, I think “Mmm” was me wondering if your intentionality around their school and their friends is why they might not notice it as much. Like if your children's current level of critical consciousness, we're in an all White space, would they then notice it in that interpersonal way?

You know, I went to all Black schools. So if you would've asked me then, you know, I would've known it from like a systems way, but certainly not in the way that we were treated at school. 

And do you think they have the language that they need to talk about it? 

Andrew: That's a good question. Yeah, maybe, yeah, that may be where my concern comes. Like I'm not sure that they do.

Val: What is the actual language for White children talking about what they see in terms of racism around them? Like what language do they use? Is it different?

Andrew: What language is it for Black kids?

Val: This is racist. My teacher's racist. 

Andrew: Yeah. So what's really interesting about that. Like, I think that, on the one level, yeah, I think if they see racism, they should call racism. But I also worry that there is this, A) that it's just like, people start just like throwing that around, like “you said, Blacks, so that's racist” and sort of like losing the context, like, oh, like, you know, “pass me that Black crayon.” “Oh, that's racist.” 

Val: Kids do that too. 

Andrew: Yeah, but I think the other piece is like, I don't want them to only associate the explicit outwardly hostile acts of White people as racism, because I think that's a way that we, White people, can distance ourselves. You know, like, well, that's racist, so I'm not racist, so I'm not part of racism, so I'm not like participating. You know, like I didn't tell that Black kid that they can't come into the store. So, you know, that's racism, I'm not doing that. So like, my hands are clean.

Val: I have a story that I think better answers the question about the language. So my daughter's in fifth grade and they were like in a circle for reading time and the teacher asked them to imagine a cold winter day. You have on warm socks, there's a fireplace, and you have some hot chocolate.

And a White child touched my daughter on the head and said, I have my hot chocolate right here. And so my daughter, she felt emotion. And the teacher didn't say anything. And this is a story that she recounted to me when she came home, which I appreciate her having, you know, coming and telling me about what happened.

And, I said, oh, you had your first microaggression. And, you know, she was like, what's that, right? And so, I think children are able to tell the stories of what is happening to them. And it's up to us to help equip them with the language. 

And I asked her why she didn't say anything to the teacher. It was a White teacher and she thought the teacher would say like, it's not a big deal. Don't worry about it. 

Andrew: She didn't mean it anything by it. 

Val: Right. It was just a joke. And so in that fifth grade moment, she very much felt, like, the impact of that.

Andrew: She didn't know to call it a microaggression, but she knew that she felt something about it.

Val: Right, right. And so I do think through their stories, children can share the experience and it's kind of up to us to help give them the language. And maybe one way to do it is through media. Like, you know, you all are watching something. How do you think so-and-so felt? How is this like an interpersonal type of example of what we talk about on the systems level? 

Andrew: Yeah, yeah. That's a good idea.

Val: From what I know about you, I cannot imagine you living in a way that you are engaged in these conversations weekly and not committed to making these changes for your children in real time, so. 

Andrew: I appreciate that. And like, there's no shortage of work to be done. You know, I think that's the piece of it is, like, it's always, no matter what I do, they're constantly getting the other messages, you know? And so I could try to put them in environments where they're less likely to get them. I try to put them in, you know, social such situations where. But even in the best of circumstances, they still live in America. They're still watching TV. They're still like, you know. So it's like this constant refreshing and kind of like, oh, hey, here it comes again. 

Val: Those points that you made, I feel like are exactly what I do except my constant has to be in their positive racial identity development, because they're constantly getting the other messages. It's a constant refresher. Your act of helping them unlearn, you know, mine is to actively help them learn, to kind of make up that balance for our young people. 

Andrew: Yeah. And I will say one way of interpreting that is that like, you have to constantly build your kids up and I have to constantly tear my kids down. And I don't think that's like it at all. 

Like my kids are more comfortable in their skin, are happier, more well adjusted, the more that they understand that racism exists, the more they understand that there are ways that they are benefiting from being White kids. Like it doesn't destroy them, you know? I mean, I think there's this fear that like, if you tell White kids that there is such a thing as White privilege or something, that it's gonna wreck them. But I feel like that just like does a disservice to… Our kids are better than that.

Val: Yeah, I'm glad you brought up the way that could be interpreted, because I think it goes back to that zero sum. We can all have healthy, happy kids, you know, that aren’t engaging in racist ideas and… The End. Like we can all have that. 

Andrew: Right. Yeah. Like taking away White superiority from my kids does not make them inferior. 

Val: No.

Andrew: It actually broadens the possibility for them to be better people. 

Val: Right. 

Andrew: Can I tell you the other parenting thing that I've been struggling with? 

Val: Yeah, I'm listening. 

Andrew: So, it's about ancestors. 

Val: Okay. 

Andrew: So I've been thinking a lot about ancestors about, you know, kind of the, the, um… Another thing that White supremacy has cost White people. Not to make a theme out of the episode, like woe is us, White people, for White supremacy. We brought this on ourselves. But is the, like, disconnection from our history, from our heritage, from the like generations that went before us. And similar to the conversation we were just having, there's like a tricky balance to walk here. Because, on the one hand, I have a real desire for my kids to feel connected to the generations of people that came before them, to my family, you know, to the Hungarian stubbornness of my grandfather that, like, shows up in every conflict I have with my daughter. You know, like, there are these ways that, kind of, you see this. And I think that that's really important to tap into. 

And you can't go very many generations back. And I, you know, so my father's side is Jewish. My mother's side is, you know, European, has been here for a long time. But like, you can't go very many generations back before you run into some really problematic ancestors. And I struggle with, how do I think about acknowledging those ancestors, acknowledging the things that I have taken from them, that my kids take from them, and the ways in which they were wrong, the ways in which they were problematic?

Val: It doesn't feel super complicated to me, because everybody has problematic ancestors. Like, do you know one family that does not have a problematic ancestor? Not a one, right?

And so I think understanding that and acknowledging that. Because what is the desire that you feel to present a pristine image of all your ancestors? Where's that coming from? 

Andrew: I don't have that desire. I don't want to, like, ignore or minimize the harm that my ancestors have done. I want to acknowledge that, and acknowledge the good things, sort of like try to hold both of those things. Maybe I just have to hold both at once. Maybe it's not actually that complicated.

Val: That's what I was going to say, but. Well, I think you can say, man, you know, your ancestor XYZ, you know, they were gritty and held on and had a farm and did great things. And also, they also made sure that people of color couldn't farm. And so, there are certain things that we want to keep. And certain things that we know we need to get rid of.

Andrew: And yeah, and I do think some of the answer may lie in, you know, if you're thinking back 4 or 5, 6, 7 generations, what are the next seven generations? And how do you like. We are here in this moment between, you know, spans of generations. How do we think about taking what we've gotten and leaving something better for the next generations that come?

Val: I just had a vision of like an anti-racist journey family tree for White folks, right?

Andrew: Yeah. 

Val: Right? Like you're on your way. And so, yeah, we weren't always there. But such-and-such granddad did this and such-and-such aunt taught me this.

Andrew: Yeah, I wouldn't be here without the steps that each. Yeah. It's generational work, Val.

Val: It's generational work. And that's why White folks need an anti-racist journey family tree. And if it starts with you, that's cool too. 

Andrew: Right, right. Maybe you're the first. 

Val: Maybe you're the first. 

Andrew: I’m not the first, for sure. 

Val: And that's very cool. 

Andrew: Yeah. 

Val: And I think as you mentioned earlier, you know, our children can handle these complex ideas. We often as parents, and sometimes as educators, present these binaries where we can be like, yeah, it's super messy. 

Andrew: And actually our kids are okay with that.

Val: They are. 

Andrew: That was a good one, Courtney. Thank you.

Val: Thank you, Courtney!

Andrew: I've got one here from Arin. It starts out with a lot of love for you, Val. So I'm going to read it all, because it's good. I've been meaning to write you, to let you know how much I appreciate the addition of Val’s voice to these conversations.

Andrew: Me too.

Andrew: As a biracial mom, raising mixed kids, teaching in a diverse school, my racial experience is often in between. Understanding how Whiteness works in school culture, particularly the impact of resourced White parents, is really important for looking critically at the school where I teach. And it's also important for me to acknowledge the privilege I experience, because of the way I look and am perceived racially, especially by White people, even though I identify as Black or biracial.

The Integrated Schools podcast has been really useful to me, but it's sometimes been hard to find my experience reflected in conversations about race only involving White people. I really appreciate this season and the real time example of productive cross racial dialogue.

Val: She's also giving you some love. 

Andrew: The end. Thank you all for listening. Wrap it up. 

Val: Thank you all for listening. 

Andrew: Podcast is over. But she does have a question. It was not all just love. 

So my question for you is how do you see these issues playing out in schools and communities with different racial balance? The school where I teach is a mixed student population that generally reflects the school aged population in the neighborhood. But the teaching staff and administration is majority White and the existing school culture, in terms of power and involvement, has changed very little during the 10 to 15 years that the school population has become Browner. As a self-described liberal or progressive community, there's plenty of talk about celebrating diversity, helping students and families of color access or join school structures. But there's no discussion about systemic racism in schools as a barrier or the need to actually change how schools and classrooms operate. The unspoken guiding assumption is that the responsibility for greater integration and involvement lies with students and families of color to “join in.”

Val: Mmmm. 

Andrew: Most of the White teachers and parents either pretend not to notice how race functions in the school or don't believe that their behavior and assumptions contribute to this. What would it look like or sound like to work towards integrating a desegregated school? 

That's a good question. 

Val: That's a great question. 

Andrew: Thank you, Arin.

Val: Alright, Arin, where do we start? Um, so, you know, I find it interesting and not all that unique to the community that Arin is describing. Like this happens in many places all over the country, right? And part of the idea is probably rooted in just having a misunderstanding of history generally, because that's often how our history is taught, right?

Like the people of color are the add on to the White American story. So when our whole existence, you know, whole country's existence, is positioned in that way, it's not surprising that that's how those ideas will show up in schools. And folks of color, actually have really good ideas about how their schools should be run. It's not valued in the same way that White parents’ ideas are. 

And then we know that when we start talking about changing systems, you know, I believe that every little person is their own little system, right? And so that means we have to change ourselves. And so, how attached am I to my gifted and talented program and the ways in which I do that? Um, that’s the way that it is and it has to be this way. And so, you know, I can't change that for Black and Brown kids. They can join if they meet the requirements and the requirements just happen to be a teacher has to recommend them. But it just so happens that teachers don't always see their gifts, right?

So, the work that has to be done, oh, it's so complex. We need to have conversations about race and racism in schools because these young people will grow up and they will lead systems and they will become the realtors, the principals, the gatekeepers, and because we have missed that opportunity to have the conversation in schools with so many of us, you know, I'm talking about us, as adults, we have to figure out ways to have adult education programs around this as well. 

I think specifically in schools, professional learning is a significant way that we can make an inroads. And I often wonder, like, what do we do for parents who are wondering, like, about these things and have avenues for them to learn? So I'm incredibly grateful for the community you all have. You can leave school, you can leave, you can graduate with a master's degree and having never had any of these conversations, you know? And unfortunately that's how many folks are entering it, including teachers, which is kinda scary. 

Andrew: Yeah. I think, yeah, that piece of like what parents can do, is not be silent. Like you were saying earlier, is like, show up for the teacher who wants to have the conversation about it. To ask the teachers like, hey, are we talking about race at all? 

Val: You know what? That would've gone a long way for me. Like if a parent came to me and said, hey, I would love. You know, thanks so much for having that conversation. Or, I would love it if you had a conversation about race. 

I remember one of my children's teachers, it was like a world history class, and she essentially sent an email home apologizing for having to teach about Islam. And the email was written in a way that felt like she was nervous about parent pushback for teaching it, right? So I replied right back. Thank you so much. We can have much more of this. I want my kids to be exposed to all types of things.

Andrew: And this was several years ago.

Val: It was two years ago.

Andrew: Yeah. I mean, I feel like, turn that up to 11 right now, given all of the laws that teachers are like, I don't know if I can teach this book. I don't know if I can say the word Black or White. I don't know if I can identify that Martin Luther King was Black. That’s rough.

Val: Right. So any type of support that parents can give educators who are courageously having these conversations would be great. I don't want parents, especially those of us who are committed to anti-racism integrated schools, to ever feel ashamed about that stance. 

Andrew: Right.

Val: And I think there’s a lot of shame and fear around having that stance publicly. 

Andrew: Cause there's no shame or hesitation about having the alternate, right? 

Val: None!

Andrew: Like that is loud and yeah. I would also, for teachers, shout out the Teaching Hard History podcast.

Val: So good. Shout out Learning for Justice!

Andrew: Learning for Justice. Yeah. Great stuff. Okay, um, let's see. So another Courtney asks, is there anything that you can pinpoint that has shifted for you personally over the course of having these incredible conversations this season?

Val: Mmm. You start.

Andrew: So, I feel like there's all sorts of things. It's this, these conversations have been really a gift. If I had to kind of point to something, I think like the power of and the need for having these conversations in multiracial community. 

This podcast has been just a gift to me, in terms of all the people who are willing to come on. And I've had a lot experts and certainly lots of people of color who have been guests in kind of the expert role. And not to say that you're not an expert, Val, but that both of us are showing up in our role as parents, and having the conversations that way has just been really powerful. And I think, I would've said that that was important, but I don't know that I felt it in the same way prior to really digging into some of these things with you.

Val: Yeah. Today especially, I felt like there were so much that you and I talked about that, even though, we might have different approaches, our values are the same for what we want for our children, right?

And I think there are probably times when White folks are enrolling their students in an integrating school that they don't have the opportunity or don't make the opportunity to understand that so many of our values align, right? Because the conversations aren't actually happening in the way that they are happening for us. 

I think a lot of times people just need the space, the space to come together and have these conversations. So if I was the principal and I said, hey, we're integrating schools. This is what's happening in our community. Love to invite parents in to kind of talk about what they're feeling, what they're thinking, what their hopes are. I think that would go, like, a really long way, because I think the dialogues that we're having are like a good model for our listeners about what is possible when you just kind of grapple with them and you don't have the answers and you're feeling the feels and, you know, I don't always. Like there are times almost in every conversation, I'm like, oh, that hurt, that hurt. 

Like, so the time in this conversation, and it's not a big deal, but it's close to home right now when you're talking about buying a house and generational wealth and mortgages and having money to pass, you know, and more money from the families so that you can have the down payment.

And, you know, we're in the process of figuring out if we want to buy a house or not. And we don't have. We won't have the same story that you have in terms of having that large sum of money passed down and, you know, I was kinda in my feelings about it. So there's never, um. But it has nothing to do with you. It was just like, oh, I wish that for all of us. I mean, it doesn't. I just wish that for all of us. And so in every conversation, I am super aware of how our experiences differ and I am aware of how many of our values are aligned and the work it takes to make sure we elevate that as well.

And I appreciate being able to honestly show up and say, yeah, it sucks to hear that, you know, it sucks that my kids don't have that same experience. And for you to genuinely empathize with me, like, I feel like that is also something that folks of color, if they don't also have authentic relationships with White folks, they don't get that either, you know? 

Andrew: Mmm, that's sort of, a sort of similar question, but at least I have something else to add to it. Katie asks, I've loved the learning from your conversation. I'm curious what the most important thing you two have learned from one another. Thanks so much for sharing your learning with us.

Val: All the White secrets. 

Andrew: I know. I'm going to get kicked out. They're going to have a talking to me at the next meeting.

Val: You are going to get kicked out. They are. You better not go. Don’t go to the next meeting.

Andrew: No, I'm good. I'm good with skipping those meetings. 

I think one of the things that, and this sort of ties to your most recent answer, that I've learned from you is the importance of sort of staying connected to the emotion of all of this, because the emotions are real and they're there.

And so I think it's easy for me often, I think to, and this probably ties back to, with my kids as well, why it's easier to talk about the systems things. But it's easy for me to intellectualize, to think about, well, yeah, like, I have generational wealth. I shouldn't have generational wealth. I do have generational wealth. I think a lot about like, what's my responsibility now that I have that? How should I sort of redistribute? Like all those things are real and that's all in my head. And you constantly bring me back to the emotion of it. And so it's easy for me to kind of walk right past the impact to you, not having that same generational wealth, emotionally.

I mean, my assumption is that intellectually you understand that it's not like, I didn't choose to have it. It was like the way the structure of the world. But I think it's easy for me to stay in the structure of the world. And I think in every episode and every conversation we've had, I feel like there's been a moment where you have brought us back to the emotion of it, to the way that it feels, to the way that you imagine it feels, the way that you have experienced the feeling, the way that we should be acknowledging the feelings. And that has been really also a gift to me.

Val: Yeah. You've given me and, you know, I jokingly say the White secrets, but you've given me a lot of insight into some of the things that White folks are grappling with when they're trying to do this work. And I think that's important for me to know, as someone who is committed to a future in which we do have many integrated spaces.

It's easy to be frustrated with the system of White supremacy. And I think sometimes that frustration can be directed at White people specifically. And it's really easy to lose sight that there are humans also grappling with these very difficult things as they're trying to make change. Generational changes you say, right? And so, all of these conversations, I think, deepen my own sense of empathy for just how much we all have to fight to get to the other side. 

Andrew: Mmm. Yeah.

Val: Because, as I was reflecting about the losing your whole entire community, that's a lot. And that's something that I won't ever have to sacrifice to do this work. So like there's things that you will never experience, you know, like we talked about. Like, I won't have the generational wealth, but I also won't lose my entire community by doing this work, right? And so my generational wealth shows up a little bit differently from yours. 

Andrew: That. Yes, that is that. Yeah. And it's beautiful. And like, yeah, my generational wealth puts a roof over my head, which is, which means something. And, there's this like beautiful sense of Black community that I don't get to be a part of. And I don't have something comparable to lean on. And I mean, I think, you know, part of the work, one piece of the work of Integrated Schools is to try to kind of create some sense of that community, something to fall back on that is not about celebrating Whiteness, but that is somehow celebrating White people.

Val: Mmm. It's a struggle. 

Andrew: It’s a struggle. Because, yeah, I mean, on the one hand it's like this, it shouldn't be this hard, right? 

Val: No.

Andrew: Like on the one hand, it's simple. There is something profound in loving one another, there is something profound in like, we are all humans. And so we should just, like, treat each other that way. And we've got 400 years of crap to dig through before we can do that simple thing. And it's not easy, for anybody.

Val: Yeah. 400 years of crap to do that very simple thing. But I think that speaks to the power of that simple thing. I don't think as humans we were designed to live in a way that we're an opposition of one another, that we're hurting one another, that we’re trying to be superior over one another. I believe it is possible to do that very simple thing and wade through that 400 years together. 

Andrew: Yeah. Well, I'm so grateful to you for the. And I feel like, that we're like, this is not the end, you're still going to be here in January. We're not saying goodbye, but it is the end of the year. I feel like it’s a good time to kind of pause and reflect on the gift that you have been in the podcast, in these conversations. But also just in my life. I'm so grateful for you and glad to be able to call you friend.

Val: I am too. Like when you got on today, I was like, it’s my friend, Andrew! Like, I was very happy to see you. So, um, thank you for inviting me into this conversation, for allowing me to be my authentic self, and for what you're trying to do, the whole entire Integrated Schools community, in terms of making sure that the space is really integrated for all of us. We gotta be the model. Cause you know, like, our time here is relatively short.

Andrew: Right. How do we leave it slightly better? Pass on the baton at the end of our marathon to the next marathon runner and leave it a little bit better off.

Val: Yeah. Yeah. 

Andrew: Well, we have lots, lots more to come in the new year. Many more conversations, much more to do. And in order to do that listeners, I know it’s a time when lots of organizations are asking for your support and contributions and money. And, uh, there are lots of worthy causes out there and we hope that you have found some value in these conversations.

We do not waste any of your time, in the midst of these conversations, trying to sell you toothbrushes or underwear. So that doesn't mean that this work is all free. So we would be very grateful for your support. You can go to, join us, get transcripts and access to the happy hours and all sorts of things. And show us a little bit of support, if this work has been valuable.

Val: Thank you all for listening And your financial support in this very important work that we’re doing.

Andrew: And, Val, it’s always a pleasure to be in this with you as I try to know better and do better.

Val: Oh, my gosh, next time will be next year! 

Val: 2022 is going to be dope. 

Andrew: It better be. That’s what we said about 2021.

Val: It's gonna be something. Make sure this makes the outtakes. 2022 is going to be something.

Next Podcast