On Tuesday, Feb. 19 author of “Raising White Kids: Bringing Up Children in a Racially Unjust America” Jennifer Harvey came to Keene State College to discuss some of the topics in her new book. Harvey is a professor of religion at Drake University, an author of multiple books about racism, and an ordained Baptist minister. She has been working against racism for over 20 years.
KSC psychology major Lauren Bairos and geography major Nate Howard were in attendance at the event. Bairos said she was hoping to learn about how children are brought up in our society and how we can improve their mindsets about racism. Howard also said he wanted to learn the right way to raise kids without racism.
Dr. Mary Gannon introduced the event, gave a preview of what would be discussed and what she hopes students take away from the lecture.“The book is specifically for white parents, but it’s really about white adults, how to have these courageous conversations that we as adults struggle with,” Gannon said. “Kids are ready to do it but in my experience it’s adults that struggle with the right language and fear, so we’ll be looking at all those kinds of issues.”
Gannon explained whether or not there is a certain age when students are most susceptible to these influences.
“There’s a lot of research on how early children are capable of perceiving difference. Some research has shown as young as three to five months. But the key part is not just noticing difference, but actually applying it to social status.” When asked why it was important for KSC students to attend the lecture, Gannon said, “I think it’s important, given what’s happening in our country right now, to have these discussions and make them more visible, rather than just having them at a bar or in a student union, but to really be out in the community, practicing how to do that.” Gannon was pleased by the high turnout from KSC students, as well as members of the Keene community.
Harvey explained how when she attended public school in Colorado there was busing. Busing was when students would be transported outside of their school district as a means of racial desegregation. Experiencing this was what contributed to Harvey’s interest in anti-racism. Harvey also explained racial tracking in her lecture.
“Even though I went to a multi-racial high school, my classes got whiter and whiter the further I went. In the accelerated classes it was all white kids and the black and latino kids were in remedial classes,” Harvey said.
Harvey also explained how coming from a Christian home inspired an interest for liberation theology and black liberation theology. Fighting for the rights of the homeless was also inspired by her Christian upbringing.
“I think students can learn tonight about how race has shaped and formed white young people. If you’re a white young person yourself or a young person of color you’ll learn about what’s shaped and formed your white peers, and how that learning has made it more difficult for white people to be strong anti-racist allies,” Harvey said. Harvey also included some practices and strategies that could help white families and communities raise generations of anti-racist adults.
During the lecture, Harvey explained that children are usually taught colorblindness when they are young. However, “not seeing color” is problematic, because treating everyone equally can lead to overlooking the problems that minorities face, because they have different experiences from white people. Harvey explained that cultural and racial differences need to be acknowledged, so that these problems can be better handled.
Harvey said programs that promote racial diversity are important because they help initiate discussions about racial inequality, but they are not the solution to these problems. Due to the way they are taught, white children tend to feel that they are not allowed to be proud of their race or heritage, and that this often creates feelings of jealousy and animosity towards minority groups who are “allowed” to celebrate their heritage. Harvey said that one of the most important things that white people can do to combat racism is calling out their friends, peers, and family when they say and do questionable things.
Students looking to be allies against racism can attend events hosted by the Office of Multicultural Student Support and Success and the Diversity and Multiculturalism Office. If a student experiences discrimination based on race it can be reported to Campus Safety.
Alex Harvey can be contacted at