Finding words

I planned to devote my time on Miss Demeanors this week to writing about words that intrigue me. But in the wake of last week’s tragedy and violence, I found my words failing.

But then I happened upon a Facebook post by Cate Holahan, a founding Miss Demeanor and fabulous writer, and she kindly agreed to let me re-post. So here’s what she had to say to her children:

A few days ago, I pushed homeschool by a couple hours to have a hard conversation with my daughters about racism and White privilege.

My girls are a quarter Black but they are perceived by most people as White because they came out fair, blond, and blue-eyed. We talked about how the way they look would make some people more likely to trust them or give them preferential treatment. We discussed how they had to be vigilant to make sure that they were never used to further anyone’s racist agenda and that they never took advantage of their privilege by allowing themselves to be unfairly elevated over another person. We talked about the woman in Central Park, George Floyd, and institutional racism.

My youngest kept telling me, horrified, that some individuals were mean and evil. I said, yes, but even usually well-meaning people are often self-interested and lazy. When a problem isn’t hurting us–worse when it benefits us–we tend not to fight for the solution. We all need to fight for equality, decency, and our shared humanity.

I hope that other people who have kids that look like mine will have the same conversation. Our elementary schools teach racism as something that ended when Martin Luther King Jr. had his dream. We need to share with them the reality and explain their responsibility given that reality. We need them to know that this is their fight, too.

Thank you, Cate!


  1. No one changes until the pain of not changing exceeds the pain of change. I’ve had similar convos w my teen, white sons who have friends in NYC of all shapes, sizes, colors, genders and religions. They’ve witnessed racism in a variety of ways in real life. So it’s up front and personal to them. I think having deep discussions like yours, Cate, is imperative. I will be talking more w them about white advantage and privilege, listening well, evaluating oneself honestly… Great post and thank you.

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